The Bombay High Court on Friday granted bail to 10 accused arrested in the April 2020 Palghar lynching case in Maharashtra, holding that video footage and still photographs from the crime spot did not show them being ” overtly ” violent.
A bench of Justice Bharati Dangre, however, rejected the bail pleas filed by eight other accused in the case after observing that CCTV recordings and photograph from the site of violence showed their active participation in assaulting the victims.
The bench was presiding over four separate applications filed by 18 of the over 100 accused persons charged in the case by the state police.
Three persons – two seers and their car driver – had died during the violence that erupted in Gadchinchile village in adjoining Palghar district on April 16, 2020, amid the coronavirus-induced nationwide lockdown. A mob of villagers had stopped the victims, traveling to Gujarat in a car, and attacked them suspecting they were thieves.
The case was initially probed by the Palghar police and subsequently transferred to the state CID-crime branch.
The 18 accused persons had approached the HC last year seeking bail.
Through their counsels Vaishali Raje, Ashish Chavan, Wesley Menezes and Ashley Cusher, the accused persons had filed separate pleas seeking bail claiming there did not exist any evidence that showed they had played an active role in the incident. Special Public Prosecutor Satish Maneshinde, however, opposed all bail pleas citing the ” gravity ” of the offense. In her order, Justice Dangre observed that the accused, to whom she was denying bail, had been identified in the CCTV footage, still photos, and mobile phone recordings from the site.
The HC held that such footage showed them ” throwing stones at the car ” and ” hitting the victims ”. ” This clearly points out their active participation in hitting the deceased, who succumbed to the injuries. Hence, they do not deserve any relief, ” the HC said while denying bail to eight of the 18 applicants.
” The material compiled against the applicants is based on the report of the FSL (Forensic Science Laboratory) where the reference photograph matched with the image of the accused in the CCTV footage and the video and, at this stage, it can be said to be sufficient material to implicate them, ” the judge said while denying bail. The HC said the ten accused, who were granted bail, were present at the crime spot, but did not seem to have ” overtly ” been part of any violent activity. ” The evidence against them in the charge-sheet is to the effect that they have been identified / spotted on the CCTV footage and are accused of being a part of the mob with some weapons, but since no overt act is attributed to them and particularly, now when the investigation is complete, their custody is not warranted and they are entitled to be released on bail, ” it observed.
The HC maintained that those granted bail will have to regularly attend the trial in the case as part of their bail conditions.
It also restrained them from directly or indirectly making any threats or promises to any person connected with the case or tampering with evidence.
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