Buy off the victims: Khwaja Yunus case

Would you trade justice for compensation? The idealistic mind says, no. But would a poor person have to make a pragmatic choice?

In 2002. Khwaja Yunus died in police custody. He was arrested in the Ghatkopar BEST bus blast case in Mumbai under POTA. The extent of his involvement is not clear, but the cops have put forth theories that he had absconded while being transferred to another prison.

Despite this, the Bombay high court on grounds of “violation of fundamental rights” has enhanced compensation payable to his family from Rs. 3 lakh to Rs 20 lakh. Why has this been done?

...a division bench of Justice A M Khanwilkar and Justice P D Kode rejected a plea to prosecute 10 policemen for Yunus's alleged custodial death.

The judges said Asiya Begum was free to file a suit for additional compensation, which would have to be decided on its own merits. The state, which has already given Rs 3 lakh to Yunus's parents, has now been directed to pay the remaining Rs 17 lakh within eight weeks. It was up to the state to recover the amount proportionately from the police officers responsible for Yunus's disappearance, the judges added.

What do we have here?

Initially, Yunus's father Ayub filed a habeas corpus petition for his production. The state CID sought the prosecution of 14 policemen for their alleged role in Yunus's "custodial death". After Ayub's death, Asiya Begum amended the petition to make 14 policemen as accused and sought Rs 20 lakh as compensation.

The judges further said the sanction was limited to the police team that took Yunus out of the lock-up in healthy condition and was allegedly responsible for causing his death or disappearance en route to Aurangabad.

This is an old tactic to make some policemen culpable. Since no one knows what really happened, except the version of the co-accused that Yunus was tortured, it makes one wonder how toothless even the CID is.

Why has the court decided to increase the compensation, the highest to date in the state? What evidence does it have that makes the disbursement of this money a crucial factor?

Yunus was the only earning member, but they cannot be called a poor family. He worked as a software engineer in Dubai. The judgement has also left to the imagination his disappearance and death. This does not sound like justice. The “violation of fundamental rights” that the courts spoke of includes the right to information about why the CID’s appeal was overlooked.

It brings me to the question of whether the increased amount can silence people. Will it set a precedent? The state has paid the sum it felt was due; the rest is left to the culpable policemen. I see a dangerous trend here. Cops are not so rich; they can be used by moneyed people to squash cases with the assurance that they can pay off the victims and their own families will be taken care of. The list of people who can avail of such ‘facilities’ would be politicians, businessmen, rivals, family members, the underworld, just about anyone.

I understand that justice takes way longer than cash deposited in a bank account, and the latter is more important for survival. It would be unfair for me to judge how a victim’s family makes such choices. Yet, some voices should be raised or we will just end up as commodities to be bought and sold.


  1. FV,
    This guy is at least an Indian!

    Even Ajmal Kasab has been "compensated" to the tune of Rs 20-25 Crore so far.


  2. F&F:

    There's no question of 'at least he is Indian'. What are you implying?

    His family needs to get justice.

    Kasab is the state's headache, and it feels the need to 'secure' him.

  3. Its a shame for the judiciary to compensate in monetary means only, the bench has set free the culprits responcible for his death


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