In a major relief to 10 policemen allegedly involved in the custodial death of Khwaja Yunus, who was arrested in connection with the 2002 blast in a BEST bus in Ghatkopar, the Bombay high court (HC) on Tuesday rejected a plea by his mother Aasiya Begum to prosecute them. Yunus was charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Activities Act (Pota) in January 2003.
The court, however, directed the state government to pay Rs20 lakh as compensation to Aasiya Begum within eight weeks as the offence resulted in violation of fundamental rights and Yunus’s mother lost the sole breadwinner of her family. The compensation has been increased from Rs3 lakh which was paid to her earlier.
“The petitioner has suffered tremendous mental torture and agony due to the events and circumstances in which her son disappeared,” a division bench of justices AM Khanwilkar and justice RG Ketkar said.
Yunus allegedly escaped from police custody in the intervening night of January 6-7, 2003, while being escorted to Aurangabad for further investigation. The jeep carrying him met with an accident near Ahmednagar. Since then, his body has not been found. Yunus’s father in April 2003 filed a petition in the HC demanding a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into his son’s disappearance. Blast accused Dr Abdul Mateen testified that Yunus was assaulted in custody which could have caused his death.
Later, the Crime Investigation Department (CID) lodged an FIR against four police officers for allegedly killing Yunus in custody and then destroying evidence. Justices Khanwilkar and Ketkar on Tuesday partly allowed the petition (with regard to the compensation) filed by Aasiya Begum seeking prosecution of 10 other police officers also who were named by the CID as conspirators in the killing of her son.
The court, however, rejected her prayer to sanction prosecution or direct a competent authority to issue a prosecution sanction order observing: “There is intrinsic material to show that the final decision has been taken by the sanctioning authority after due application of mind. There is hardly any scope to argue that the sanction order does not conform to the due process of law.”
The director general of police (DGP) on December 5, 2007, granted sanction to prosecute four persons - API Sachin Vaze and three constables - Rajaram Nikam, Rajendra Tiwari and Sunil Desai. In the same order, the DGP made a detailed analysis before refusing sanction to prosecute 10 others. The decision was upheld by the home department, which is the final sanctioning authority.
The HC went through the files of the DGP and the home department and observed that some of the 10 policemen were not part of the investigating team. They were associated with the Ghatkopar blast case only to the extent of the arrest of Dr Mateen and Zaheer from Aurangabad, the court noted.
“Since the sanctioning authority was satisfied that the policemen had no role to play (in the killing), it was justified in declining to grant sanction,” the judges said in their 77-page judgment. The trial against the other four policemen has commenced.
The judges have also taken note of the fact that eight people who were being prosecuted for their alleged role in the Ghatkopar blast case were acquitted by the special Pota court. “There was an excellent chance that even Khwaja would have been acquitted,” the HC observed.
The court has also given the liberty to the government to recover the compensation amount from the erring police officers after the completion of the trial.
Dec 2, 2002 - Blast in a BEST bus outside Ghatkopar station
Dec 23 - Khwaja Yunus arrested
Jan 3, 2003 - Yunus charged under Pota
Jan 6 - Yunus taken to Ahmednagar in a police jeep for investigation
Jan 6-7 - He goes missing
Feb 17 and 18 - Dr Abdul Mateen testified that Yunus was assaulted in custody which could have caused his death
April 28 - Yunus’s father files petition in HC demanding CBI inquiry into son’s disappearance
Dec 6, 2007 - State govt grants sanction to prosecute four officers