Two accused in the 2016 murder of a 15-year-old Navi Mumbai Dalit boy were granted bail last month by the Bombay High Court. The mother of the main accused and a friend, who were among the eight accused arrested by the Navi Mumbai police for the murder, were granted bail on November 21.
Swapnil Sonawane, 15, was killed on July 19, 2016, allegedly by the family of an upper caste girl he was friendly with. The girl’s father and brother are the main accused in the case while the minor girl was also made an accused. She was granted bail earlier by the Juvenile Justice Board.
A bench of Justice Ranjit More and Justice Shalini Phansalkar Joshi granted bail to her mother and one more accused on the grounds that the “vital blow” that killed Swapnil could not be attributed to the two. Granting bail to the girl’s mother, the order reads, “… Appellant was present on the spot of the incident at the time of commission of offence. Nevertheless, the vital blow given to the deceased Swapnil on the head is not attributed to the present appellant.” It adds that the woman has been in custody since July 2016. “The investigation is over and chargesheet is also filed. Taking totality of the facts and circumstances of the case into consideration, we do not find any impediment to grant bail.”
Granting bail to the other accused, identified as a friend of the main accused, the court observed that neither of two eyewitness statements named him as being involved in the assault. Swapnil’s father Shahaji Sonawane has now made a submission to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes in New Delhi seeking a CBI probe. He has sought that the policemen who refused to file a case when the family first reported that they were being threatened also be made accused in the case. Shahaji’s submission adds that the police are not cooperating even though their lawyer Amit Katarnavre was attacked. “We have been threatened in multiple ways, but the police are not cooperating. So, it is very unlikely that they would do a thorough investigation in the case,” Sonawane told The Indian Express.
A writ petition filed by the family before the Bombay High Court seeking criminal action against the policemen is pending. The trial in the murder case is under way in a Thane court designated to hear cases under the Prevention of Atrocities Act.
On July 19, Swapnil and his parents were allegedly summoned by the family of the 16-year-old girl. Her elder brother and father are accused of assaulting Swapnil outside their residence in Nerul, causing his death. Hours earlier, the Sonawane family had approached the Nerul police station with a complaint against the girl’s brother accusing him of assaulting Swapnil the previous day. Two policemen reportedly told the family at the police station that they should avoid a ‘Sairat-like’ incident, referring to a Marathi language film on inter-caste violence. “Despite two attacks on the lawyer, Amit Katarnavre, we have had absolutely no help from the police. We had asked for police protection for Katarnavre since before his first attack,” said Sonawane.
According to Mamta Jadhav, the Sonawanes’ lawyer, the family has written to the Prime Minister and the President too. “We have approached everyone who would listen. The National Commission for SCs has written to the commissioner and the collector of Navi Mumbai regarding this and has sought a report from them. We hope the case is transferred to the CBI,” she said.
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