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Terror undertrial out on bail picks up the pieces, starts practice as lawyer in Mumbai

Atik was one of 23 accused held by the crime branch while investigating emails sent allegedly by IM members to media houses before a series of blasts in Gujarat on July 26, 2008.

Written by Sadaf Modak | Mumbai |
Updated: February 4, 2017 3:38:07 am

For Mohammed Atik, it is a new beginning. The computer engineer, who was employed with a leading IT company, was arrested by the Mumbai Police crime branch in 2008 on charges of being an alleged member of the Indian Mujahideen (IM). Now four years after his release on bail in 2012, 33-year-old Atik has donned a lawyer’s robe and is slowly picking up the threads of his life.

“When I was in prison, my first worry was to get bail. I used to think all my problems will be solved once I am released. But, when I came out on bail, I realised my problems have become more serious,” Atik said.

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Atik was one of 23 accused held by the crime branch while investigating emails sent allegedly by IM members to media houses before a series of blasts in Gujarat on July 26, 2008. While the prosecution has not claimed that these accused were part of the conspiracy on the serial blasts, the allegations are limited to the emails which were sent. As for Atik’s role, the prosecution does not claim that he is the person who had sent the email but claims that he was a member of an organised crime syndicate and of the IM, on the basis of his alleged association with some of the accused in the case, according to the confessions of some of his co-accused.

While granting bail to Atik in 2012, the Bombay High Court observed that he deserved to be released on bail, having spent four years in prison without the trial commencing. The court had also observed that there was no prima facie evidence to show that Atik had taken part in achieving the objectives of an organisation by unlawful means or violence.

On his release in 2012, Atik contacted the IT company he was working with to resume work but was told that his contract had been terminated since he did not report to work without prior notice. He approached the labour court against the decision and, meanwhile, began looking for jobs in Yavatmal district, where he stayed with his family.

“My family was apprehensive about my security and, hence, were not ready to send me to metro cities to look for a job,” he says, recalling the initial few months after his release. His father, who was working as a clerk in a private college, retired soon after his release. “I felt like I had become a financial burden for my family. To even appear for a court hearing from my hometown in Mumbai, 700 km away, I had to borrow money,” he says.

While in prison, he had read a lot of books on law to understand legal procedures. “I had approached the court to allow me to pursue a law degree and, despite getting a go-ahead, I could not take admission as the colleges I wrote to said that they required the student to be present in the class,” he says.

In September last year, having successfully pursued a law degree, Atik enrolled with the bar council and started practising as a lawyer, currently assisting a senior advocate in Mumbai.

“My first choice was to get back to a job in engineering. But, I have eventually chosen to work as a lawyer hoping that this profession can yield me respect in society which I have lost due to the allegations against me,” he says, adding that he hopes to represent undertrials better.

The trial in his case is yet to commence and 13 of his co-accused, still lodged at Taloja prison, recently wrote to the HC, seeking expedition of a plea to decide the court which will conduct the trial.

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