Judiciary in India has always been the last refuge of the underprivileged, under-represented and minorities and more often than not, its lived up to this duty. Working as a watchdog to politicians and bureaucracy but a recent judgement of the Mumbai High Court threatens to put a decent dent into that image.
Late last week, the Bombay High Court granted bail to three men accused in the murder of a Pune Based Mumbai Techie on grounds that his “religion was a provocation”.
But what has come as a shock to Shaikh’s family is an observation made by the court.
Granting the bail on Saturday, Justice Mridula Bhatkar observed,
“The fault of the deceased was only that he belonged to another religion. I consider this factor in favour of the applicants/accused. Moreover, the applicants/accused do not have criminal record and it appears that in the name of the religion, they were provoked and have committed the murder.”
The court, however, has accepted multiple eyewitness accounts that the accused were present at the crime scene when it happened.
“It is apparent that the applicants/accused were present at the time of the incident. There are statements of the witnesses and the police officer that the applicants/accused had attended a meeting of Hindu Rashtra Sena on the same day half an hour before the actual incident of the assault.”
The three men, Vijay Gambhire, Ranjeet Yadav and Ajay Lage, all members of Hindu Rashtra Sena (HRS), are facing murder charges after they killed Shaikh, a Pune based techie on June 2, 2014.
“We had submitted that the accused had no other motives, such as personal enmity against the innocent victim. The bench, however, came to the conclusion that the accused were clearly provoked in the name of religion and thus committed the murder,” Debajyoti Talukdar, the lawyer representing the accused said.
The trio had targeted Shaikh and his friend Mohsin with hockey sticks while they were returning from a dinner without any provocation from the victims side.
According to the prosecution, the accused were returning from a meeting of the HRS, following the protest over images of Shivaji and Bal Thackeray which were uploaded on Facebook by unidentified persons.
At the meeting HRS chief Dhananjay Desai reportedly made a ‘provocative’ speech that allegedly instigated the audience to go on a rampage.
Upset with the Bombay High Court’s order, Mohsin’s family has planned to move the Supreme Court challenging the former’s order.
“The HC’s reason for granting bail has not convinced me. Was it my son’s fault that he was Muslim? Are provocative speeches reason enough to murder people in the name of religion? I would like to request public prosecutors, lawyers and the government to refer the matter to the Supreme Court for justice,” Mohsin’s father Mohammad Sadiq Shaikh said.