By Humra Quraishi
For days I’ve been sitting and introspecting: The judiciary is our only hope in this totally messed up political milieu, yet some strains of hopelessness seem coming from that front too.
In fact, each time I have interacted with several of the former imprisoned they’d narrated how the police- RSS nexus implicated them in the various cases but they were freed only because of the fairness in the judicial system. These former imprisoned didn’t mince words, telling me in that absolutely stark way that they could prove their innocence and stood freed because of the judicial system. One case after another, when the ‘framed’ who had spent years languishing as under-trials were finally declared innocent and released by Court orders. Whilst I’m keying in I recall the words of the several of the ‘freed’ inmates who later went on to capture their jailed experiences in their books : Anjum Zamarud Habib’s ‘Prisoner No. 100’ (Zubaan),Mohammad Aamir Khan’s ‘Framed As A Terrorist’( Speaking Tiger) Abdul Wahid Shaikh’s Begunah Qaidi (Pharos Media), Mufti Abdul Qayyum Ahmad Husain Mansuri’s ‘I Am A Mufti &I Am Not A Terrorist – 11 Years Behind the Bars ’ (Published by Jamat Ulama Ahmedabad and Maharashtra), Iftikhar Gilani’s ‘My Days in Prison’ (Penguin).
And though till about very recently nobody dare even whisper a word against the judiciary save this oft repeated one-liner, along the strain ‘There’s so much delay in getting justice…maybe we get it in our lifetime,’ but now in these recent years this one- liner is spreading out to many more –liners. Pertinent questions getting raised by activists and lawyers on the very independence of the judiciary! Not to overlook several connecting factors: The open rebellion by senior four judges of the Supreme Court of India. Doubts raised on the death of Judge Loya. The load of backgrounders in circulation to the impeachment motion.
I’m not going into those details because our national dailies are laced with day to day build ups on those fronts. But, yes, I do wish to focus on several of the recent judgments which left have left the victims totally taken aback and aghast to the extent that they could barely utter a word in protest with the acquittal of Maya Kodnani – one of the prime accused in the 2002 massacre of Muslims in the Gujarat pogrom of 2002.Her acquittal sent across shock waves. And once again sorrow and shock had spread out, when the bunch of hardcore Hindutva characters- prime accused in the Mecca-Masjid blast case of Hyderabad – were found not guilty for lack of evidence!
And another of those shocker acquittals was that of DG Vanzara. In fact, last summer as I read news reports that the special CBI court has discharged former IPS officer from Gujarat DG Vanzara and Rajasthan-cadre IPS officer Dinesh MN in the case of alleged fake encounters of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati, I’d sat back rather rattled. Though nothing really shocks me in today’s dark times but the fact stands out that I had been reading details about Vanzara’s encounter killings cum torture tactics. Yet he stands free, with a clear chit! One could probably find thecrucial ‘why’ to it, in this letter of his letter published in the former whistle blower cop RB Sreekumar’s book – Gujarat :Behind The Curtain ( Manas) I quote from it – “DIG DG Vanzara, jailed since April 2007 for the alleged guilt of committing fake encounters,in his resignation letter to the government of Gujarat,dated 1st September2013, captioned –‘Tendering of resignation from my service with renunciation of all post- retirement benefits’ wrote- ‘Gujarat CID / Union CBI had arrested me and my officers in different encounter cases, holding us to be responsible for carrying out alleged fake encounters, if that true then the CBI investigating officers of all the 4 encounter cases of Sohrabuddin, Tulsi Ram, Sadiq Jamal and Ishrat Jahan have to arrest the policy formulators also, as we, being field officers have simply implemented the conscious policy of this government, which was inspiring, guiding and monitoring our actions from very close quarters. By this reasoning, I am of the firm opinion that the place of this government, instead of being in Gandhinagar, should either be in Taloja Central Prison at Navi Mumbai or in the Sabarmati Central Jail in Ahmedabad.’ ”
BAIL ON RELIGIOUS GROUNDS
And last year hundreds of Indians together with the family of Mohsin Shaikh – the 28 year old Pune resident who was murdered in June 2014 allegedly by members of Hindu Rashtra Sena (HRS) – were left shocked by the order of the Bombay High Court which granted bail to 3 of the 21 accused in the case. In her January 12, 2017 order, Justice Mridula Bhatkar observed “the fault of the deceased was only that he belonged to another religion. I consider this factor in favour of the applicants/accused. More-over, the applicants/accused do not have any criminal record and it appears that in the name of the religion, they were provoked and have committed the murder.”
Sadiq Shaikh, father of Mohsin, reacted to this observation of the High Court. “We are not convinced by the ground on which the HC has granted bail to the accused. Is provocative speech permissible for murder of an innocent person from another religion? All three accused were arrested from the murder spot. We have decided to challenge this bail order in Supreme Court.”
Never before more questions were raised on this bail – based it was on religious grounds. In fact, as legal experts point out the very basis of this bail relays religious bias and it could be a very worrying trend.
I do hope that the judiciary’s independence remains intact. As that’s our only hope.