Security to defence lawyer withdrawn

| | Mumbai

In a move that came after Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis charged that the defence lawyers were delaying the Kopardi gangrape-and-murder trial, police have withdrawn security cover given to defence Advocate Balasaheb Khopade representing one of the three accused in the case.

“My security cover was withdrawn all of a sudden. No reason has been given by the police. All I was told that there would be a police escort with me only when I am in Ahmednagar. I live in Pune. I face a threat to my life because of the hurried action by the police,” Balasaheb Khopade told The Pioneer on Friday.

Khopade, who along with his advocate-doctor Vijayalaxmi Khopade are representing the accused number two Santosh Bhaval, was accorded 24/7 security cover after the three accused in the case were attacked by the  activists of a social outfit Shiv Prahar on the court premises on April 1.

The defence lawyers have come in for a severe flak from various quarters for allegedly trying to “delay” the Khopardi rape and murder trial. So much so that the chief minister – responding to a vehement clamour by the Maratha community members who have demanded capital punishment for the accused in the case – had said that the state government had fast-tracked the court. “In five months, 31 witnesses have been examined in the case. The defence lawyers have been indulging in delaying tactics. All the same, I can assure you that the verdict will be out in the case soon,” Fadnavis had said.

The fast-track court, it may be recalled, had on November 9 last year  framed charges against three accused in the case under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO) Act for rape and murder.

The 15-year-old victim girl, who belonged to the Maratha community, was brutally raped on July 13 2016 allegedly by three Dalit men who inflicted injuries all over her body and broke her limbs before throttling her at Kopardi village in Ahmednagar district. 

Khopade, who himself belong the dominant Maratha community, expressed concern that he and his daughter were targeted for taking up the case of the one of the accused who like two other accused is a dalit.

Articulating the reason behind she and her father taking up the case, Vijayalaxmi contended: “No doubt the incident was extremely unfortunate. But, the incident took a political colour after organisations belonging to Maratha organisations mounted pressure on the Maharashtra government to act swiftly against the accused in the case. In their hurry to bring closure to the case, the police botched up investigations and picked up wrong and innocent people. We have a strong reason to believe our client is innocent. That’s why my father and I have take up the case and fighting the case free of cost”.

“It is incorrect to blame us that we are delaying the trial. We are doing our job,” Vijayalaxmi said.      

The accusation against Khopades and another defence lawyer Prakash Aher who is representing the third accused Nitin G. Bhailume is that they had made certain pleas before the Ahmednagar-based trial court hearing the case, resulting in the delay in the trial proceedings. 

While Aher had urged the trial court that the chief minister should be made a defence witness in the case, Vijayalaxmi Khopade had rooted for making five persons, including Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, as defence witnesses, and allow CDs and other proofs submitted by her as evidence in the case. However the trial court rejected the defence lawyer’s pleas on July 10.

Subsequently, defence lawyers Vijayalaxmi Khopade and Rakesh Rathod challenged the “legality, validity and propriety” of the lower court’s July 10 order in the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court.


Subsequently, defence lawyers Vijayalaxmi Khopade and Rakesh Rathod challenged the “legality, validity and propriety” of the lower court’s July 10 order in the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court.

On August 3, Justice K K Sonawane of the Aurangabad benchy extended the ongoing trial in the Kopardi girl gang rape and murder case till August 11, after partly admitting a criminal revision petition moved by defence lawyers representing of the three accused in the case. 

The HC extension on the  stay of trial till August 11 was meant for facilitating the defence advocates to move the Supreme Court.

“Since the next date of hearing in the trial court is scheduled for August 17, we intend to challenge the high court’s order in the Supreme Court before that date,” Vijayalaxmi said.  



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