Mohsin Shaikh murder States

Ujjwal Nikam steps down as public prosecutor

Pune: In yet another setback to the case of murdered IT professional Mohsin Shaikh, noted lawyer Ujjwal Nikam stepped down as special public prosecutor on Monday.

A government notification from the State Law and Judiciary Department that was given to the Shaikh family, said, “in view of the request made by Advocate Nikam seeking cancellation of his appointment as special public prosecutor in the [Mohsin Shaikh murder] case pending before the Pune Sessions Court, the government of Maharashtra cancels the appointment with immediate effect”.

Shaikh, 28, was beaten to death — allegedly by activists of the fringe right-wing Hindu Rashtra Sena (HRS) — on June 2, 2014 in Hadapsar after derogatory pictures of King Shivaji and late Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray were uploaded on Facebook, sparking communal tensions across the city.

The prime accused in the case, HRS chief, Dhananjay Desai, is lodged in the city’s high-security Yerwada prison.

While Mr. Nikam could not be reached for comment on the reasons for stepping down, Mr. Shaikh’s father, Mohammed Sadiq Shaikh, has written to the advocate, urging him to reconsider his decision.

“It is a shock for us. We were certain of justice when Mr. Nikam agreed to fight this case on our behalf,” said Sadiq Shaikh, speaking to The Hindu.

His letter to Mr. Nikam, says, “You are the most capable public prosecutor in this country. There could be various reasons for delay in the trial and we are not blaming you for these. Please do not pay heed to the allegations made by others.”

The ‘allegations’, referred to in the letter, concern accusations made by certain Muslim social groups who had cast aspersions on Mr. Nikam’s ‘credentials’ to fight the case in the wake of the murder.

In late 2014, the Rashtrapremi Kruti Samiti (RKS), an outfit working for the rights of minority and backward groups, had in a letter to the then Chief Minister opposed Mr. Nikam’s appointment as special public prosecutor, alleging that the advocate had close affinity with extremist right-wing organisations.

Activist Anjum Inamdar, president of the RKS, had alleged that Mr. Nikam was ‘not fit’ to prosecute Mr. Shaikh’s killers as he ostensibly enjoyed cordial relations with the right-wing Hindu communal forces casting grave doubt on his secular credentials.

“Mr. Nikam has been felicitated by a number of Hindutva and fringe right-wing organisations including the Abhinav Bharat, allegedly responsible for the Malegaon bomb blasts,” said Mr. Inamdar.

Till date, 17 of the 23 accused in Mr. Shaikh’s murder have been released on bail, with inordinate delays holding up the framing of charges.

Mohsin Shaikh was returning home after prayers on that fateful night in June 2014 when HRS activists unleashed a hail of violence in the Hadapsar area, torching bakeries and smashing businesses owned by the minority community.

Following his murder, the Pune police had filed a 650-page charge sheet in August that year in which 23 people, including Desai and two juveniles, were named.

The investigators had noted a clear conspiracy in the sequence of events and the charge sheet explicitly made clear Desai’s “malafide intentions” in instigating his workers to violence.

However, since then, the case has been marked by delays with several of the accused being granted bail due to ‘lack of evidence’.

While the Bombay High Court rejected Desai’s bail in the past, it granted bail to three other accused on January 12 this year on grounds that they did not have any past criminal record. In her order, Justice Mridula Bhatkar had remarked that the accused “were provoked in the name of religion and committed the murder”.

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Printable version | Apr 22, 2021 9:33:38 AM |

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