February 5, 2021 1:48:24 am
The Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed that trial in the alleged murder case of 15-year-old Dalit teen Swapnil Sonawane be completed within eight months. It passed the direction while rejecting the bail application of the main accused in the case, observing that his role appears to be significant.
Sonawane, a resident of Nerul, was allegedly murdered on July 19, 2016, by the family of a 16-year-old girl he was in a relationship with. The accused included the girl’s parents, her two brothers and others. The girl was also booked to face separate proceedings before the Juvenile Justice Board.
“The material on record does indicate that the victim was assaulted in an extremely violent manner, although no weapon was used by the accused persons. The nature of injuries caused to the victim indicate the force with which he was assaulted, even though by means of fists and kicks. The statements and other material on record do show that the appellant (the girl’s elder brother) was at the forefront of the said assault and that he had a leading role to play in the incident,” the division bench of Justice S S Shinde and Justice Manish Pitale said.
While the girl’s father died in judicial custody in 2017, her mother and one of her brothers were granted bail.
While seeking bail for the elder brother, lawyer Aamir Shaikh told the court on Wednesday that he has been behind bars for over four years while all other accused have been granted bail. He added that no weapon was used in the incident and that Sonawane’s death was caused by a head injury that he sustained after falling on a hard surface.
The court said that the “ferocity of the assault” and the accused’s main role as attributed by witnesses showed that it would not be appropriate to grant him bail. It also said that the trial could be adversely affected with the possibility of witnesses being threatened if the main accused is released on bail.
According to the prosecution, the elder brother had called Sonawane to his house on July 19. When Sonawane went to the house with his parents, the girl’s father is alleged to have made casteist remarks against the family and also apologised to them.
The police chargesheet has claimed that Sonawane was then assaulted, resulting him falling on the road, causing a fatal injury.
On his lawyer’s plea that the trial may take a long time to complete, the court said that considering there are around 74 witnesses to be examined, with a number of them being official witnesses, direction should be given for the trial to be expedited and completed within eight months.
The accused have been booked under sections including murder of the IPC and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
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