Five years after suspected 2002 Ghatkopar blast accused, software engineer Khwaja Yunus, disappeared, the state has accepted that he died in police custody. However, it still refuses to reveal where.
The blast in a BEST bus on December 2, 2002, had claimed two lives and injured 49 people.
Yunus’ disappearance had come to symbolise the horror of custodial deaths in the state. There were allegations that police officers killed Yunus after arresting him from his Parbhani home in December 2002.
While declaring compensation of Rs 3 lakh for Yunus’ mother, Asiya Begum, on Wednesday the state stopped just short of admitting to a custodial death.
On Thursday, Public Prosecutor Satish Borulkar, when asked by HT whether the government now admits to custodial death, he said: “I don’t know where he died, but we (the government) are accepting that he died in police custody. Let the evidence collected by the Crime Investigation Department indicate where he died.”
Asiya’s counsel Mihir Desai said: “They have finally accepted, after so many years, that Yunus died in police custody. Now, they must tell us when and where.”
The police, though, aren’t that forthcoming. Director-General of Police Dr P.S. Pasricha said: “You file a chargesheet on the basis of prima facie evidence. The government, in its own wisdom, decided to grant compensation. I am not involved in that and cannot comment further.”
This is a major turnaround made by the government. In 2004, it refused to grant Asiya compensation, stating that Yunus was “absconding”. However, the court directed it to pay her Rs 5,000 every month. The government then challenged this order in the high court.
“At that time, the government avoided compensation as it could be interpreted as an admission of Yunus’ death. This would have put their police officers in a tight spot,” said a leading criminal lawyer, requesting anonymity.
Going by the latest statement, Yunus could have died either in the lock-up or en route to Aurangabad in a police jeep. The police case was that the jeep turned turtle, allowing Yunus to escape.