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MORE THAN a year before eight SIMI activists were killed in an encounter on the outskirts of Bhopal Monday, a Khandwa court held that the evidence in a 2011 case against three of them was “not believable”. Coming down harshly on Madhya Pradesh police and the investigating officers, the court acquitted one of them, Akeel Khilji, under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The other two, Amzad Ramzan Khan and Mohammed Saliq, had been declared “proclaimed offenders” by then.
In its judgment, the court also questioned the jurisdiction of the investigation officer to carry out the probe under UAPA, and pulled up police for not sending key pieces of evidence for forensic analysis. Khilji was arrested on June 13, 2011 — on charges of causing enmity between religions and under the UAPA — and acquitted on September 30, 2015.
The court had also acquitted Abdullah, the brother of Zakir Hussain who was also killed in Monday’s encounter, and Khilji’s son Mohammad Jaleel in the same case, under various sections of UAPA and IPC sections 153(A), pertaining to “promoting enmity between two groups”; 153(B) relating to imputations and assertions deemed harmful to national integration; and, 124 (A) on sedition.
The last rites of four of the eight SIMI activists killed this week were conducted in Khilji’s house in Khandwa on Thursday. Khilji had been awaiting trial in Bhopal’s Central Jail after being charged in at least three cases — two under the UAPA and another “for promoting enmity”.
According to the police chargesheet in the 2011 case, Khilji and “10-15” other members of SIMI had “assembled at Khilji’s house and conspired to carry out a big attack”. The police had raided Khilji’s house on June 13 and recovered “SIMI literature” and CDs from the house that were termed as “provocative”.
After a four-year trial, the Khandwa court had acquitted all the accused charged under the UAPA. Referring to a witness, the judgment by additional sessions judge Avnindra Kumar Singh read: “Hardev Singh Gaur has deposed that when he reached the site, he heard voices saying ‘Jihad Jari Rahega’ (Jihad will continue). Irrespective of whether they are captured, they have to carry out such an act so that nobody will dare arrest a SIMI member. If a SIMI member is arrested or apprehended, then we will spread terror…
“He also deposes that a pamphlet, dated March 29, talks about a Russian intelligence report to destroy Muslims…However, Gaur’s claim of having heard all this at Akeel’s house has not been supported by another witness. When a large police force was with him, it’s obvious that Gaur would not be the only person to have heard these voices from inside. Therefore, the claims of provocative talk in support of SIMI does not seem believable.”
On purported SIMI literature and “provocative” CDs submitted by police, the court ruled, “The evidence produced before the court is not clear whether it supports or contradicts the message and picture in the CD. There is no evidence to establish what was the message in the CD. In case of a book, especially objectionable text or conversation, if the entire context is laid out along with the evidence, then it cannot be concluded these are objectionable or provocative towards society, religion or nation. They might be provocative in nature, but the prosecution has not presented any clear evidence in this regard.”
The court also observed that the investigating officer did not have sufficient powers to probe the case.
“The witness (investigation officer) also agrees… that he does not have power to deal with UAPA. However, senior officials asked him to carry out the initial investigation, after which it can be handed over the seniors. Therefore, it seems that the investigation was out of his jurisdiction,” the court said.
The court also criticised police for not sending the CDs and literature — two key pieces of evidence — for forensic analysis. “In the interest of justice, the court can ask for additional evidence or ask for the CD to be played again in court. But it would not be appropriate to get the text in Urdu or Arabic translated again at this stage, or the CD to be played when it has not been examined by the FSL (Forensic Science Laboratory)… So it can be observed that the prosecution does not have any specific word, picture, spoken or written word, to support its case,” the court said.
In the same case, the court convicted three other accused — Babloo, Altaf and Raqeeb, all residents of Khandwa — under sections of the Explosives Act. According to police, Khilji was among the eight SIMI activists who escaped from the Central Jail on Monday after killing a head constable by slitting his throat using spoons and steel plates, and tying up another guard before crossing a wall using a rope made of bedsheets. The eight were gunned down hours later by police on the outskirts of the city.