Ujjwal Nikam to testify as defence witness in Kopardi gangrape-murder case

In a major development in the ongoing Kopardi gang rape and murder trial, special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam will be summoned as a defence witness shortly, a lawyer for the accused said here on Thursday.

IANS June 22, 2017 21:30:48 IST
Ujjwal Nikam to testify as defence witness in Kopardi gangrape-murder case

Ahmednagar (Maharashtra): In a major development in the ongoing Kopardi gang rape and murder trial, special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam will be summoned as a defence witness shortly, a lawyer for the accused said here on Thursday.

"Yes, Nikam will now testify as our witness from the witness box, the dates for which will be decided by Sessions Judge Suvarna Keole on Friday," Vijayalaxmi Khopade, lawyer for one of the accused, Santosh Bhaval, told IANS.

Ujjwal Nikam to testify as defence witness in Kopardi gangrapemurder case

File image of Ujjwal Nikam. PTI

"This will be the first incident in Indian judicial history where a special public prosecutor will be called by the lawyers of the accused as a defence witness in its own case," said Khopade, who is fighting the case along with her father, advocate Balasaheb Khopade.

This is because of several factors, including the fact that Nikam was appointed as a special public prosecutor in the case in late July, barely 10 days after the 13 July, 2016, incident, and long before the 350-page chargesheet naming 70 witnesses was filed on 7 October — exactly 86 days after the incident.

"He took a massive part in the investigations into the entire case... The Chief Minister (Devendra Fadnavis) told the Maharashtra Legislature that the matter is being probed under the guidance of the special public prosecutor, among other things," Khopade added.

Referring to certain other facets of the case which she termed as "bad in law", the lawyer said even the Supreme Court had ruled that a "prosecutor must not become a persecutor".

"From the beginning, the special public prosecutor's attitude has been one of bias... We have put on record how the witnesses were coached at his home, how fabricated documents have been submitted as evidence, among other things," Khopade said.

Despite repeated attempts, Nikam could not be contacted for his version in the matter.

The crime, which was equated with the Nirbhaya case of New Delhi in view of the grisly brutality heaped on the victim, happened on the evening of 13 July at Kopardi village in Ahmednagar district.

The 15-year old girl, studying in Class IX in a local school, was reported missing and after a few hours, her highly mutilated, blood-splattered body was found under a tree in a field near the village.

Following a massive public outcry, police arrested the prime accused — Jitendra Shinde alias Pappu, Santosh G Bhaval and Nitin G Bhailume — within 24 hours of the crime and charged them under sections 376(A) and 302 pertaining to rape and murder of the Indian Penal Code, besides under other sections of relevant laws.

The crime sent shock waves through social and political circles and led to disruptions in the Maharashtra legislature for two days during its monsoon session in July.

It acquired huge political overtones, especially because it involved a Maratha victim and three Dalits as the perpetrators.

The opposition Congress and the NCP targeted the state's BJP-Shiv Sena government both within and outside the legislature.

After the incident, hundreds of villagers had protested by putting up roadblocks in Kopardi and surrounding villages and taken out processions to demand justice for the victim and her family.

The state government had announced a compensation of Rs 500,000 to the victim's family under the Manodhairya Scheme.

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