After slain TV exec Neeraj Grover's father appealed to Home Ministry to appoint Ujjwal Nikam as special public prosecutor in High Court, state tells him to foot the bill, but he can't afford it
Disheartened by the Sessions Court verdict in the high profile murder case of media executive Neeraj Grover, his father Amarnath had appealed to the Home Ministry to appoint noted lawyer Ujjwal Nikam as the special public prosecutor (PP) in the case. The Ministry, however, told him that if he wanted to avail of his
services, he had to pay Nikam's fee in advance, after getting him to consent to take the case up.
In demand: Public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam gets paid Rs 50,000 per
hearing to oppose Qasab's petition against his conviction in the Supreme
Court. FILE PIC
Nikam, who has been appointed by the state to oppose Qasab's plea challenging his conviction in the apex court, gets paid Rs 50,000 per hearing. Amarnath said he doesn't have the money to afford his services.
Amarnath believed that convicts Emile Jerome and Maria Susairaj got away with a lenient punishment (see box) due to the lukewarm efforts of the prosecution.
A week after the verdict, on July 7, he wrote to the Home Department asking for the appointment of Nikam as the special PP in the High Court, where the state's appeal to enhance the convicts' sentence was recently admitted.
He even met Home Minister RR Patil on August 5, and told him that the PP in the trial court had not done much to fight for his son. Patil had assured him that he would look into the case, Amaranth said.
'Can't afford it'
However, on August 30, the department wrote back to him, stating that he had to get Nikam's consent and pay his entire fee in advance, if he wanted his services as public prosecutor. MiD DAY has a copy of the state's letter to Amarnath.
But Amarnath said he could not afford the lawyer.
"My son was the only earning member in our family. I do not have the money to pay Nikam's fees in advance. Due to this glitch, Nikam was not appointed the PP of our case against Maria Susairaj," said Amarnath.
In his reply to the state on September 10, he said as much, but received no response.
"In September I had written to the state to say that I cannot afford to pay Nikam's fee. But I have not received any reply yet. I have also written to Home Minister RR Patil and am awaiting his reply," he added.
Amarnath said, "Had Nikam fought the case, my son's killers would have been punished. This is a case for the government, but they want us to appoint a PP, which is unfair. I do not have lakhs to pay the lawyer. The case has already been admitted in High court with a PP appointed by the state," added Amarnath.
Those in favour
The state had even asked the Crime Branch for their opinion on appointing Nikam and also sought to know the reasons behind their recommendations. The Crime Branch had replied that they were in favour of the move as the case holds much importance. Nonetheless, Amarnath was asked to foot the bill.
According to a Mantralaya source, "If a victim wants a special PP in the case, they must also bear the cost of the prosecution's services. However, in the Grover case, it is apparent that the victim's family is not happy with the judgment, and the state could consider their appeal, specially since even police and the state were dissatisfied with the verdict."
Ujjwal Nikam was the public prosecutor in the murder trial of Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Qasab. Currently, he has been appointed by the state of Maharashtra to assist in opposing Qasab's petition challenging his death sentence in the Supreme Court.
He is paid Rs 50,000 per appearance, and Rs 50,000 for travel and other expenses.
Neeraj Grover was brutally murdered by former naval officer Emile Jerome and his fiancee, Kannada actress Maria Susairaj, in Malad in 2008. After the duo had escaped the murder rap in a trial court earlier, the Sessions Court, on July 1, had found Jerome guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and sentenced him to 10 years of imprisonment, while Maria, convicted merely of destroying evidence, got three years in jail. Since Susairaj had completed that period as an undertrial, she walked free the next day.
The state, dissatisfied with the verdict and in the face of general public discontent with the sentence, had appealed to the High Court seeking enhanced penalty for the two. The court admitted the appeal on October 5.