Before he is sworn in

Many have stated here that people who have been voicing their, “fears” are misguided or worse are motivated. Its my view though name calling (even comparisons to hitler) are excessive and lazy, the apprehension is legitimate. It has a basis in fact and this has to be appreciated for any dialogue to proceed. A recent instance in fact is the Supreme Court decision titled as Adambhai Sulemanbhai v. St. of Gujarat pronounced this week.

Adambhai Sulemanbhai & Ors. v. State of Gujarat, concerns the conviction of 5 accused of killing 33 people in an attack on the Akshardham Temple. The accused were convicted under IPC, Arms Act and yes even POTA by a special court and the High Court upheld their conviction. Many were undergoing their sentences and were incarcerated for more than 7 years.  Many were given the death penalty. They exhausted appeals and moved the Supreme Court, which acquitted them all.

However, its findings and reasonings are made of the worst fears from a dystopian novel. This is not a case of inadequacy of evidence. This was a set-up. As the Court notes below.

  1. The case which was essentially built on the basis of confessional statements obtained by the Police were later retracted and serious doubt was thrown to any, independent corroborating evidence. (Please refer Para 113, “recorded by the DCP in extremely suspicious circumstances.”). Reasonable doubts are expressed by the SC that the confessions were obtained under torture. (Refer Para 121, second last line).
  2. On corroborating evidence the Court notes, “”120. The story of the prosecution crumbles down at every juncture.” Also note the findings on conspiracy charges under 120-B where the court states directly, “none of the events of the alleged criminal conspiracy was supported by independent evidence that inspires confidence in our minds to uphold the conviction and sentences meted out to the accused persons.” (para 128).
  3. Further suspicions arise on the role of the police. The SC notes that after spending more than a year without any leads, when the case is transferred to Crime Branch, Ahmedabad and a Police Officer D.G Vanzara (or Saheb as the transcripts refer to him), provides leads and solves it with his colleagues in a little under two hours. This happens on the day of the transfer of the case itself. The day is March 28, 2003. That day it took a mere two hours to incarcerate five men for seven years under false charges. (Please refer paras 96, 131)
  4. The final paragraph in the judgement captures the discomfort many are feeling these days. Quoting it at length, “[b]efore parting with the judgment, we intend to express our anguish about the incompetence with which the investigating agencies conducted the investigation of the case of such a grievous nature, involving the integrity and security of the Nation. Instead of booking the real culprits responsible for taking so many precious lives, the police caught innocent people and got imposed the grievous charges against them which resulted in their conviction and subsequent sentencing”

Now, yes it is valid to point out other political dispensations have been guilty of police excesses in the past. However, at the same time criticism of them has not resulted in charges of intolerance or some form of craven rent seeking for memberships to a secret society of elites. I have freely criticised every political party including AAP and Congress. A democratic mandate is one to govern a country and not my personal opinion.

Finally, please do not forget there is a human cost to this. For the 33 people who died in the Akshardham terror strike as much for the persons who were falsely accused. Any effort to voice political opinion should be towards engaging, rather than leveling abuse.

The picture accompanying this post is of Chand Khan (Accused No. 6) as sourced from The Hindu. Does he now look like a terrorist or a victim?

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