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HC grants bail to 3 murder accused, says they were ‘provoked’

Three people accused in the murder of a Pune techie in 2014 in the aftermath of the controversy over morphed pictures of Shivaji and Bal Thackeray were granted bail by the Bombay High Court last week on grounds that they “had no personal enmity against the deceased” and that “the fault of the deceased was only that he belonged to another religion.”

Justice Mridula Bhatkar of Bombay High Court reversed the ruling of a sessions court in Pune, which had denied bail to the accused. “The fact that the deceased belonged to another religion is in favour of the accused, who were provoked in the name of the religion and seem to have committed the murder,” she said, effectively saying murder due to communal incitement was fair deal.

The prosecution said that on June 2, 2014, HRS organised a meeting at Hadaspar in Pune following violent protests after morphed images of Maratha warrior king Shivaji and late Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray were uploaded on Facebook by unidentified persons.

During the meeting, the group’s leader Dhananjay Desai made a ‘provocative’ speech that allegedly instigated the audience to go on a rampage.

Mohsin Sadiq Sheikh was killed by a mob allegedly made up of a right-wing group called Hindu Rashtra Sena. On the day of the murder, police say Hindu Rashtra Sena organized a meeting to discuss alleged morphed pictures of Shivaji that were in circulation on social media. HRS leader Dhananjay Desai allegedly incited those present to go on a rampage. As per the prosecution the accused armed with wooden sticks went out on the streets and on spotting Mohsin and his colleague Riyaz on a bike, assaulted them. Riyaz who escaped later said Mohsin was attacked because he was wearing a skull cap and sported a beard. Neither Mohsin nor Riyaz was linked to the alleged derogatory content on social media.

Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) terms culpable homicide not amount to murder a criminal offence, incurring penalties and a prison term of up to ten years, while the Code of Criminal Procedure says it is a non-bailable offence.

On 2 June 2014, the three accused — Vijay Gambhire, Ranjeet Yadav, and Ajay Lalge — had attended a meeting organised by HRS, a fringe rightwing group, in Hadaspur in Pune.

During the meeting, the group’s leader Dhananjay Desai made provocative remarks involving Emperor Shivaji, the late Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray and Hindu gods. His speech, allegedly, incited the people gathered to go on a rampage.

“The meeting was held prior to the assault. The accused had no other motives, such as any personal enmity, against the innocent victim. The fact that the victim belonged to another religion is in favour of the accused, who were clearly provoked in the name of the religion, and thus committed the murder,” justice Bhatkar said.

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