Cannot justify murder saying victim belonged to a ‘certain community’: SC

Overturns decision of single Judge of Bombay High Court to grant bail to persons who beat to death a man three years ago.

February 15, 2018 11:58 am | Updated 01:39 pm IST - NEW DELHI

 A view of the Supreme Court of India.

A view of the Supreme Court of India.

The Supreme Court has overturned a Bombay High Court decision to grant bail to persons who beat to death a man three years ago.

A single Judge of the Bombay High Court had granted bail to the assailants solely on the ground that their crime was not motivated by personal enmity but provoked in the name of religion.

The High Court bail order reasoned that “the fault of the deceased was only that he belonged to another religion.”

A group of 23 persons attacked Shaikh Mohsin with hockey sticks, bats and stones in the night of June 2, 2014. He was on his way home for dinner.

According to the prosecution, the group, which includes two juveniles, participated in a meeting of a body called Hindu Rashtra Sena half an hour before the attack. They had targeted Mohsin because he was wearing a pastel green colour shirt and was sporting a beard, the prosecution said.

The prosecution said the murder accused were “highly motivated” after the meeting.

Calling the observations made by the single Judge as “drastic”, a Supreme Court Bench of Justices S.A. Bobde and L. Nageswara Rao emphasised “the fact that the deceased [Mohsin] belonged to a certain community cannot be a justification for any assault much less a murder”.

The Supreme Court chastised the observations made by the single Judge in his bail order. The apex court, in its order dated February 8 published on Thursday, said a court should be “fully conscious of the plural composition of the country while called upon to deal with rights of various communities”. Judges cannot afford to make observations, which appear coloured with a bias for or against a community.

The Sessions Court in Pune had rejected the bail applications of the accused persons. It had concluded that Mohsin was attacked “because he looked like a Muslim and that he was not concerned with disgracing Shivaji Maharaj”.

The single Judge, while hearing the bail applications, was of a different opinion. He reasoned that the lack of personal enmity between the assailants and their victim, and the fact that the murder was fuelled by communal hatred were factors that favoured the accused.

“The applicants/accused otherwise had no other motive such as any personal enmity against the innocent deceased Mohsin. 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 single Judge order, reproduced by the apex court, read.

The apex court Bench however gave the single Judge the benefit of doubt, saying the latter may not have intended to hurt the feelings of any particular community or support the feelings of another community. But the apex court underlined the fact that “words are clearly vulnerable to criticism”.

The Supreme Court has directed the accused persons to surrender and appear before the trial court on February 16.

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