New Delhi, Feb 15: “The fault of the deceased was only that he belonged to another religion. I consider this factor in favour of the accused … ,” the Bombay High Court had said in its order while granting bail to three accused belonging to Hindu Rashtra Sena for allegedly killing a Muslim youth in 2014.
Taking exception to the observation made by the high court, the Supreme Court on Thursday said that such remarks were uncalled for and reminded that the judiciary must be fully conscious of the plural composition of the country while adjudicating issues pertaining to rights of various communities. It said that any kind of violence in the name of religion or community could not be justified.
A bench of Justices SA Bobde and L Nageswara Rao quashed the order of the Bombay high court granting bail to the accused saying that there was little discussion on the other relevant factors relating to granting or withholding bail in a murder case. It asked the high court to reconsider the bail plea of the accused afresh as per law on merit without being influenced by any extraneous reason.
“We have carefully perused the impugned order(s) granting bail and we find that there is little reference to/or discussion on the merits of the bail applications but we are satisfied that the significant reason for release is mainly the one stated above. We find that the aforesaid reason can, on a fair reading, be understood or misunderstood almost as a mitigating circumstance or a kind of a justification for the murder and it is obvious that the fact that the deceased belonged to a certain community cannot be a justification for any assault much less a murder,” the bench said.
“While it may be possible to understand a reference to the community of the parties involved in an assault, it is difficult to understand why it was said that ‘the fault of the deceased was only that he belonged to another religion’ and further ‘I consider this factor in favour of the applicants/accused.’ We have no doubt that a court fully conscious of the plural composition of the country while called upon to deal with rights of various communities, cannot make such observations which may appear to be coloured with a bias for or against a community,” it said.
“It is possible that the learned Judge wanted to rule out a personal motive against the victim, but only emphasize communal hatred. It is also possible that the learned single judge may not have intended to hurt the feelings of any particular community or support the feelings of another community but the words are clearly vulnerable to such criticism. The direction cannot be sustained,” the court said.
The high court had on January 12 last year granted bail to Vijay Gambhire, Ganesh Yadav and Ajay Lalge, accused of murdering 28-year-old Mohsin Shaikh on June 2, 2014 in Pune. As per the prosecution, the trio had attended a meeting of Hindu Rashtra Sena to protest against defiling of a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The accused armed with hockey sticks and bats roamed the streets on the night of June 2 when they came across Shaikh and thrashed him to death.
Their bail plea was rejected by lower court but the high court granted them relief. “The meeting was held prior to the incident of assault. The 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 accused. Moreover, the accused do not have criminal record and it appears that in the name of the religion, they were provoked and have committed the murder,” a bench of Justice Mridula Bhatkar had said.