Nine years after the murder of an IT professional Mohsin Shaikh rocked Maharashtra, a Pune Sessions Court acquitted all 20 accused including the Hindu Rashtra Sena (HRS) President Dhananjay Desai, here on Friday.
Reading out the verdict on Friday, Pune Additional Sessions Judge S.B. Salunkhe said that the evidence brought on record was not strong enough to convict Desai and other co-accused and the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubts, lawyer Sudhir Shah said for one of the accused.
“It was a conspiracy to frame me and the police were misused… I was innocent,” Desai remarked briefly after the court verdict.
Shaikh, 28, had allegedly posted some objectionable content on social media pertaining to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the late Balasaheb Thackeray and others, which resulted in protests and violence in Unnatnagar and surroundings of Hadapsar, on June 2, 2014.
At that time, Shaikh, who hailed from Solapur, was returning home with his friend Riyaz A. Shendrare after offering prayers in a mosque and was targeted by some motorcycle-borne men armed with hockey sticks, cricket bats, stones and other weapons, who created mayhem in the vicinity, attacking people and properties.
Seriously hurt in the attack by a cricket bat blow, Shaikh died while under treatment in hospital, and his brother Mobin Shaikh lodged an FIR.
In his complaint, Mobin stated that the attackers intercepted his brother Mohsin and his friend Riyaz at Satav Plot around 9.15 p.m. as he sported a beard and wore a light-green Pathani suit.
After investigations, the Pune Police charged Desai of inciting passions through inflammatory speeches in January and March 2014 in Manjari and Lonikalbhor areas in Hadapsar.
A total of 21 people, including a minor, all said to be HRS activists, were nabbed in the case and all secured bail later, as their lawyers argued about political motives, with the state assembly elections which were due then.
Taking strong cognizance, the government of the then Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had appointed eminent lawyer Ujjwal Nikam, Special Public Prosecutor, but after objections from some groups, he finally opted out in May 2017.
Later, the government appointed the District Government Pleader Ujjwala Pawar as the SPP and after her retirement, Dhaigude Patil continued the matter.
The Sessions Court verdict on Friday has evoked sharp reactions from various political parties in the state.