SIXTEEN YEARS after being suspended for their alleged involvement in the custodial death of 27-year-old Khwaja Yunus in January 2003, four policemen were reinstated on Friday and resumed duty on Saturday in the city’s police force.
Assistant police inspector Sachin Vaze and police constables Rajendra Tiwari, Sunil Desai resumed duty in the local arms unit. Constable Rajaram Nikam was reinstated in the motor vehicle department. The four, suspended in different months in 2004, continue to face trial on charges including murder and destruction of evidence.
Khwaja Yunus, a Parbhani resident, was an engineer and worked in Dubai. He was arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act on December 25, 2002, by Mumbai Police, which claimed his involvement in a bomb blast in Ghatkopar on December 2.
Yunus and three other co-accused were interrogated in Ghatkopar on January 6, 2003. While the police claimed subsequently that Yunus ran away from custody that day, his co-accused told the POTA court they saw him being stripped, assaulted severely, and he vomiting blood.
In January 2017, one of the men booked along with Yunus, deposed in the trial court hearing Yunus’s murder that four other policemen, different from the ones suspended, had tortured Yunus. So far, he is the only witness to have deposed in the case. The seven men booked for the blast apart from Yunus were subsequently acquitted of all charges.
“My son would have been acquitted too if he was alive. We trust the criminal justice system but the accused being reinstated feels like a betrayal. Instead of this, there should be efforts in expediting the trial to punish those who killed my son,” said Asiya Begum, the 70-year old mother of Yunus.
The role of the four policemen reinstated on Friday is alleged to be that of destroying evidence in the case.
According to the notice announcing their reinstatement, a meeting was held on Friday under the chairmanship of the city Commissioner of Police as per rules constituted to review suspension orders periodically. The four are stated to be reinstated pending court order in the case and pending departmental/ preliminary inquiry against them.
Param Bir Singh, Commissioner of Police, Mumbai, did not respond to calls and messages.
Officials said the committee meets every three months to decide on reinstating suspended officials. “The committee takes a decision based on considerations whether reinstating suspended police personnel will have any impact on the case or its investigation,” said a senior IPS officer, who did not wish to be named. The officer said the long-pending trial was also a reason why they were reinstated.
The official confirmed that Vaze and two other constables Desai and Tiwari reported to work on Saturday.
The case has been stalled after the state government removed the prosecutor conducting the trial in 2018. Asiya Begum’s plea before the Bombay High Court against the removal is pending. Other pleas by the accused are also pending before the High Court.
“We have maintained that the four men have nothing to do with the murder and prima facie they can be only charged with destruction of evidence. Being suspended for such a long time has been a struggle for them,” said lawyer Rounak Naik, representing the four policemen.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines