The trial in an incident of alleged communal riots during 1992-93 in the city is set to begin 26 years later after the arrest of an accused in February. Usman Mulla was arrested by the Byculla police after a non-bailable warrant was issued against him for not appearing before the court. Seven of his co-accused were acquitted in 2011 by the sessions court, but the case against Mulla was separated and he was declared an absconding accused.
According to the prosecution, on January 10, 1993, a mob of over 100 people had gathered on Barrister Nath Pai Road on Dockyard Road and started throwing stones and soda water bottles. It has been alleged that the police had to resort to lathicharge to control the mob and subsequently, the situation was brought under control after additional forces were called in. The mob, however, damaged vehicles and shops and an FIR was registered against unknown persons.
The police had also claimed that the mob had fired bullets at their personnel, but the court had subsequently held in 2011 that there is no evidence to support that any weapon was recovered or seized from the accused.
Mulla, a resident of Antop Hill, was arrested as a warrant was pending against him. He was sent to police custody on February 11, 2019. In his bail application filed in February through advocate Shabnam Shaikh, Mulla submitted that he was not aware of the pendency of the case, as no summons or bailable warrant were served upon him at any point of time. He further claimed that he had no criminal antecedents, was not absconding but continued to live in Mumbai and earn a living.
Assistant Public Prosecutor Pranjali Joshi opposed the bail plea stating that he may abscond if released on bail. The court, while granting bail to Mulla, held that there was nothing to show that he was absconding from Mumbai. It held that the case is very old and it will take time to conclude it, hence no purpose will be served by keeping Mulla behind bars for an indefinite period.
The court in March had framed charges against Mulla under sections including those of rioting, causing hurt and attempt to murder. He had pleaded not guilty and the first witness in the case is expected to depose next month.
In the 2011 judgment acquitting the accused, the court had held that there was no proof to show that the accused were part of an unlawful assembly as no witnesses had identified them. “People running at the time of rioting and at the time of lathicharge is natural and it is not necessary that the people running are the rioters,” the court had said.
The city had witnessed riots in the aftermath of the demolition of Babri Masjid in December 1992. The riots had claimed 900 lives and injured 2,036.