THE DEPOSITION of the first witness in the 2003 custodial death of 27-year-old Khwaja Yunus has been adjourned again, for a month. On Tuesday, even as the first witness in the case travelled over 300 km from Aurangabad to Mumbai to depose before the trial court, two of the four accused policemen were not present in court. Over 14 years ago, Yunus, a software engineer, was picked up for interrogation in connection with a bomb blast in a BEST bus in Ghatkopar and allegedly tortured to death.
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Two of the accused policemen — Sunil Desai and Rajaram Nikam — sought exemption from the hearing while Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Vaze and Rajendra Tiwari were present in the court on Tuesday.
At the last hearing in February, it was Vaze who was absent despite two of the summoned witnesses present in court for deposition. The court had adjourned the case while imposing a fine of Rs 1,500 on Vaze to be paid to the witness. On Tuesday, the court reminded for the fine to be paid to the witness by Vaze, while no fresh penalty was imposed on the two absent accused. The witness, who was named as an accused along with Yunus, was acquitted in 2005 and told the CID that Yunus had been tortured in police custody.
The exemption filed by one of the policemen on Tuesday said that he had been admitted to the police hospital for blood pressure issues. The court said that since the case is against policemen with allegations of custodial death, the presence of accused during deposition of witnesses is necessary.
The court was also informed that an appeal against the revision of the charges filed against the policemen is also pending before the Bombay High Court. Special public prosecutor Dhiraj Mirajkar informed the court that though the appeal is pending, there is no stay on proceedings in the trial court so far and that they could continue with examining the witness.
The court directed the accused that ‘as a last chance’, one month of adjournment will be granted in the case, after which if no stay is granted by the High Court, the court will proceed with the evidence. Mirajkar said a petition filed by Yunus’ mother seeking sanction against the other 10 policemen who had also been indicted after an inquiry by the CID is also pending before the SC but the trial which has been pending for many years.
“After each hearing, we receive a call from the lawyer who informs us date badh gayi (date has been extended). The accused keep seeking dates on some pretext or the other or there is a change in the prosecutor. We do not know for how long we will have to wait for justice. We hope that the courts can take cognizance of the delay and expedite the case even if it means taking stringent steps like issuing summons or non-bailable warrants against the accused if they are not present before the court,” said Aasiya Begum, Yunus’ mother.
“Earlier, at least one of our family members would come to court for the proceedings. Now, we just hope that the trial will eventually begin,” she said.