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city anchor: Theft case drags for 39 years,with more twists off court

In 1973,a young autorickshaw driver was woken up by policemen in the dead of night in Old Delhi’s Turkman Gate area and arrested for allegedly stealing a scooter.

Written by Aneesha Mathur |
August 6, 2012 1:08:50 am

In 1973,a young autorickshaw driver was woken up by policemen in the dead of night in Old Delhi’s Turkman Gate area and arrested for allegedly stealing a scooter. Islamuddin was produced before a magistrate and granted bail,but the case has been dragging on at the Tis Hazari courts for the past 39 years.

His is the oldest case currently being tried in Tis Hazari,highlighting the pendency of cases in the lower courts.

A year after his arrest,police filed a chargesheet,but Islamuddin again got bail because of the nature of the offence. In 1975,he “disappeared” while the court was still examining formal witnesses. The court adjourned his case indefinitely after he remained untraced till 1978.

Islamuddin,now in his seventies and with failing eyesight,said he lost his house when the slums around Turkman Gate were demolished in 1976,forcing him to stay with his wife and children in his mother-in-law’s home a few blocks away for a few years. In the meantime,the court kept sending him summons to his previous address: Jhuggi No. 3254,Turkman Gate,where he lived at the time he was arrested.

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In the years that followed,the demolished shanty remained his “residential address” in the court and police files.

Illiterate,and with no address to call his own,Islamuddin has been issued several non-bailable warrants over the years and has been declared a “proclaimed offender” twice — in 1983 and 2008 — for not appearing in court.

The “complainant” — the man whose scooter was allegedly stolen — has never appeared in court over the past 39 years.

Islamuddin,who now stays with his sister in Dilshad Garden,said: “I was sleeping in an autorickshaw parked on the road. The policemen came and told me to come with them to the police station. It was only when I was taken to court that they told me that I was arrested for stealing a scooter.”

He said he was also not aware of the court summons. After the death of his wife and mother-in-law,over 18 years ago,he said he lived the life of a vagabond — sometimes staying with his siblings and daughters,and many days on the streets.

In 2004,he was “found”,arrested and again granted bail. In 2005,the case file went missing from the court and the trial was again adjourned.

Almost two years later,the file was found and Islamuddin was summoned. He was then living with his daughter in Trilokpuri,and as usual the summons did not reach him.

He was tracked down and arrested again in November 2010,but the magistrate gave him bail because “no purpose will be served by keeping the accused in custody”. As was in the past,Islamuddin failed to appear on the next dates of the trial.

In May this year,his brother Alimuddin brought him to the court,which granted him bail on a bond of Rs 30,000.

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