Khwaja Yunus custodial death case: Sessions Court dismisses Asiya Begum’s plea to add four more policemen as accused

Yunus had been allegedly killed in police custody; his mother has been part of a prolonged legal battle to demand justice for him

Khawaja Yunus

On Wednesday, the Mumbai Sessions Court rejected a plea by Asiya Begum, the mother of Khwaja Yunus, to add the names of four police officers as accused in the case pertaining to his alleged custodial death.

Readers would recall that Yunus had been named as an accused in the 2002 Ghatkopar blast case, where a bomb placed on a BEST bus exploded killing two and injuring 50 people on December 2, 2002. 27-year-old Sayed Khwaja Yunus Sayed Ayub, originally from Parbhani district in Maharashtra, worked as a software engineer in Dubai. He was arrested from Chikaldhara in connection with the case. According to the police, he allegedly escaped while being transported to Aurangabad.

But a Crime Investigation Division (CID) inquiry revealed that he had actually died in police custody in January 2003. The inquiry had indicted four policemen including ‘encounter specialist’ Sachin Vaze and constables Rajendra Tiwari, Rajendra Nikam and Sunil Desai. They have been charged with murder, voluntarily causing grievious hurt to extort confession, fabricating evidence and criminal conspiracy.

Trial in the custodial death case commenced at the Mumbai Sessions Court in 2017 where Dr Abdul Mateen, who was previously a co-accused in the Ghatkopar blast case and was subsequently exonerated, deposed that he saw Khwaja Yunus being beaten mercilessly till he vomited blood.

In 2018, Special Public Prosecutor Dhiraj Mirajkar had filed a plea seeking the addition of names of four more policemen to the case, namely – ACP Praful Bhosale, senior police inspectors Rajaram Vhanmane, Hemant Desai, and serving policeman Ashok Khot. This was after a witness named them and said that they had assaulted Yunus. But Mirajkar was then sacked by the government, allegedly for moving this plea. Pradip Gharat took over as the new SPP this year and sought to withdraw Mirajkar’s application.

According to the Indian Express, Gharat told the Sessions Court that the Bombay High Court had in 2012 rejected Asiya Begum’s plea challenging the lack of sanction to prosecute the four policemen and others, and the appeal against this decision was pending before the Supreme Court. Therefore, the matter pertaining to addition of the new names could not be decided until the outcome of that matter.

On Wednesday, Additional Sessions Judge VM Pathade allowed for the withdrawal of the prosecution’s plea.

It is noteworthy that at the previous hearing on August 25, Asiya Begum had filed a separate plea through advocate Chetan Mali to include the names of the four policemen as accused in the case. India Today quoted an excerpt from the plea: “The evidence clearly shows that they (proposed accused) have committed the offence. They must be tried in the interest of justice. All the proposed accused were named in the chargesheet, and it was only because of absence of sanction by the state to prosecute these men that the prosecution against them did not proceed.” But the Sessions Court rejected this plea on Wednesday as well.


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