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Khwaja Yunus custodial death case: Officials connived with policemen to thwart case, says former public prosecutor

Appointed as SPP in the 2003 death case in 2015, Mirajkar was removed in April 2018, soon after he submitted an application seeking that retired ACP Praful Bhosale and senior inspectors Rajaram Vhanmane, Ashok Khot and Hemant Desai be tried as accused.

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
Updated: April 23, 2022 7:44:49 am
Khwaja Yunus custodial death case: Officials connived with policemen to thwart case, says former public prosecutorKhwaja Yunus died in police custody in 2003

IN AN email now part of Bombay High Court records, the former special public prosecutor in the custodial death case of Khwaja Yunus has said he was questioned by the government over his plea seeking that four more policemen be made to stand trial, and that he was removed from the case on false grounds.

The email was sent by Dhiraj U Mirajkar to Chetan Mali, the advocate representing Yunus’s mother Asiya Begum, on February 21.

Appointed as SPP in the 2003 death case in 2015, Mirajkar was removed in April 2018, soon after he submitted an application seeking that retired ACP Praful Bhosale and senior inspectors Rajaram Vhanmane, Ashok Khot and Hemant Desai be tried as accused. The government had earlier denied sanction to prosecute them. The trial has been on hold since Mirajkar’s removal.

His email communication is part of the additional affidavit filed by Asiya in the High Court on March 24.

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In his email, Mirajkar says he received no documents pertaining to the case from the government or prosecution. “The disturbing aspect of this case is that some faceless bureaucrat(s) actively connived with the police personnel responsible for causing the death of a person in custody in order to thwart criminal proceedings, and they have successfully managed to cause further delay in an already inordinately delayed trial,” he says.

Yunus’s family, through a 2018 plea before the High Court, had demanded that Mirajkar be brought back as SPP. The government has taken the line, as submitted by Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, that they could not appoint a replacement as long as the family’s plea to bring back Mirajkar was being heard. Consequently, no SPP has been appointed, and the trial has been on hold for four years now. Mirajkar, meanwhile, as per his email, continues to work with the state Forest Department.

While repeated attempts to contact him failed, sources close to Mirajkar said he did not want to comment as he still holds brief for the government.

At a hearing Tuesday, the High Court said the names of three alternative lawyers for SPP suggested by Asiya were taken by the state government in a “positive way”, but that it held the right to select someone else too. It asked the government to appoint one in two weeks and posted the matter to May 4.

Senior counsel Mihir Desai and advocate Chetan Mali, appearing for Asiya, had submitted before the court that it was only after the High Court’s intervention that an FIR was filed, “despite stiff resistance from police and executive”.

In the email, Mirajkar says that after he filed the application in the trial court to implead four more policemen, he received a call from the Mantralaya asking who had instructed him.

Mirajkar says he then received a call from an official of the state Law and Judiciary Department, requesting him to be present at Mantralaya to meet Additional Chief Secretary (Addl. CS), Home Department. He says that he waited for three hours, but the Addl. CS didn’t meet him and finally he was told by the Principal Secretary, Law and Judiciary
Department, that he need not have come.

Neeraj Dhote, Principal Secretary, Law and Judiciary Department, refused to comment on the matter, calling it “subjudice” and adding that he did not hold the post at the time.

Mirajkar writes that after his removal, he was asked to meet Advocate General Kumbhakoni regarding Asiya’s plea against his removal. As per Mirajkar, Kumbhakoni asked him just one question, “whether, if reappointed as SPP in the case, he would withdraw the application”. Mirajkar says he refused, “without hesitation”. He was told that this was the reply expected of him, and nothing else was discussed, Mirajkar says.

Yunus, a 27-year-old software engineer, had been arrested in December 2002 for questioning in the Ghatkopar blast case. He was last seen alive on January 6, 2003, when he was brutally assaulted in custody as per others arrested along with him. Police claimed Yunus had escaped from custody when being ferried by a team, led by Sachin Waze (now dismissed over the Ambani bomb scare), leading to a fatal encounter.

The CID had found the claim false and booked the four policemen who had accompanied Yunus.

In January, the Supreme Court directed the trial court to decide the application moved by Mirajkar to implead four more policemen in the case. The trial court is likely to proceed with this once the SPP is appointed.

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