A SESSIONS court, which is hearing the trial against seven policemen accused of killing nine Muslim men in a bakery during the 1993 communal riots, has directed the Pydhonie police to find a technician to fix an audio cassette containing wireless messages from a police control room.
After a plea by the accused policemen that there were discrepancies in the transcripts of the audio tapes of the wireless messages, the prosecution, defence and Pydhonie police officers tried to hear two audio cassettes, last opened 15 years ago, stored in a safe at the sessions court, following a court order on November 1.
One of the cassettes was played in courtroom No. 24 in the presence of the lawyers of the seven accused, prosecution, registrar and police officers. The court was, however, not in session. However, after the 25-year-old cassette was played for a few minutes, it stopped playing, the cassette stuck inside the tape recorder, the judge was informed on Friday.
A Pydhonie police officer told the court that efforts were made to find a technician to remove the cassette from the tape recorder and fix it; however, none could be found.
The court directed the police to find a technician and report to it within two weeks. The court was also informed that from the minutes of the recording already heard, some differences in the tapes and the transcripts were found. The court directed that those which are agreed upon by all parties should be marked and signed.
For now, the tape recorder brought by the Pydhonie police to hear the two cassettes, which were packed in an envelope and deposited in a safe in the ‘valuable properties’ section of the Mumbai sessions court, along with the stuck cassette lies in the court registrar’s custody.
In 2016, the accused policemen had brought up the transcripts and the cassettes, which were last heard in April 2003 as per court records, by claiming that 10 other accused were discharged on various grounds, including alleged discrepancies in the tapes submitted by the prosecution. The defence claimed that before the first witness concerning the police control room deposes, the issue of whether the transcripts can be relied upon should be resolved by verifying them with the tapes.
The prosecution had said this was an attempt at prolonging the trial, while the court on November 1 said comparison of the cassettes with the transcripts should be done if compliance is not made.
The Pydhonie police had brought the equipment last month and the first attempt at listening to the tapes was made. The parties were apprehensive about whether the cassettes will be in working condition as they were old and would have required a dust-free environment.
The alleged incident took place on the premises of the Suleman bakery on January 9, 1993, but an FIR was registered only in 2001 after witnesses, including workers at the bakery, students and teachers of a nearby madrasa, filed affidavits before the Justice B N Srikrishna Commission that investigated the riots.
Initially, 17 policemen, including the then Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) R D Tyagi, were named in the case. But now, only seven junior officers — Kalyanrao Vidhate, Sahebrao Phad, Sudhir Bane, Mohan Bhise, Purshotam Naik, Chandrakant Mohite and Ramakant Motling — are facing trial on various charges, including murder.
The others, including Tyagi, were discharged by the trial court, which observed there was no evidence against them. The discharge order was subsequently upheld by the Bombay High Court and then by the Supreme Court in 2011.