NATIONAL

Supreme Court ruling puts police under pressure

MUMBAI, AUG. 21. The Supreme Court's order last week, upholding the Bombay High Court's direction of April 30, 2004 relating to the custodial death of Khwaja Yunus, a young engineer arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) has put the Mumbai police under pressure. Yunus was arrested in connection with the bomb blasts in the Mumbai suburb of Ghatkopar in 2002.

A Division Bench of the Bombay High Court, comprising Justice S. Radhakrishnan and Justice R. S. Mohite, had taken serious note of the fact that some police officers and constables had misled the judicial inquiry by the Special POTA judge on the disappearance of Yunus. It had directed the Special POTA judge to look at their evidence and, if necessary, initiate criminal action against them.

More important, the Bench had observed that the FIR filed by Sub-Inspector Sachin Vaze on the disappearance of Yunus was false and fictitious and had directed the State to treat the statement of another accused in the Ghatkopar case, Dr. Abdul Matin, as the First Information Report. It is this order, challenged by the State CID, which the Supreme Court dismissed last week.

Assaulted

Dr. Matin had stated before the special POTA court that on January 6, 2003, that Yunus was assaulted by police with a belt and kicked on the chest repeatedly during interrogation. Yunus vomited blood. One day later, he was reported to have escaped while being transported by police to Aurangabad but has not been seen since.

The Bombay High Court order was in response to a habeas corpus petition filed by Yunus' father demanding that the State produce his son before the court. The father, who died without getting any justice, had also demanded that the case involving his son's disappearance be handed over to the CBI, which the court refused to do.

Now, Yunus' mother, Aasiya Begum, has decided to file another writ petition in the High Court demanding that the CBI investigate the case. She also demanded a compensation of Rs. 10 lakhs for the trauma caused by the death of her son in custody.

Incompetence suspected

``We will also have to examine if the State has committed contempt of court as it is such a long time since the order was passed. There are no clues as to where and how the body of Yunus was disposed of and this delay gives us cause to suspect incompetence. The policemen, who claimed Yunus escaped from custody (which was false) and who were later charged with murder like Vaze and the three constables, are out on bail. The State CID, which is investigating the case, is not doing its duty,'' said Majeed Memon, advocate for the family of Yunus.

On December 23, 2002, the 26-year-old Yunus was picked up near his family's home in Parbhani. The sole breadwinner in his family with a job in Dubai, Yunus was brought to Mumbai along with Dr. Matin and two others and charged under POTA for the Ghatkopar bomb blasts on January 3, 2003.

What followed then was an elaborate fabrication by the Mumbai police, which was exposed in the judicial inquiry conducted by the Special POTA judge and also by a letter by Dr. Matin who had written to the judge from prison.

The inquiry established that the police version put forth by Vaze saying that Yunus had escaped from police custody while being taken to Aurangabad for investigation on the morning of January 7 was prima facie not true.

The matter was handed over for investigation to the State CID in May 2003.

Fresh case soon

On March 3, 2004, the State CID arrested Vaze and charged him along with three police constables for murder.

The three constables, who surfaced some months ago, are also out on bail. The CID is planning to file a fresh case shortly.