A controversial bail order by the Bombay high court in which it observed that three members of the Hindu Rashtra Sena (HRS) did not murder a Muslim in Pune in 2014 due to personal enmity but because the victim belonged to a minority community has come under the Supreme Court’s scanner.
A bench of Justice SA Bobde and Justice LN Rao issued notice to the Maharashtra government and two men of the HRS -- Vijay Rajendra Gambhir and Sri Ganesh -- who were released after the HC order in January.
A response was sought from them and the state on a petition filed by the brother of the victim -- Mohsin Sheikh -- who wants the bail to be cancelled.
The petitioner’s lawyer Farrukh Rasheed told HT that a separate petition to cancel the bail of the third accused -- Ajay Dilip Lalge -- will be filed on Monday (February 20).
The bench also indicated that it would hear the matter after four weeks.
“We know the urgency of the matter and at this stage we are with you,” the court told senior counsel Dushyant Dave when he requested the bench to hear the case soon. “They (accused) are roaming free,” Dave contended.
Justice Mridula Bhatkar’s January 12 order granting bail to the accused on the ground that they had been provoked “in the name of religion” came under severe criticism.
According to the prosecution, on June 2, 2014, the HRS organised a meeting at Hadaspar in Pune following violent protests after morphed images of Maratha warrior king Shivaji and late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray were uploaded on Facebook by unidentified persons.
During the meeting, the group’s leader Dhananjay Desai made a ‘provocative’ speech that allegedly instigated the audience to go on a rampage.
The accused went out on the road wielding hockey sticks and spotted Mohsin and Riyaz Shaikh on a bike and started assaulting them. The two young IT professionals were on their way to dinner. Mohsin succumbed to his injuries but Riyaz escaped.
Justice Bhatkar dismissed the defence that the three men had been wrongly implicated in the case. However, she held that a transcript of the speech and the sessions court order made it clear that the accused had been provoked.
“The meeting was held prior to the assault. The accused had no other motive, such as any personal enmity, against the innocent victim. The fact that the victim belonged to another religion is in favour of the accused, who were clearly provoked in the name of the religion, and thus committed the murder,” Justice Bhatkar said.