New Delhi: Lawyer Ujjwal Nikam has withdrawn as special public prosecutor in the 2014 Mohsin Shaikh murder case in which members of the right-wing Hindu Rashtra Sena (HRS) are accused.
Nikam submitted a letter from the Maharashtra government’s law and judiciary department to a sessions court in Pune informing it of his decision to withdraw as a public prosecutor in the case.
According to the Indian Express, the law and judiciary department, through a letter dated May 19, had acceded to Nikam’s request to be removed from the case and cancelled his appointment as special public prosecutor in the case. “In view of the request by advocate Ujjwal Nikam, seeking cancellation of his appointment as the special public prosecutor for conducting the case pending before the sessions court Pune … the Government of Maharashtra hereby cancels the appointment of advocate Ujjwal Nikam as special public prosecutor with immediate effect,” the government order said.
On the night of June 2, 2014, Mohsin, who worked in a Pune firm, was lynched, allegedly by members of the HRS. His friend, Riyaz Ahmed Mubarak Shendure was with him when they were targeted by party activists protesting a Facebook post of derogatory pictures of Chhatrapati Shivaji and Bal Thackeray.
Mohsin’s family and activists who have been fighting the case have expressed disappointment with Nikam’s decision. Mohsin’s father, Sadique Shaikh, requested Nikam to reconsider his decision. “In our opinion, Nikam is the most capable public prosecutor of India. We were very much sure that we will get justice by his representation,” he told Outlook.
“I have been closely observing the case and Nikam sahab had fought this case very effectively so far. It is shocking that he has decided to withdraw from the case. I am at a loss to fathom what could have made him take this decision,” Azhar Tamboli, who is an activist and an intervener in the case, said to Outlook.
Nikam has chosen to remain silent on why he decided to withdraw.
In August 2014, Sadique had requested the Congress-led government to appoint Nikam as his lawyer. Twenty-one members of the HRS, including their leader Dhananjay Jayram Desai, alias Bhai, who were arrested for the murder, were to be prosecuted. Over the years, three of the accused – Vijay Gambhire, Ganesh Yadav and Ajay Lalge – have been granted bail by the Bombay high court. Only five, including the main accused Desai, are still imprisoned.
The murder occurred barely a week after Narendra Modi became prime minister and at least one opposition MP, Sugata Bose, raised the matter of Shaikh’s killing in parliament.