Last week,a Delhi court acquitted two men from Jammu and Kashmir,Javed Ahmad Tantray and Ashiq Ali Bhatt,saying the Delhi Police Special Cell had foisted trumped-up charges on them.
The two men had been arrested on August 6,2009,and were accused by the police of planning suicide attacks in the capital ahead of Independence Day that year.
At the time of their arrest,the then special commissioner (Special Cell) P N Aggarwal had told a press conference that Tantray and Bhatt were caught in Daryaganj while they were making a call to a Pakistani contact from a PCO. Aggarwal said that before coming to Delhi,Tantray and Bhatt had met Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin and his deputy Khalid Saifullah at a terror training camp in Pakistan.
Nearly all of the evidence produced by the police collapsed in court. The trial judge issued a damning indictment: the case,he said,was a clear-cut plant case by the Special Cell to get out-of-turn promotion. These are some of the glaring loopholes in the Special Cells case.
*Two-way toll plaza slips: The police claimed Tantray and Bhatt came to Delhi in a white Santro from Jammu on August 6,2009. They submitted two-way toll slips of that day from three plazas: Ladhowal (Ludhiana),Shambhu in Ambala and Karnal. The police have maintained that they were to come to Delhi and receive instructions here. But they (the police) submitted two-way toll plaza slips of the same day,which proved that the car had first travelled to Jammu and then come to Delhi, M S Khan,counsel for Tantray and Bhatt,said.
*No place for weapons in the car: The police said two AK-47 assault rifles,four 120-round magazines and two hand grenades had been hidden in a cavity under the rear seat and on the front left side of the car. However,Lalit Goyal,the owner of the car,told the court that there was hardly any space between the rear seat and the fuel tank,which could have accommodated a large weapon. Goyals car had been stolen from Panipat four months earlier.
*Witness saw no explosives: Balkishan,a resident of northwest Delhis Narela,who made the PCR call on the night of the incident,failed to corroborate the polices account of the Santro or the recovery of explosives. Balkishan told The Indian Express,I was returning after dinner at a friends place. I saw police cars and some men in civil clothes running around. The scene was chaotic and I did not understand anything. I made the PCR call. I did not see any other car or the police recovering any explosives. Kishan was not examined by the prosecution.
*Photographs: Police submitted pictures of explosives and weapons allegedly recovered from the car,but none with the accused. The weapons were seen kept on a white cement platform,but police claimed to have taken the pictures while the weapons were still in the car.
*PCO booth: The police claimed Tantray got off the car and made a call to Pakistan from a PCO booth 700 m away,even though there was another PCO right where he had parked the car. The three policemen who were supposedly keeping a watch on them went there after eleven days.
*Mobile phone still active: The number (9906692xxx),allegedly belonging to Faiyaaz,said to be their contact in Jammu,remains active. The police never sought details of the number,nor did they ever question this person.
The Special Cell claimed that after the local police were informed of the arrests and recovery of weapons,ASI Nirmal Singh Virk of Daryaganj police station came to the spot,and his statement was recorded immediately. However instead of a handwritten statement signed by Virk,the police submitted a typed statement. In his diary entry at the police station,Virk made no mention of the arrests of the alleged terrorists and the recovery of AK 47s rifles.
*Open weapons: In the case papers,the Special Cell said the weapons were recovered in parcels wrapped in khaki paper and taped inside the car. But during cross examination,one of the officers claimed that the weapons had been found in open condition.
*No witnesses: Despite the arrests having been made on the festival night of Shab-e-Qadr,when a large number of people in the predominantly Muslim neighbourhood stay out all night,the police were unable to find a single witness from among the public.
In the four years that Tantray and Bhatt spent fighting to clear themselves,the policemen who led the operation were either promoted or kept in key posts in the Special Cell.
Sub-Inspector Chandrika Prasad is now an Inspector,and heads a team in the Special Cell. Investigating Officer Sanjeev Yadav has been promoted to the rank of additional DCP but continues to hold the charge of DCP (Special Cell). Inspectors Hriday Bhushan and Lalit Mohan Negi head teams in the force.
The then Special Cell chief,Joint Commissioner P N Aggarwal,retired earlier this year. A month before retirement,he was promoted to the rank of DGP.