In his judgment on the Delhi serial blasts case, the extra periods decide, Reetesh Singh, absolved all three accused of any involvement within the explosions of October 29, 2005. He discovered one of the three, Tariq Ahmed Dar, responsible of being linked with the Lashkar-e-Toiba and gave him a 10-year sentence, however since all three accused had been in jail for the length of the trial, this meant that Dar had already served out his time. So two harmless males, Mohammad Hussain Fazli and Mohammad Rafiq Shah, spent a dozen years in jail for a terror assault that they had no reference to as a result of the police laid expenses towards them on the premise of proof that the courtroom steered was both fabricated or flimsy to the purpose of non-existence. The judgment strongly steered that the police had suppressed proof and made false statements.
Why did a case as shoddily and dubiously prosecuted as this one take so lengthy to dismiss and why did two harmless males do a time period near a life sentence? The reply to that query is not some weary generalization in regards to the callousness and inefficiency of the judicial course of in India. The reply lies within the horrifying institutional bias towards the presumption of innocence as soon as the cost of terrorism is laid.
Rafiq Shah and Hussain Fazli had been arrested in Srinagar three weeks after the explosions in Delhi. Fazli was a scarf vendor and Shah was a pupil in Kashmir University. Their due course of rights had been violated from the very starting. They had been detained in a Special Task Force camp and never produced earlier than a Justice of the Peace. They weren’t offered authorized counsel until some months later.
The cost towards Fazli was one of conspiracy that rested solely on the allegation that he had made incriminating cellphone calls. It turned out that the SIM card allegedly used for these calls had solely been used for 2 innocuous calls, one of which was a recharge request. There was actually no proof towards him other than this.
The cost towards Rafiq Shah was extra elaborate and critical: he was charged with planting a bomb in a bus that subsequently exploded, injuring many and blinding the courageous driver who flung it out of the bus. This cost rested on the testimony of Prosecution Witness 14 (PW14: these witnesses cannot be named as a result of they testified below a witness safety programme) who claimed to have been a fellow passenger with Rafiq Shah on the bus the place the bomb was discovered. He equipped an in depth description of Shah: a lightweight skinned man, over six toes tall, with a ‘French’ beard, carrying a striped white shirt, gray trousers and a cap.
The drawback with this description was that it was fully at odds with the one equipped by Prosecution Witness 19 (PW19). This witness had been interviewed earlier by the primary police responder to the Kalkaji blast, a sub-inspector from the Kalkaji police publish. PW19 had alerted the driving force to the passenger who had left his bundle on the again of the bus. He described this man to the sub-inspector, Attri, as 5′ 10″ tall, sallow, clear-shaven and naked-headed, carrying a shirt the color of Coca Cola and white trousers. The particular cell, to which the investigation was transferred two days after the blast, appeared unaware of this contradictory testimony when it offered its cost sheet to the courtroom
Besides the issue that two prosecution witnesses had equipped descriptions that contradicted one another’s in nearly each element, Shah insisted from the start that he had a forged-iron alibi: he had been attending lessons and doing examinations within the Islamic Studies division of Kashmir University on the day the explosions had been set off in Delhi. He claimed that each the attendance report and the professors who took these lessons would bear him out.
This is the purpose at which the kafkaesque cruelty of the system turns into obvious. The investigators, of their cost sheet filed in early 2006, enclosed a letter requesting Kashmir University to ship them the related attendance report. They additionally declared that they hadn’t obtained a response as a result of of the winter break. This winter break by no means ended. At no level between the submitting of the cost sheet in 2006 and the judgment 11 years later do the prosecutors acknowledge receipt of the related attendance report from Kashmir University. It’s virtually as if an intervening ice age prevented Shah’s prosecutors from getting the related paperwork from his college. Four professors who had taught Shah submitted an affidavit in 2006, declaring that he had attended their lectures all through the day of the explosions. The particular cell denied any data of the affidavit.
The expenses had been lastly framed by the courtroom in 2008, greater than two years after Shah’s arrest. Arguments on expenses had been held 3 times as a result of judges had been, routinely, transferred. Shah denied all the costs and his legal professionals argued that the costs ought to not be framed as a result of the cost sheet was incomplete. The prosecutors had nonetheless not equipped Shah’s attendance report on which the case towards him turned. This was a wonderfully respectable argument as a result of the Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasised that trial judges should not defer to prosecutors in framing expenses. But it was put aside as a result of judges do, actually, defer to prosecutors in a context the place dozens of individuals have been killed in a terrorist atrocity.
And so Shah’s destiny was sealed. This deference to the gravity of the crime, to public opinion and prosecutorial strain, made positive that the a number of bail purposes moved by defence counsel in subsequent years had been turned down. Sixty individuals had died, justice needed to be accomplished and if the particular cell claimed that it had seemingly perpetrators, it deserved its day in courtroom, even when that meant years in jail for 2 harmless males framed on flimsy expenses.
It’s value mentioning right here that PW14, the principal eye-witness for the prosecution, was, in response to Shah’s recorded testimony, repeatedly delivered to his jail cell the place he examined Shah fastidiously and even took images of him along with his cellphone. Shah described PW14 precisely: a stout man carrying thick, bottle-glass spectacles. Shah refused to submit himself to a TIP (Test Identification Parade) as a result of he was satisfied he was being arrange by the particular cell to be recognized by a false witness who had examined him at leisure. Shah testified that he was made to develop a beard in custody which was formed right into a French beard by the jail barber, the higher to match PW14’s description of him. (I will not even start to element the opposite issues that, on Shah’s written testimony, had been accomplished to him in custody, the torture, the abuse.)
The interminable 9-yr course of between the beginning of the trial in 2008 and its finish final week is especially the story of a judicial system during which the prosecution is given huge latitude and close to limitless time during which to current its witnesses. In this case the prosecution took eight years to current 187 witnesses, 110 of whom had been formal witnesses, victims of the explosions, not materials witnesses who really superior the prosecution’s case. The prosecution took 5 years inspecting these formal witnesses regardless that none of them had been cross-examined by the defence. PW14 and PW19 had been amongst the final of the fabric witnesses to be examined. Their contradictory testimonies which helped sink the prosecution case (because the prosecution in all probability knew they’d) had been saved until the tip.
It was the defence, which bought its flip to summon its witnesses on the finish of these eight leisured years, that produced the professors who testified to instructing or invigilating Shah on the day of the explosions. It was the defence that produced the attendance report that the prosecution ought to have retrieved 11 years in the past in 2006 earlier than the cost sheet was framed. The defence, which at no time requested for an adjournment, examined its witnesses in a single day. The hassle is that it needed to anticipate years to make this open-and-shut case which hinged on proof that the decide strongly implied the prosecution had had from the start however had suppressed.
After the acquittal Indian newspapers and web sites nonetheless led with headlines like The Hindu’s “3 Delhi blasts accused stroll free” as if Fazli and Shah had gotten away with homicide. But the prize for pandering to prejudice should go to the Hindustan Times which led with “2005 Delhi serial blasts: Court awards 10-year jail time period to mastermind, 2 acquitted”. This although within the physique of its personal report the decide specified that there was no proof for Dar being concerned within the conspiracy behind the blasts.
It might have been worse. Without dedicated professional bono counsel, a troublesome-minded decide and Shah’s personal tenacity and intelligence, he and Fazli might have been discovered responsible. It would not have been the primary time that the police stampeded the decrease judiciary right into a dying sentence.
Just the opposite day, General Bipin Rawat warned Kashmiris in dire phrases towards obstructing the military in anti-militant operations. They would, he stated, be handled as ‘anti-nationals’. What, I’m wondering, is the time period the overall would use for uniformed males within the nation’s capital, obstructing the course of justice to acquire dying sentences for harmless males, even because the terrorists who really killed these 60 Indians stay at massive?