Delhi High Court blast case: The other juvenile

As the only convict in the Delhi HC blasts, whose case rests on a ‘terror mail’, hopes to have his sentence overturned, his broken family stays away, scared by the new unsubstantiated allegations against him.

Written by Arun Sharma , Kaunain Sheriff M | Published:March 13, 2016 12:49 am
shamima-759 Shamima continues to believe son Junaid, missing since 2010 and later named in the blasts, is alive. (Source: Mukesh Gupta)

Of Kishtwar’s two cyber cafes, only Global Internet was open on September 7, 2011. Sometime around 1 pm, a Class X student walked into the cafe. Meanwhile, at its Cabin No. 3, an email account was opened, with the id ‘harkatuljihadi2011@gmail.com’. Over the day, the account was used five times. It was also used to search for ‘Katrina kaif blue’, ‘Katrina kaif’ (the actress had had a hit in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara at the time) and ‘Pyar Ki Ek Kahani’ (a popular TV serial). The account was never used again.

That’s the entire case against the juvenile, now 21, convicted in the Delhi High Court blast. The explosion had gone off approximately two hours earlier that day, killing 15, and on July 7, 2014, the juvenile was convicted of sending an email from the account claiming responsibility for the attack and also threatening more blasts, including at the Supreme Court, if Afzal Guru (convicted in the Parliament attack) was hanged.

For the charge of “criminal conspiracy to wage war or attempt to wage war against the government of India”, the juvenile was sent to the correction home for three years. His is the only conviction in the attack.

Before he was proved to be a juvenile, he was named in all the official papers and in the media, including this paper, and the NIA chargesheet.

Nearly 800 km separate Delhi from Kishtwar. A 49-year-old has done that distance 85 times in the last four years. However, for the past seven months, he hasn’t dared come see his son. Cost is just one factor, says the government employee who works at the district magistrate’s office and earns Rs 15,000 a month. Lately, towards the end of his appeal against his conviction in the case, his son has found himself battling the unsubstantiated rumour of “radicalising the Delhi juvenile gangrape accused” and later of having “hygiene issues”. The father fears being embroiled in a case himself, and of losing his job.

Produced in court on January 28, the juvenile repeatedly told the judge he was feeling homesick.

The last time he was home was in July 2014, before he was convicted. His appeal against the conviction was heard for seven months, and then the judge transferred right before she would have pronounced the verdict. The new judge is hearing the case afresh.

global-1 The cyber cafe from which the ‘terror’ mail was sent. (Source: Mukesh Gupta)

There were six accused in the case, including the juvenile. One turned approver while trial against another is on. Of the remaining three, Amir Kamal and Shakir Hussain alias Chotta Hafiz have been killed in “encounters”, while Junaid Akram Mailk remains missing, but is believed dead.

***

During his time battling the case, the juvenile has completed his Class XI and XII, and enrolled into BA in 2014. In December last year, he gave exams for three subjects.

It was during this time that rumours first surfaced of him “radicalising” the Delhi gangrape convict. The gangrape convict was up for release and there was much debate at the time over this (he has been moved out since). Officials have repeatedly denied this

charge of radicalisation, but it keeps resurfacing.

“I don’t know from where this news came,” says the father. “Recently when I spoke to my son, he said he wanted a harmonium.” However, there is a problem, he adds. “We don’t get harmoniums in Kishtwar. I will send him the money.” In the meantime, officials have got the juvenile a radio set.

The other thing the juvenile worries about is lack of tutors, the father says. “There are teachers only for those studying up to Class XII.”

On January 28, rejecting his plea to be sent home, the judge told the juvenile, “Tum aur books padho. Tumhara dhyaan padhai pe rahega. Ghar ki yaad nahin aayegi (You read more books. Your focus will be on studies. You won’t be reminded of home).”

The juvenile also accused other inmates of “bullying” him and calling him a “terrorist” due to the altercation over use of a toilet. “There was an issue over hygiene,” officials at the home claimed, apparently after the juvenile used the toilet.

“A separate toilet is being constructed for him,” an official told the court.

***

Kishtwar is a small town in the Jammu province and the families of the juvenile, main accused Wasim Akram Malik and Amir Abbas Dev, who later turned approver, lived within a radius of 2 km.

It was Amir’s confession — he is now out on bail — that nailed the case against the juvenile. The NIA chargesheet says the juvenile sent the email on the “motivation and instruction of Amir Abbas Dev”. It also says the two first met in May 2011, and that Amir “inspired him (the juvenile) for performing Jihad”.

Mehmood Pracha took over as counsel for the juvenile in July 2014. The juvenile’s case, leading up to the conviction, had earlier been tried by legal aid. Pracha points out “contradictions and falsehoods” in Amir’s statement, and says that during examination, Amir had admitted he didn’t know what was inside the envelope he is said to have handed over to the juvenile. Officials say it contained the text of the “terror” email.

Amir’s father works at a local court in Kishtwar, but attempts to trace him proved futile. Amir, neighbours say, had been sent to stay at a relative’s home.

The neighbours are surprised that Amir’s statement was used to convict the juvenile. “Amir is not of stable mind,” says one of them. “He even had to be accompanied to the neighbourhood bazaar,” says another.

Apart from Amir’s confession, the NIA relied upon a statement by the juvenile before a magistrate under Section 164 CrPC. The defence says this “was under coercion”, and that the juvenile had retracted from the statement during the evidence stage.

The juvenile’s father claims the NIA initially approached the juvenile to turn approver and to give a “tutored statement before the Juvenile Justice Board against Wasim and Amir. However, when he told the magistrate that he has been asked to say so by the NIA… things changed. While the Board did not take note of his statement, the NIA started working to get him convicted.”

An NIA spokesperson says, “Yes we wanted the juvenile to become an approver in the case. But he refused. Whatever was done was in accordance with law. Other allegations are baseless.”

The father says he is not sorry about his son not turning approver. “Acquittal from courts isn’t everything. One has to get a clean chit from Allah as well.”

***

The defence arguments rest on other “discrepancies” in the NIA’s submissions.

It cites a letter by Loknath Behera, Inspector General (Intelligence and Operations) with the NIA, to Daniel C Clegg, Legal Attache, US Embassy, New Delhi, requesting for recovery of data from the computer allegedly used to send the terror email. In the letter, the officer says the computer’s hard disk was sent to the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Thiruvananthpuram, but the C-DAC had said the “hard disk installed in the seized CPU is physically damaged”.

The letter adds that the CFSL, New Delhi, had also “returned” the hard disk, stating that the “CPU could not be cloned or imaged due to some technical error”.

The hard disk was sent to the FBI in the US, on December 27, 2011. In its scrutiny report based on the FBI analysis, the NIA said: “The CART (Computer Analysis Response Team of FBI) has informed that only one email account, harkatuljihadi2011@gmail.com, was opened and used from 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm on 7 September 2011.”

The defence notes that the NIA says the juvenile was at the Kishtwar cyber cafe at 1 pm that day, created the said email id, sent the email, and left by 1:30 pm (the timings of his arrival and departure confirmed by prosecution witnesses).

“So even if the appellant reached the cyber cafe at 1 pm, how was the alleged email account opened at 12:30 pm?” Pracha says.

He also asks how the account was open long after the juvenile was known to have left the cyber cafe. “The said email account was also used on 7/9/2011 to search for ‘Katrina kaif blue’ at 4:50 pm, ‘Katrina kaif’ at 5 pm and ‘Pyar Ki Ek Kahani at 5:39 pm’.”

Besides, none of the writers of the FBI report was examined by the prosecution — as is required for any proof submitted under the Evidence Act.

In its reply, the NIA submitted that its case was that only one account was opened at that cafe, and not that the account was opened at 12.30 pm. The “crucial” mails were sent to info@aajtak.com with CC to feedback@ndtv.com at 1:14 pm, it says.

It adds that the juvenile had “intentionally not logged out from the email ID”. As for the non-examination of FBI officials, the NIA says the juvenile had “admitted” to the FBI report during the trial and therefore “there was no requirement for examination of the author”.

The defence has now requested for recall of over 30 prosecution witnesses for cross-examination.

***

Of all those held or wanted in the Delhi High Court blast, no one’s story has seen more twists or turns than that of Malik brothers Wasim and Junaid.

For parents Riyaz and Shamima Malik, who also have two daughters, the nightmare began not in September 2011, but 10 months earlier.

On November 9, 2010, their younger son Junaid, a student of Class X, was abducted from Jammu. The parents suspected Azhar Padri, a former tenant of theirs who had long eyed their Kishtwar house and was a known “OGW (terrorist sympathiser)”.

Police subsequently arrested Padri as well as alleged accomplices Irshad Ahmed and Fateh Mohammad, and booked Padri and Ahmed under the Public Safety Act.

It was while they were still in Kot Bhalwal jail in Jammu that the Delhi High Court blasts happened. NIA officials first went to Kishtwar in trail of the terror email, and later Kot Bhalwal jail.

Junaid and Wasim Malik’s maternal uncle Ashfaq Hussain Shah says Azhar gave police the name of Junaid, claiming he had joined terrorists. Wasim, who studied medicine in Bangladesh, had been home for vacations at the time of the Delhi blasts and was also arrested later. Police admit there are no other criminal records against the brothers, before or since.

Within six months, Padri, Ahmed and Fateh were released on bail. Today, Ahmed works as a private bus ticket agent, while Irshad’s services as a teacher have been regularised by the state government.

Shamima, 48, a headmistress at a state government school in Drabshalla, breaks down recalling that her son Junaid was only 14 when he went “missing”.

Riyaz, 53, who works as a private secretary to general manager, Chenab Valley Power Projects, Jammu, points out that there is evidence to show that on the day of the blasts, Wasim, who was in the final year of his MBBS, was in Jammu.

“He withdrew money from a Jammu & Kashmir Bank ATM in the morning, and was also challaned by traffic police for driving his sister’s Scooty without a helmet. On being called by the NIA for questioning, he came back from Bangladesh and went to their office on his own,” Riyaz says. “Do you think a terrorist would himself come from a foreign country and appear before the NIA?” asks Shamima.

Riyaz also questions the NIA theory that Wasim stopped over at Delhi on his way to Jammu from Bangladesh as he wanted to recce the high court area. “Is there any other way of coming to Jammu from Bangladesh?” he asks.

Of Riyaz and Shamima’s daughters, Afia is doing PhD in law from a private university in Punjab while Shabia recently completed her BDS from Himachal Pradesh. Both live with their parents in Jammu, where Riyaz shifted after the names of his sons figured in the Delhi High Court blasts.

Since then, Riyaz has never visited Kishtwar, even though he has a house there. Shamima also seldom goes to her mother’s house in the town. Their regular travels to Delhi to attend court hearings for Wasim have eaten up all their savings as well as left them under Rs 2 lakh debt.

“I only wish to get the dignity and respect of my child restored,” Shamima says. “God willing, people in India will know the truth one day. All Muslims in the country are not traitors,” adds Riyaz.

While Riyaz and his daughters have accepted the unconfirmed reports that Junaid is now dead, killed by terrorists when he tried to escape their captivity, Shamima continues to believe he is alive. Officially, Junaid carries a reward of Rs 10 lakh on him.

***

The juvenile’s father remembers September 7, 2011 — when he allegedly visited the cyber cafe to send out the terror mail — as any other day. “After his Class X exams, I had got him admitted to a computer training institute.” The juvenile’s mother, who was a senior assistant in the Health Department, had died in 2004, and the father hoped the juvenile would get her job.

He remembers each detail of September 10, 2011, the day the juvenile was picked up, though. It was afternoon and he and his younger sister were watching a Hindi serial on TV when the local police arrived.

Police told him the juvenile would be sent home by evening. However, he remained at the police station for 14 days. Finally they heard on news channels that the juvenile along with Amir Abbas Dev had been taken to Delhi by the NIA, the father says.

For the next three months, the father claims, there was no news of them. It was again on TV, he says, that he heard that his son had been shifted to the juvenile home. “Following this, I went to Delhi and met him for the first time since his arrest.”

Six months later, on February 28, 2012, the principal magistrate at the Justice Juvenile Board granted conditional bail to the juvenile for his Class XI exams. He passed with over 50 per cent marks and subsequently cleared his Class XII exams, after three attempts, in 2014, with 65 per cent marks.

The travel expenses ate up his savings, leaving the father under Rs 1.5 lakh debt. He had to pull his daughter out of a private school and put her in a government one after Class X.

In 2014, the father approached the government to appoint his son as junior assistant in place of his late mother. By the time the confirmation came, in December 2014, the juvenile had been convicted by the Juvenile Justice Board and re-arrested.

Now the father has no hope. “To get the job he needs clearance from the CID or CBI. Who will give him clearance?” he says.

The family’s two-room house is bare except for three-four plastic chairs and a bed. An old TV set is the only source of entertainment, and during his time out on bail, the juvenile spent much of his time before it.

The father remembers that the juvenile’s stay at home was lonely. His former friends had all moved on, pursuing higher studies.

While he stresses he is “fighting for truth”, the father is also constantly haunted by what the juvenile told him when out on bail. The then 19-year-old didn’t talk much about his time in custody, he recalls, but one day, he said, “Papa, if you had been there, even you would have said what they told you to.”

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