After spending nearly twenty years behind the bars under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) (TADA) Act and several other sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 11 Muslim persons were found "innocent" on Wednesday, February 27 by special TADA court in Nashik.
Judge S.C Khati ordered their acquittal from all charges owing to lack of evidence and violation of TADA guidelines during investigation.
The acquitted persons had been booked under section 120 (B) and 153 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 3 (3) (4) (5) and Section 4 (1) (4) of TADA act for allegedly planning to avenge the Babri Masjid demolition and for attending terrorist training camps in Pakistan and Kashmir.
Speaking with NewsClick, Shahid Nadeem, legal adviser of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind who was part of the team of lawyers, said, "After the Babri demolition, various communal riots took place across the country. Total 12 people were arrested from Bhusawal in Maharashtra post demolition with the false allegation that they were planning terrorist attacks in the country to avenge the destruction of the Babri masjid and that they had been trained in Pakistan and Kashmir. They were booked under TADA because it was in law that time but ironically, the police had not produced the chargesheet for five months."
He further stated, “It is only after we approached the High Court with the request to either file a chargesheet or discharge them, that they finally took any action. Meanwhile, the government passed a resolution that the review committee of TADA will first investigate the case, and they will decide whether the Act will be applicable on them or not. The case will proceed further only after that. However, the review committee found that they cannot be booked under TADA or any other section and all the allegations against them are totally false. On the basis of this, the court has ordered their acquittal.”
Also Read: Communal Violence: Police Raid on Muslims’ Houses in 2 Separate Incidents in Gujarat
When asked why it took 25 years to acquit them, Nadeem said, "This case was pending in the Supreme Court for 8 years and there was no hearing. In the meantime, a few accused got bail. Three years earlier, the Supreme Court of India gave a time limit to the special court (TADA), so as to solve this case as soon as possible. It is only then that the matter gained momentum and the case was represented by our lawyer Kamini Jaiswal.”
This was not the first time that Muslims had been booked under such a Draconian law.
NewsClick spoke to Human Rights lawyer Abubakr Sabbaq, who deals with such cases. He said, "The available data suggests that 99 per cent of such cases are of late acquittal but the question is not of acquittal or conviction. The main thing is that it took 25 years for acquittal and how will anyone repay the loss of 25 years. What should we call this? Is this justice or denial of justice or a mockery of justice? Because those people who had conspired against them roaming freely.”
Talking about the lack of accountability of investigative agencies, he said, “The main culprits are roaming freely but these 11 innocent Muslim persons were forced to wait for 25 long years to get justice. There is no accountability of the investigative agencies. They have got the cover of section 197 of CrPC, which means there is no prosecution against them neither is there any judicial accountability. There should be a debate on this issue.”
Also Read: 'Nearly 200 Muslim Youth Booked Under UAPA After Bahraich Clashes'
Sabbaq added, "In such cases, the power has been given to the investigative agencies, and they use this power politically. And when there is no accountability then, of course, the power will be misused. A sub-inspector registers an FIR and files a case of UAPA, and when somebody is booked under such cases, it is not possible to get bail.”