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19 years on, another twist stuns Khwaja Yunus’s mother

Updated on: 06 August,2022 08:02 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Jyoti Punwani |

Without her knowledge, CID tells court it wants to withdraw a plea filed by its former prosecutor to make four policemen stand trial for the custodial death of her son

19 years on, another twist stuns Khwaja Yunus’s mother

Yunus went “missing” from police custody in January 2003. A CID inquiry showed that he had been killed in custody; (right) Yunus’s mother Asiya Begum, now 74, has been fighting for justice for her son

We were not consulted. Isn’t the PP supposed to represent our interests?” asked an upset Asiya Begum. 

Speaking to mid-day on the phone from Parbhani, the 74-year-old mother of Khwaja Yunus,  couldn’t hide her bewilderment and indignation at the latest twist in her 19-year-old quest for justice for her son. 

Software engineer Khwaja Yunus was just 27 when he went “missing” from police custody in January 2003. He had been arrested in December 2002 for the Ghatkopar bomb blasts which claimed two lives. 

A CID inquiry into his “disappearance” found that he’d been tortured to death. Fourteen cops were named by the CID as responsible; the Maharashtra government sanctioned the prosecution of only four, including API Sachin Waze, currently in jail for the murder of a businessman in connection with the Antilla case. 

In January 2018, when the trial of the four cops accused of killing Yunus began, Dr Abdul Matin, a co-accused in the same case, testified in court that he saw four policemen thrash Yunus till he collapsed. 

The then Special PP DU Mirajkar immediately made an application seeking to make the four cops named by Dr Matin additional accused in the case. Soon after this, Mirajkar was removed as Special PP. 

On Wednesday, the newly appointed Special PP in the Khwaja Yunus custodial death case, Pradeep Gharat, told the court he was planning to withdraw this application. 

“We agreed to Gharat’s appointment because we heard that Mirajkar was not willing to return as Special PP. We wanted the case to go on. Already it’s taken so long,” said Asiya Begum. 

However, she was surprised that Gharat had not contacted her since his appointment in June. 

“He is the government lawyer appointed to protect our interests. Shouldn’t he discuss the case with us? Yes, we are in Parbhani, but it’s not as if we can’t come to Mumbai. On what basis can he say he wants to withdraw Mirajkar’s application? We don’t want that.”

Wednesday was Gharat’s first appearance in the matter. He was appointed after Asiya Begum went to court asking that Mirajkar be reinstated. However, Mirajkar was unwilling. 

In an affidavit filed by Asiya Begum in March this year, the reason for Mirajkar’s unwillingness was spelt out. The affidavit contained an email from Mirajkar to Adv Chetan Malee, one of Asiya Begum’s lawyers. In the email, Mirajkar revealed that the Maharashtra government was upset with the application he had filed after Dr Matin’s testimony. They reprimanded him for not taking permission for it. They also asked him if he would withdraw the application if he was reappointed. 

Mirajkar said he wouldn’t. Under such circumstances, Mirajkar thought it best not to return to the case.

On Wednesday, Gharat told the court that the application seeking to make four more cops additional accused had to be withdrawn because the government had not sanctioned their prosecution, and the High Court had upheld this decision. 

However, when Mirajkar had filed the application, he’d argued that no sanction was needed to prosecute these cops because what Dr Matin had seen them do did not fall in their line of duty. Government sanction was needed only when policemen were sought to be prosecuted for the action done in discharge of their duty. 

“We will oppose Gharat’s application,” Senior counsel Mihir Desai who’s represented Asiya Begum from the start, told mid-day. “There is no reason for one PP to withdraw an application made by a previous PP which was based on evidence already recorded.”

Advocate Desai said Gharat’s move reflected the intention to protect certain senior-level police officers, which had been evident in the Khwaja Yunus case irrespective of which government had been in power since 2003. The four policemen named by Dr Matin are ACP (retired) Praful Bhosale, known as an “encounter specialist”, Senior Inspector Rajaram Vhanmane, and inspectors Hemant Desai and Ashok Khot. 

“Mirajkar filed that application because he was acting independently, as a Special PP should. He wasn’t acting as a mouthpiece of the government,” said Desai.

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