January 7, 2022 1:13:06 am
The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the trial court in Mumbai hearing the custodial death case of Khwaja Yunus to to proceed with plea to decide whether four more policemen can be made to stand trial, based on merits.
In 2018, the trial court had kept in abeyance the decision, awaiting the final order by the SC in a pending petition filed by Yunus’ mother Asiya Begum.
Lawyer Mihir Desai, representing Asiya Begum, said that the SC directed the trial court to decide on the application moved by the prosecutor to add four policemen as accused based on merits, without awaiting the disposal of the petition pending in the apex court.
Desai had moved an interim application before a bench of Justice Ajay Rastogi and Abhay Oka, for a hearing on behalf of Begum, on a petition filed in 2015 against the Bombay High Court order upholding the state government’s decision to not grant sanction to prosecute the four policemen.
Yunus, a 27-year-old software engineer from Parbhani, was arrested by the Mumbai Police in December 2002 in connection with the Ghatkopar blast case. He was allegedly fatally assaulted in custody and was last seen alive on January 6, 2003.
The first witness in the case, while deposing in 2018, had told the court that he had seen Yunus being stripped and beaten up with belts by policemen. The witness, who was the then co-accused of Yunus, had named the four policemen.
Based on this, then special public prosecutor Dhiraj Mirajkar had moved a plea under Section 319 of the Criminal Procedure Code stating that the four men – retired ACP Praful Bhosale as well as senior inspectors Rajaram Vhanmane, Ashok Khot and Hemant Desai – be made to stand trial as accused.
Mirajkar’s plea said that though the state government had not granted a sanction to prosecute them, it was not required as they can be added as accused based on the witness testimony naming them.
The men opposed the plea stating that it was a “gross contempt of court” since the matter is pending before the SC.
The trial court had said that it cannot decide on either the prosecutor’s plea or on whether the four policemen can be given an opportunity to be heard as the case is pending before the SC. Currently, four other policemen, including dismissed Mumbai Police officer Sachin Waze, are undergoing trial in the case.
Begum’s interim application stated that the testimony of the witness shows that the officers who “actually killed” her son were let off for want of sanction and the “foot soldiers who may have had a role in the disposal of the body” are being prosecuted.
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