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Won't appoint new special public prosecutor in Khwaja Yunus custodial death case till Oct 14: Maha govt to HC

Mumbai: The Maharashtra government told the Bombay High Court on Wednesday that it would not appoint a new special public prosecutor in the Khwaja Yunus custodial death case till October 14.

Four policemen, including dismissed officer Sachin Waze, are facing trial in the case.

Additional public prosecutor Sangeeta Shinde made the statement before a division bench of Justices P B Varale and N R Borkar, which was hearing a petition filed by Yunus' mother Asiya Begum, challenging the removal of the previous special public prosecutor Dhiraj Mirajkar from the case.

Asiya Begum approached the high court in 2018 following Mirajkar's removal that year.

The petitioner's counsel, Mihir Desai, on Wednesday told the bench that in July 2018, the government had given an oral assurance that pending hearing of the plea, no fresh appointment would be made.

"However, the prosecution on Tuesday told the trial court that they are in the process of appointing someone as special prosecutor in the case. Our request is till this petition is heard, the government should not appoint anyone, Desai said.

The bench then asked Shinde to take instructions from the state's Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, who would be appearing in the matter.

We will give the state government an opportunity to put forth their case, but till then no appointment should be made. There should be no sudden change in prosecutor, Justice Varale said.

Shinde then told the court that she had taken instructions from Kumbhakoni and the state law department, and assured the court that the government will not take any steps to appoint a new special prosecutor in the case till the next date of hearing.

The court then posted the matter for further hearing on October 14.

Desai told the court that Mirajkar was appointed as the special prosecutor in the case in September 2015, but was abruptly removed from the post in April 2018.

In her plea, Asiya Begum claimed the decision to remove Mirajkar came after he filed an application before the trial court, seeking summons to be issued to retired police officer Praful Bhosale and three other policemen and make them face trial on murder charges.

Mirajkar had filed the application after Mohammed Abdul Mateen, a key prosecution witness, deposed before the court claiming that he had seen Bhosale, then assistant police inspector Hemant Desai and two other policemen assault Yunus in the police lock-up.

In 2018, the state government had told the high court that it was not trying to protect the police officials.

Yunus, a software engineer, was allegedly detained soon after the December 2002 Ghatkopar bomb blast case.

He allegedly escaped from police custody on the intervening night of January 6 and 7, 2003, while being escorted to Aurangabad for further investigation when their jeep met with an accident near Ahmednagar.

Later, the Crime Investigation Department (CID), lodged an FIR against some police officers for allegedly killing Yunus in custody and then destroying the evidence.

The CID inquiry indicted 14 policemen, but the government granted sanction to prosecute only four Sachin Waze, Rajendra Tiwari, Rajaram Nikam and Sunil Desai against whom the trial is being conducted.

The accused policemen are facing trial on the charges of murder, voluntarily causing grievous hurt to extort confession, fabricating evidence and criminal conspiracy in the case.

The government on Tuesday faced repeated flak from a sessions judge for failing to appoint a special public prosecutor, which has delayed the trial in the case since April 2018. PTI

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  • Bombay High Court
  • Khwaja Yunus custodial death case
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