Skip to main content

Season of acquittals has come: Why can't terrorists be defined as saffron? Is radicalisation only confined to Muslims?


By Adv Masood Peshimam
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently said that guilty would not be spared but the ground reality is different in our country. The way the accused are set free in the Mecca Masjid blast case, the setting free of Maya Kodnani, an erstwhile minister in Modi cabinet in Gujarat, and the earlier bailing out of Sadhvi Pragya, Colonel Prohit and others in Malegaon blast give the impression that the season of acquittals has come.
The prospect of certain set of accused walking free has brightened with the Modi government at the Centre. They cannot be defined as saffron terrorists as if the radicalisation and terrorism are only confined to Muslims. Only Muslim terrorists are acceptable in day-to-day parlance. The concept of terrorists other than Muslim is not only discarded but treated as offensive.
Eleven years after a bomb ripped through Mecca Masjid, killing nine people, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Special Court acquitted all the five accused in a much-awaited verdict in a packed court room.
Now the 2007 bombing remains a terror mystery with two premier agencies, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and NIA failing to gather evidence to nail the accused.
The operative portion of the judgement was read out by the Fourth Metropolitan Session’s Judge, Ravindra Reddy, declaring acquittal of all five accused Swami Aseemanand, head of the Kalyan Ashram, RSS vibhag pracharak Devendra Gupta, RSS karyakarta Lokesh Sharma, Hindu Vichar Manch member Mohanlal Rateshwar and Rajedra Choudhry, a farmer.
The judge said that he had carefully examined documents and material evidence placed on record and declared none of the allegations could be proved against any of the accused. “Hence all five accuses stand acquitted”.
Surprisingly, the judge resigned just hours after pronouncing the judgement. There is a lot of speculation about the possible trigger. It is said that he cited personal reasons in his resignation letter. The judicial officer who was on the verge of superannuation proceeded on 15 days leave.
The abrupt resignation led to the speculation that this was brcause there was corruption complaint pending against him in the High Court. It’s necessary on the part of those on the high pedestal to see that no opportunity is given for their dirty linen to be washed in the public.
The abrupt resignation of the judge smells something fishy. There is the procedure to give three months’ advance notice before leaving the service. The immediate withdrawal of service, that too after pronouncing the Mecca blast verdict, is a matter of deep concern and invited all sorts of speculations.
Even before the speculations died down the judge requested the Hyderabad High Court to allow him to take voluntary retirement apparently to avail of retirement benefits.
It’s not understood as to what made him resign and resume the services. However, notwithstanding the reasons for doing so, the entire scenario looks fishy.
While the judge’s resignation and resumption of service is a mystery, no less mysterious is the course of investigation and the judicial outcome.
Soon after the blast, the Hyderabad police launched probe and arrested several Muslims suspected to be Huji operatives.  The story of the Huji members clandestinely operating in the country ended with the installation of the new government of Sheikh Hasina in Bangladesh. The story of Muslims planting the bomb in the Masjid was not digestible.
There was a clear move to falsely implicate Muslims all over the country during the Congress-rule which was seen as politically motivated and governed with vested interests. Despite huge outcry against the false arrest of Muslims in the terror cases, there was no restraint over this. To add fuel to fire, media was no less active in spreading cock and bull stories.
It was difficult to understand why Muslims were to make the Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad a theatre of violence and kill their own brothers, why should they bomb their own mosques and shrines. There is no sectarian clash or sectarian extremism among Muslims in India to attract such worrisome development.
In the midst all this murky scenario there occurred another dimension to the whole story of Mecca Masjid blast. It so happened that Swami Aseemanand, an accused in the Mecca Masjid blast, came in close contact with one Kalim Shaikh in the jail. He was so impressed by the cooperative character of the accused Kalim Shaikh that he decided to make confessional statement. The story has already come in the media.
Aseemanand made the confessional statement before the magistrate under 164 of CrPC which is admissible in contrast with the statement before the police officer, not admissible u/s 161 of CrPC.
It is significant to note that any such confession has to be recorded in the manner provided in section 281 for recording the examination of the accused and has to be signed by the person making the confession and the magistrate to sign a memorandum to the following effect:
“I have explained to [name] that he is not bound to make the confession and that, if he does so, any confession he may make may be used as evidence against him and I believe that this confession was voluntarily made. It was taken in my presence and hearing, and was read over to the person making it and admitted by him to be correct and it contains a full and true account of the statement made by him.
[Signed] A.B.
Magistrate"

It is the discretion of the court to take cognisance of the judicial confession. The words used in the memorandum at the footnote defines the discretion of the court and all precautions are to be taken to avoid an element of pressure.
With reference to the withdrawal of the confessional statement or the retraction of the confessional statement of Aseemanand, it can be said that it was made after a long time and there is no police complaint against the CBI for the pressure exerted over him, as alleged by him. He has never made any allegation to this effect to any competent authority.
In the circumstance advocate Abu Zaid practising in the Mumbai Session Court said that a retracted confession can form the basis of conviction if the court is satisfied that it is true and has been made voluntarily. It is neither an inflexible rule of law nor practice nor prudence that in no circumstances the conviction can be made on the basis of the retracted confession without corroboration.
The question of corroborating the retracted confession with other evidences does not arise as the retracted statement was accepted by the court.
It’s not the question of the withdrawal or the retraction of the judicial confessional statement alone but the scenario has emerged that a plenty of witnesses turned hostile in the Mecca Masjid case, as also in the Sohrabuddin case in which BJP president Amit Shah is an accused.
As many as 64 witnesses turning hostile in the Sohrabuddin case -- just as many of them in the Mecca Masjid blast case -- appear to be the mockery of justice. A plenty of witnesses turning hostile is a sorry state of affairs in our justice system.
It’s reflection on the functioning of the prosecution and fractures the credibility of the prosecution. The question arises as to how the weak and vacillating witnesses are produced in the court. It is saddening to note that there is no sense of accountability in the bleak scenario. With such scenario continuing unabated, we have made our justice system a laughing stock before the world.
In the case of retraction of the earlier judicial confession and the witnesses turning hostile, the question arises as to what about those statements. It implies that the earlier statements were false and lacking in strength. Hence it is relevant to quote section 191 of IPC which says,
“Whoever being or by an express provision of law to state the truth, or being bound by law to make a declaration upon any subject , makes any statement which is false, and which he either knows or believes to be false or does not believe to be true, is said to give a false evidence”.
Then there is punishment for false evidence in section 193 of IPC which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine.
Those giving false statement earlier in Aseemanand and Sohrabuddin case, there is an unbridled flouting of law, justice and fair play. Would such degeneration be restrained by any judicial corrective measure?
The court is to see that pressure is applied over the witnesses turning hostile and retraction of the judicial confession. Many a time, witnesses turn hostile out of deep fear of their lives. Instances galore. Hence the protection of witnesses is all the more necessary.
Terror investigations are not free from flaws and foibles . That apart, people fear to critically analyse judgements due to contempt of the court. In this circumstance, contempt of court needs some relook, but that is another subject.
With the accused left scot free in the terror case, there is the diminishing sense of accountability on failure of the investigative agencies. With the prejudice operating at different layers of decision, many a time to pin down the real culprits is too blatant to ignore. What is no less sickening is the political interference by different components of government which claims its own toll.
To achieve justice it is necessary to see that investigative agencies handle cases without an iota of bias and prejudice and no political interference is made to erode the independence of judiciary. Otherwise the disillusionment with the justice system would be on the rise in our country. One Urdu couplet explains the current murky scenario:
“Mai kis ke hath pe apna lahu talash karun
Tamam sheher ne pehne hue hain dastane”
[On whose hand do I search the stain of blood
Worn are the hand gloves by the entire city]

Justice can only be ensured with the independent judiciary and unbiased investigation.

Comments

TRENDING

North Gujarat gram panchayat bars villagers from dealing with Muslim hawkers, traders

By Our Representative  A gram panchayat in North Gujarat has barred its residents not to buy anything from Muslim traders and hawkers. An order of the Waghasan group gram panchayat of Tharad taluka of Banaskantha district dated June 30 states that the decision has been taken in the wake of beheading of a Hindu tailor after he posted a derogatory writeup on Prophet Mohammad in Udaipur. The gram panchayat resolution says, anyone seen buying or selling any commodity from a Muslim hawker or trader would be fined Rs 5,100. Bringing this to light, Mujahid Nafees, convener, Minority Coordination Committee, in a letter to Gujarat chief minister Bhupendra Patel, says, the state government should take legal action against the panchayat chief who has signed the “unjust” order. The letter says, the act of the sarpanch and other signatories is a violation of rule of law of the state and threat to peace, pointing out, the move is in violation of Article 15 of the Constitution, which says that none

Technocratic globalism, tyranny? Health Ministry warned: bill to 'enslave' Indians

Sandeep Pandey, Tushar Gandhi By Rosamma Thomas*  Union of Concerned Citizens, a group comprising Magsaysay Award winner Prof Sandeep Pandey, human rights activist Tushar Gandhi, former judge of the Bombay High Court BG Kolse Patil, pediatrician Dr Jacob Puliyel and several renowned Indian citizens have written to the Union Health Minister cautioning him against tabling the draft Public Health Bill in the Monsoon Session of Parliament. “The Public Health (Prevention, Control And Management Of Epidemics, Bio-Terrorism And Disasters) Bill, 2017 and a Prospective Bill of 2022 as discussed in news articles, is straightforwardly violative of Fundamental Rights of the citizens of India and therefore, Ultra Vires of the Indian Constitution. It contravenes several International Treaties and Conventions including the Nuremberg Treaty of 1947 which was enacted to ensure that no country would repeat such inhuman medical atrocities on fellow human beings”, the 12-page letter reads. “Strangely, t

Unlike Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India: Ukrainian scholar tells 'Indian friends'

Counterview Desk In an open letter to "dear Indian friends", Anastasia Piliavsky, born in Odessa, Ukraine, studied at Boston and Oxford Universities (on a Rhodes Scholarship), and now teaches at King’s College, London, has said that she faces "deep moral dilemma", personally and professionally, over the "astonishingly unified Indian response to the war in Ukraine." Based on her interaction with a "number of thoughtful and caring Indian friends", in this letter, she says, she is "reeling at the ubiquitous silence at, justifications of or outright support for Putin’s terror, which now prevails in India, at the ubiquitous #IStandWithPutin and #istandwithrussia hashtags." She insists, India must understand, "Unlike the Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India. Soviet leaders, beginning with (the Ukrainian) Nikita Khrushchev – who declared hindi rusi bhai bhai – built up deep political and cultural exchange with India." Text : I

'Drop all falsed charges': 150 citizens demand early release of AltNews co-founder

Counterview Desk  About 150 concerned citizens have demanded the release of Mohammed Zubair, co-founder of the fact-checkng newsportal AltNews, arrested over a 2018 tweet which allegedly hurt religious sentiments, even as booking for criminal conspiracy and having received foreign funds in violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). Denied bail last weekend and sent to 14-day judicial custody, the concerned citizens, in a statement, regretted that while the Delhi High Court issued notice to the Delhi police on a petition filed on behalf of Zubair challenging the legality and propriety of his police remand and the seizure of his electronic devices, the “frivolous case” continues. Excerpts: The illegal arrest of Mr. Mohammed Zubair happened on June 27, 2022, by the Delhi Police for allegedly hurting religious sentiments and promoting enmity over a tweet from 2018. The IPC Sections included 153(a) (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race,

Chennai residents 'suffering': Faulty design, implementation of storm water project

By NS Venkataraman*  The Greater Chennai Corporation is now implementing storm water drainage project in 559 roads, covering a distance of 1033 kilometres, which cost around Rs 4,070 crore. For this massive project, which is targeted to be completed between April and September this year, huge loan has been availed from World Bank, Asian Development Bank and others. Several technocrats have pointed out that the project has been designed with outdated technology and quality of the implementation is so poor that the residents have been put to great hardships. As part of the project, digging of the road has been done to around 5 to 6 feet deep and width of around 4 to 5 feet. The drains are being constructed using steel reinforced cement concrete with two walls on either side with provisions for manhole, chute etc. This has been done in front of several houses leaving little space between the gate of the house and that of the drainage structure. As the work has been going on for mor

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Prime Minister's 'affordable' housing policy fails to help Gujarat slum dwellers: Study

By Rajiv Shah  A new study on the implementation of one of the major policy initiatives for the urban poor by the Narendra Modi government after it came to power, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), has said that in Gujarat, which happens to be the Prime Minister’s home state, has quoted state officials as “confirming” that no progress towards tenure regularization, a key requirement for providing housing to the state’s slum dwellers. Stating that this particularly true of smaller town, the study, carried out by the non-profit Homes in the City (HIC), which is based in Bhuj, district headquarter of Kutch that saw a devastating earthquake in 2001, says, the failure to provide affordable housing is there despite the fact that there has been “significant demand” in all the 83 out of 153 Gujarat municipalities studied by experts involved in the study. According to the study, out f a total of 1.41 lakh demands for housing under the Beneficiary Led Construction (BLC) category, 94,232 (66.7%)

'Contractor-official nexus led to RTI activist's murder': Fact-finding team seeks probe

Courtyard inside of PWD office where Ranjeet Soni was killed Counterview Desk  A fact-finding team* visited Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh (MP) on June 19, 2022 to meet with the family of Ranjeet Soni, who was shot dead on June 2, 2022 inside the premises of the PWD office in Vidisha. The objective was to gather information about the circumstances surrounding the death of Ranjeet Soni and his work on exposing corruption through the use of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. A report prepared by the team members says that Ranjeet had been extensively using the RTI Act to access information from the government, and upon receiving documents showing misuse of public funds or corruption, he was filing complaints to various authorities including the Lokyukta, Publi Works Department (PWD) and the Chief Minister’s Office. It notes, Ranjeet used to work as a contractor and often undertook government works in collaboration with other contractors, including those being investigated for his murder. A f

Electricity Bill: Centre's reform measures contain 'carrot and stick package' for states

Counterview Desk  The Peoples’ Commission on Public Sector and Public Services (PCPSPS), claiming to be a network of eminent academics, jurists, erstwhile administrators, trade unionists and social activists, seeking consultations with stakeholders with those who are against the government’s decision to monetise, disinvest and privatise public assets/enterprises, has said that the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill-2022 will have far-reaching impacts on the finances of states. Insisting that the proposed Bill would lead to “assault on India’s federal structure”, in a statement, it says, it would weaken the finances of states’ power distribution companies, have adverse impact on utility employees, cripple the states' finances, impose a heavy cost burden on the smaller subsidized consumers (especially farmers), and benefit only corporate business houses. “States cannot afford to ignore the far-reaching implications of the Bill on their economy, finances, agricultural and industria

'Highly abnormal': AltNews journo's arrest suggests 'deterioration in media freedom'

By Bharat Dogra*  Leading media organizations have come out in strong support of recently arrested journalist Mohammed Zubair. These organizations include, among others, the Editors Guild of India, the Press Club of India, the Delhi Union of Journalists and DIGIPUB, a platform for several important digital media organizations. All these organizations have condemned the recent arrest of the noted journalist and demanded his immediate release. While leading human rights organizations and political parties have also made somewhat similar statements, the strong support of media organizations is particularly important as the effort of the authorities has been to try to present the arrested journalist as someone who has been indulging in irresponsible journalism.  In such a situation the support of those media organizations who are familiar with his work and who are most capable of judging the quality of his work is very important. In this context it is important that some media organization