A group of teachers at Jamia Milia Islamia University has put together a compilation of terror cases that failed to hold up in court,all of these built by the Delhi Police Special Cell around youths they had arrested and described as terrorists.
Titled Framed,Damned and Acquitted: Dossiers of a Very Special Cell and compiled from court judgments and media reports,the study by the Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association documents 16 such cases between 1992 and 2008. It notes that some of the accused languished in jail for years before courts acquitted them,citing lack of evidence or possible tampering of evidence.
Of the 16 cases,11 involved Kashmiri youths. Here are these 11 cases,as documented in the study.
1 Accused: Tanveer Ahmad,Shakil Ahmad,Ishtiaq Akhtar Dar,Mohammad Akhtar Dar,Mohammad Yusuf Lone,Abdul Rauf,Ghulam Mohammad,declared arrested from Delhi on April 29,1992.
Charge: They had allegedly made base in a Delhi house and were planning to use the owners vehicles for attacks. Police claimed to have recovered photographs of prominent places targeted,arms and explosives.
How case fell apart: Dates didn’t match. Raufs wife had on April 26 moved the Meerut chief judicial magistrate about his arrest from Meerut. Ghulam Haider,owner of the Delhi house,testified that on April 25,he filed an application with Lajpat Nagar police and a habeas corpus petition about the arrest of Akhtar,Yusuf and Ghulam Mohammad. The court asked how applications could have been filed against the arrests in advance,discredited the rest of the prosecution story and acquitted all seven.
2 Accused: Farooq Ahmed and 16 others,arrested in May and June 1996,in connection with a May 21 blast in a car in Lajpat Nagar. Four were later acquitted:
Mirza Iftiqar Hussain,Latif Ahmed Waza,Syed Maqbool Shah,Abdul Gani
Charge: Rs 2 note recovered from Waza. It was supposedly meant to be handed over to Hussain as a code for delivery of Rs 1 lakh (seized separately and allegedly identified by Waza). From Maqbools house,Farooqs clothes and stepney of car in the blast were allegedly recovered.
How case fell apart: No evidence of involvement of Hussain or Waza (who claimed he had been picked up in Nepal). The delivery of Rs 1 lakh,the court noted,took place on June 16,after the blast conspiracy had ended. No evidence that the recoveries from Maqbools home belonged to Farooq. Gani had been named by another accused,but his role was not mentioned.
In 2010,Farooq and Farida Dar were found guilty of making calls claiming responsibility for the blast and other offences. They were released since they had already served the maximum term for these charges.
3 Accused: Irshad Ahmed Malik of Doda,J&K,arrested from Rajdhani Guest House in Bhogal on March 27,2004.
Charge: Malik was allegedly frequenting Delhi to collect funds through hawala transactions. Arms and Rs 2.75 lakh recovered from him and,based on his disclosures,an AK-56 and two magazines elsewhere.
How case fell apart: The court held that enlisting independent witnesses was omitted by the police deliberately. The seizures were sent for forensic tests a month later; court suspected tampering. In disclosure report; first statement mentioned an AK-47,second an AK-rifle and final recovery memo an AK-56.
4 Accused: Ayaz Ahmed Shah alias Iqbal,arrested from Welcome Metro station,January 22,2004. This was following information that a youth would come to deliver explosives and hawala money.
Charge: A raid party recovered explosives and Rs 3 lakh. Shah reportedly confessed he belonged to Kashmiri outfit Hizb-e-Islami.
How case fell apart: No public witness; police witnesses statements found contradictory. The raid vehicles were privately owned and there were no log entries. No evidence that Shah belonged to the said outfit.
5 Accused: Hamid Hussain,Mohammad Shariq,Iftekhar Ahsan Malik,Maulana Dilawar Khan,Masood Ahmed,Haroon Rashid,arrested from Delhi and Dehradun,March 5 to 13,2005.
Charge: Special Cell had information that Hamid was an LeT operative who visited Kashmir to procure arms. The first two arrested confessed they were planning to attack Indian Military Academy in Dehradun. RDX was seized from Hamid who had to deliver it to three militants hiding in Uttam Nagar. The hideout was raided and the three were killed in an encounter. Among recoveries was a diary with entries about Malik,who allegedly got three passes to the IMA parade. This was followed by the other arrests,including Maliks. Rashid allegedly sent funds through Western Union and this was allegedly revealed by his emails.
How case fell apart: Court refused to admit memos and statements linking Hussain and Shariq to those killed. No evidence that Rashid sent the money to the slain militants. The IMA passes were for a parade already held. As for Rashids emails,the printouts of alleged conversations were dated after Rashid had revealed his password to police; court suspected manipulation.
6 Accused: Saqib Rehman,Bashir Ahmad Shah,Nazir Ahmad Sofi,Moinuddin Dar,Abdul Majid Bhat,Abdul Qayoom Khan,Birender Kumar Singh,arrested July 2,2005.
Charge: They were arrested after a chase following firing and hurling of hand grenades on Delhi-Jaipur National Highway. They were allegedly ferrying a consignment of arms. An SI apparently had secret information about a planned strike.
How case fell apart: Witnesses faltered. Of the evidence did not hold up,the car used by the accused,records showed,was registered months after it was allegedly misused. The court ruled four police officers had framed the youths at the behest of one Major Sharma (Army Intelligence) whose attempts to persuade Moinuddin Dar to work for him in getting militants to surrender were spurned. The court directed the Police Commissioner to register an FIR against the officers.
7 Accused: Khurshid Ahmad Bhatt,arrested from Pampore on September 21,2005,reportedly named as an area commander by Aslam Wani,alleged Jaish operative arrested from Delhi that August. A year later,police found Khurshid was a juvenile and shifted him to juvenile justice board. In July 2008,three years after his arrest,he was declared a juvenile.
Charge: Police recovered arms,a Jaish I-card and other evidence.
How case fell apart: Police claimed they reached Pampore police station,gone to Khadawala chowk where J&K police checked passing vehicles,and arrested Khurshid,all between 4.30 pm and 5 pm. Court found the claims of doing so much in 30 minutes dubious; besides,there were no witnesses to the arrest,or evidence about Khurshid conspiring with Wani.
8 Accused: Student Gulzar Ahmad Ganai and government employee Amin Hajam,declared arrested in Delhi on December 10,2006.
Charge: The two were declared aides of LeT operative Abu Tahir,and alleged to have been sent to Delhi to deliver arms,ammunition and hawala money. Explosives and Rs 6 lakh allegedly recovered.
How case fell apart: A witness testified the two had been arrested on November 27,boosting defence case of illegal detention. They were supposed to have travelled in a bus; its conductor deposed that the supposed trip was not made that day; this was backed by the ticket chart. Errors were committed while attempting to cook up a story, the court ruled.
9 Accused: Tariq Dar,who had moved to Dhaka in 2003 where his father ran a business. In September 2006,he had been picked up by Bangladeshs Rapid Action Battalion on charges of being an R&AW agent. Released under pressure from civil rights groups and the Indian government,Dar was sent to New Delhi. When he landed at IGI Airport on October 25,2006,it was the Delhi Special Cell that arrested him.
The charge: Dar had allegedly been named by two alleged terrorists,Abu Anas and Mohammad Issa. Police accused him of helping an LeT district commander in Dhaka.
How case fell apart: Police said arrest evidence was difficult to gather from a foreign country; prosecution had to file a discharge application rather than file a chargesheet. Besides,letters from the Indian government to Dhaka had never mentioned he was wanted for terror in India.
10 Accused: Imran Ahmed,arrested from Dwarka shopping complex on November 16,2006.
Charge: Police said he was the brother of LeT operative Khali and was meeting an aide,Ghulam Rasool,also arrested. Recoveries included Rs 4.5 lakh and explosives.
How case fell apart: No evidence of LeT links,no public witnesses to arrest,contradictions between chargesheet and then ACP Sanjeev Yadav’s statement. Private vehicles were used,no log records. Defence claim was that Imran,an aeronautical engineering student,was carrying money given by his father to buy a house in Dwarka.
11 Accused: Mukhtar Ahmad Khan,arrested from Azadpur on June 12,2007.
Charge: Said to be a LeT operative staying in a Delhi hotel. Was under surveillance,allegedly disappeared and went to Kashmir and collected explosives,which were recovered,besides Pakistani visa. Police claimed his phone had numbers of top LeT commanders.
How case fell apart: The prosecution failed to prove that the phone belonged to Khan or the numbers were being used by LeT commanders. Moreover,the numbers were operational only in J&K. Court also questioned how he could have disappeared when under surveillance.
We always go by law: Special Cell
Senior officials with the Delhi Police Special Cell,whose terror cases leading to acquittals are the subject a study by a group of university teachers,maintain they follow all procedures strictly and in accordance with law during investigations.
Delhi Police Special Cell has very stringent checks on the investigation and operations carried out by its officials, special commissioner of police (Special Cell) S N Srivastava told The Indian Express. The investigations are constantly monitored and also vetted by the prosecution branch of the court. Even the courts of law proceed with the case after proper appreciation of evidence.
Emphasising that charges are framed based on the evidence in hand,an official with the cell said graver evidence obviously leads to graver charges. If police find that someone played a peripheral role in the incidents,they are charged accordingly. However,we cannot leave out a suspect and compromise with national security, the official said,refusing to be named. No matter how small a role a suspect plays,the officer added,it was the polices foremost duty to at least take him to the court of law and then let the judiciary decide whether he/she is guilty or not.
Dismissing allegations of illegal detentions and innocents being framed to settle petty scores,another Special Cell police officer said sporadic incidents may make news but cannot change reality. We only go by evidences, the officer said.
The group that compiled the study
The Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association had formed in 2008 after the Batla House encounter. From an initial focus on extrajudicial killings,it has expanded to illegal detentions and media trials,issues that it says it strives to bring to the public notice.
Teachers associations are usually organisations working for issues faced by teaching community. However,from the beginning,JTSA was a civil rights association, JTSA president Manisha Sethi told The Indian Express.
About its latest study,which deals with a number of terror cases being built against youths who later went on to be acquitted,Sethi said,We have just kept the evidence threadbare as they were presented in the court. The police stands exposed before the judiciary,which itself is part of the system.
Sethi and two other members,Sanghmitra and Sohaib,started working on the study in May. They eventually focused on those where there was absolute acquittal.
The team compiled records of court proceedings and other documents,helped by online posts,lawyer friends and RTI applications. It was not very challenging to prepare it. The material was there but nobody was taking note of it, Sohaib said.