Thursday, December 11, 2014

Muslims and the police in India- by A.G.Noorani

The journalist Iftikar Gilani (right) and his lawyer coming out of the court in New Delhi after his release in January 2003. He had been charged in the Parliament attack case for possessing documents that were available in the public domain. Photo:R.V. Moorthy
Cmmissions of inquiry have sometimes exposed shocking details of communal bias in the functioning of the institutions of law enforcement. Yet, little notice is taken of them. 

By A.G. NOORANI
Read these and one wonders how Sir William Macpherson would have characterised the police outrages. A wood of fearsome depth emerges as one proceeds past tree after tree.
On September 26, 2012, a Bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justices H.L. Dattu and C.K. Dattu, acquitted 11 Muslims convicted under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, or TADA, and warned the Inspector-Generals of Police (IGPs) and Superintendents of Police (SPs) against its abuse. They must “ensure that no innocent person has the feeling of suffering only because ‘My name is Khan’, but I am not a terrorist’” (The Hindu, September 27, 2012).
On May 16, 2014, another Bench comprising Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice V. Gopala Gowda set aside concurrent convictions and sentences against six Muslims by the Special Court under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (which replaced TADA) as well as the High Court in the case of a terrorist attack on the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, on September 24, 2002. The court observed: “We are of the view that the judgment and order of the Special Court (POTA) in POTA Case No. 16 of 2003 dated 1.7.2006 and the impugned judgment and order dated 1.6.2010 of the High Court of Gujarat at Ahmedabad in State of Gujarat v. Adambhai Sulemanbhai Ajmeri are liable to be set aside. Consequently, the sentence of death awarded to A-2, A-4 and A-6, life imprisonment awarded to A-3, 10 years of rigorous imprisonment awarded to A-5 are set aside. Since we are acquitting all the accused in appeal before us for the reasons mentioned in this judgment and also, since A-1 was convicted and sentenced on the basis of the same evidence which we have already rejected, we also acquit A-1 who is not in appeal before us, of the conviction and sentence of 5 years’ rigorous imprisonment awarded to him by the courts below, exercising the power of this Court under Article 142 of the Constitution and hold him not guilty of the charges framed against him. We are aware that he has already served his sentence. However, we intend to absolve him of the stigma he is carrying of that of a convict, wrongly held guilty of offences of terror so that he is able to return to his family and society, free from any suspicion.
“Before parting with the judgment, we intend to express our anguish about the incompetence with which the investigating agencies conducted the investigation of the case of such a grievous nature, involving the integrity and security of the nation. Instead of booking the real culprits responsible for taking so many precious lives, the police caught innocent people and got imposed the grievous charges against them which resulted in their conviction and subsequent sentencing” (Adambhai Sulemanbhai Ajmeri vs. State of Gujarat (2014) S.C.C. 716 at pp. 831-2).

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