Khwaja Yunus custodial death: HC seeks state’s reply to plea on adding four cops as accused
The Bombay high court has sought the response of the state government to the revision application filed by Asiya Begum, mother of Khwaja Yunus, an accused in 2002 Ghatkopar blast case, Khwaja Yunus, who died in police custody in 2003 challenging a sessions court order allowing the state to withdraw the application to add four more police officer as accused
Mumbai: The Bombay high court has sought the response of the state government to the revision application filed by Asiya Begum, mother of Khwaja Yunus, an accused in 2002 Ghatkopar blast case, Khwaja Yunus, who died in police custody in 2003 challenging a sessions court order allowing the state to withdraw the application to add four more police officer as accused.
In her application, she has stated that the sessions court had erred in holding that only the state government can file an application to add accused persons in the case.
Begum also sought directions to the trial court to proceed against the four additional police officials based on the evidence placed before it under relevant sections of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
A single-judge bench of justice R G Avachat, while hearing the revision plea filed through advocate Chetan Mali, was informed that the sessions judge failed to take note of the fact that the state government had filed the application for including the four policemen as accused based on witness evidence. However, by allowing the plea by special public prosecutor (SPP) advocate Pradeep Gharat seeking application to be withdrawn, the judge had committed injustice and error by passing the order on September 7, 2022.
Currently, four police personnel, including dismissed Mumbai police officer Sachin Waze–the prime accused in Antilia bomb scare and Mansukh Hiran murder case, and three constables are facing trial for the custodial death of Yunus.
In 2018, the then SPP Dhiraj Mirajkar had filed a plea for addition of four police officers based on the deposition of the first witness. The officers to be added were retired ACP Praful Bhosale, retired senior police inspectors Rajaram Vhanmane, and inspectors Hemant Desai and Ashok Khot—both of whom are in service. The witness had claimed that the four had assaulted Yunus in custody.
However, after the application was moved by Mirajkar, the state government discharged him and the court had kept the application in abeyance.
Begum’s revision application stated that though the Supreme Court had directed the trial court to decide the application moved by Mirajkar on merits, the trial court had unjustly allowed withdrawal of the application.
The application also stated that the rejection of her subsequent application by the trial court to implead the four policemen was also a mistake as the court had held that the representative of a victim can only instruct the pleader to prosecute a person in the court. The court had held that after receiving such instruction the pleader had to take permission of the court to submit written arguments after the evidence was closed in the case.
“The said observation is wholly incorrect and irrelevant as the court has the extraordinary power to take suo motu cognisance under Section 319 of the Code, or take cognisance on the basis of an application made by any other person, including the accused. The right of a person under Section 319 to file an application to add additional persons as accused is independent,” the application read.
The HC directed the state government to respond and posted the hearing to January 25.
Yunus, a 27-year-old software engineer, was arrested in December 2002 on suspicion in the Ghatkopar bomb blast case. He was last seen alive on January 6, 2003, when the others who had been arrested along with him claimed that he was brutally assaulted in custody. The police claimed that Yunus had escaped from custody while being ferried by a team led by Waze, but the CID found the claim to be false and booked the four policemen who had accompanied Yunus.