The Bombay High Court has granted bail to three men who were arrested for attacking a Muslim man in Pune after attending a meeting of the Hindu Rashtra Sena (HRS).
According to reports, 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.
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.
Gambhire, Yadav and Lalge, along with Desai, went around the area on two-wheelers, carrying weapons, looking to target possible victims. When they spotted the deceased Shaikh Mohsin, his elder brother Riyaz and colleague Wasim, they attacked them.
Mohsin, who was wearing a green shirt and had a beard, was allegedly hit with hockey sticks, bats and stones for being Muslim. Riyaz and Wasim managed to escape, but returned later to take Mohsin to the hospital. He later died from his injuries under treatment.
The assailants, arrested on charges of murder and causing riot, were denied bail in the lower court. Their prosecutor argued that others held on similar charges had been released on bail and the same should also be granted to the three accused.
Hearing the case in the Bombay High Court, Justice Bhatkar reportedly said that there was no motivation of personal enmity behind the attack and killing of the deceased. The only fault of the deceased, as the court clarified, was that he belonged to another religion.
"I consider this factor in favour of the accused," Justice Bhatkar said in her ruling, adding that "the accused do not have any criminal record and it appears that they were provoked in the name of the religion and have committed murder".
The court, however, rejected the bail plea for Desai, saying his speech was "sufficient to incite the feelings of religious discrimination in the crowd".
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