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Unheard & Unspoken: Terror stories from Madhya Pradesh: Part 11

By Ismail Khan,

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Muslim advocates in Madhya Pradesh (MP) who are fighting the cases of Muslim youths accused in terror cases are facing huge challenges. Getting into police surveillance comes in with the case; but getting beaten up, blacking of face by fellow advocates in front of the judge and police for fighting the case of “desh drohis,” IB’s spy becomes your secretary to keep a close tab on you, receiving threats while visiting clients in jails, have come as new incidents into the their portfolio of bad experiences for providing legal representations to the terror accused.

Parvez Alam is a practicing advocate in Bhopal district court presently representing more than 30 Muslim youths arrested in terror cases across MP. He says the government and courts seems to be working closely when it comes to terror cases. He points out that the MP government is using the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act 1967 (UAPA) unlawfully and rules have been ignored to target his clients. He said, “According to the Sec 45 of UAPA state government has to take sanction from the Central Government for the prosecution, because Sec 42 of this act give delegated power to the state govt. only for Sec 7 and 8. But the Home Secretary of the state is giving sanction for the prosecution under different sections of UAPA. Court shouldn’t have accepted those sanctions according to the law but unfortunately courts had accepted these sanctions from the state government.”

He also adds, “None of my clients are SIMI members, they had just been branded as such by the police, they were Muslims so it was easy for the police to target them. In some cases there are 100 witnesses, police is not filing charge sheet in stipulated time, and courts are not taking proper cognizance of these cases. Recently in one of my client’s case under Sec 167(2) CJM of Bhopal decided it after 2 months, but generally cases under this section is decided on the same day of filing. I think attitude of courts in these cases is questionable. I want to appeal to the Courts not to just give judgments, but the required justice.”

Parvez Alam also fought the sensational case of Muneer Ahmed Deshmukh, a computer software engineer was arrested by MP ATS in 2010 in a nine year old inflammatory material case, and claimed he was the National General Secretary of SIMI. Parvez Alam told us that police lost all the original copies including remand case diary and whole trial was conducted on photocopied documents. High Court quashed those proceedings and released him on bail. MP ATS slapped more cases on him, four in Bhopal and six in Ujjain and again arrested him. He was convicted in one of those cases in 2011 and currently serving his rigorous imprisonment for 3 years.

Mr. Parvez Alam told that even under such conditions he is positive that he will prove his clients innocent but the main problem for him is delay in starting trial, he said “I can do my best but the question is when are these trials going to start?”

Sohail khan a practicing advocate from Ujjain fought the cases of Muslim youths arrested in SIMI cases until 2006 when he decided it is enough for him and he can’t bear more police harassment and IBs surveillance. He said to us, “While I was fighting the cases of Muslim youths arrested in SIMI cases, IB officers use to call me every hour and will ask the whereabouts of my clients. I often used to receive threat calls by different names. Police officers use to call me and then force to bring my client to a certain location where police want to meet him. One time they put pressure on me to bring one of my clients to railway station when I brought him there they took our photographs and threatened me that they will plant a fake story that I was helping him to run away.”

In addition to this he adds, “Some of the judges working and overseeing the terror cases are under pressure. Many of those cases which I handled were related to Sec 153 of CrPC, a general man or even a politician will get a bail in just one day, but in the cases involving my clients even the High Court rejected their bail. Safdar Nagori wrote a letter to the judge directly six months after the arrest that he is still not informed on the grounds of his arrest, that letter reached the judge after two years.”

He also claimed that he was irritated by the complains of police harassment from the relatives of the victims, “If relatives wanted to see their kin in jail, they had to submit three copies of identification proof and had to go through 4 hours of questioning, this all in addition to the frequent raids on their houses.” He also said that all those accused were poor and unable to give even the court fees and legal expenses let alone his fees.

Mohammad Wajed khan is an advocate from Indore presently representing high profile terror cases, especially of those Muslim youths arrested in the name of Indian Mujahedeen. He is also representing cases of Muslim youths of MP accused in Ahmedabad bomb blasts. He claims that for 2 months an IB spy worked for him as an office secretary to get more information about him. But he said, “I am not scared because I have nothing to hide, I am representing them in a professional way not because of any emotional attachments.” He also said that he got threats from the police when he visited his clients in jail, “when I went to meet them, the police officers sitting there used to say that you are being recorded, you are coming into our scanner; this was to threaten me but this perk comes with the job.”

Advocate Anwar Khan claims that he lost his chamber in Indore District Court as he dared to represent Muslim youths accused in terror cases. He said in the renovation work of the court his chamber was the only room to get razed.

Advocate Noor Mohammed Khan looks like a compassionate grandfather. He is in his late 50s and twice he was attacked by other advocates in Dhar district court for representing alleged terrorists which they already deemed as ‘desh drohis’ even before the start of the trail. MP police registered a case in Pitampura Police Station limits of Dhar district that SIMI members organized a training camp in an open field behind a mosque. Many Muslim youths from Indore and Ujjain were arrested in that case, they were brought to Dhar for the trial, the Bar Association of Dhar District Court announced that they will not represent the terrorists and will not allow any advocate from across India to represent them either.

When advocates were afraid to break the sanction of the Bar Association of Dhar, Noor Mohammad agreed to represent those youths in the district court at the requests of their families. He said, “According to the law of the land every accused has a right to get a defense lawyer, I went to Dhar Court to represent them in the trail, those advocates got angry on me and started beating me at the door of the court room and police didn’t even act, they even rubbed black ink on my face.”

On another incident he said, “Two months later I went again to Dhar court to file a bail petition for those youths as the prosecution failed to submit permission of state government for my client’s examination under certain sections of UAPA. But on the same day the prosecution lawyer got the permission of the state government, when I was leaving the court some Hindutva activists attacked me outside the court premises, they beaten me so rigorously that I fainted and taken to the nearby hospital. Police immediately rushed there and asked me to leave the hospital because they feared that those right-wing activists could even attack that hospital. They said that they will escort me to Ujjain, I went alongwith them. While on road to Ujjain they stopped the vehicle in a village police station 15km away from Dhar, they took me to the police station and asked me to sign a statement that I was not attacked in any form in the Dhar Court and will never file any case in that matter. Police threaten me that if I wouldn’t sign that statement they will leave me in that village and those Hindutva activists will come again to finish my life. I was scared I wrote and signed the statement then police escorted me back to Ujjain.”

Finally the relatives of the accused tried and shifted that case to Indore as it became impossible for their defense lawyer to attend the proceedings. Advocate Anwar Khan became a party in that case and made a successful attempt to shift that case from Dhar to Indore.

Mr. Noor Mohammad also observed that judiciary is working under pressure and no judge is interested in hearing these trials. He said, “It has been seen that judges here are working under pressure, if a Muslim is arrested in the case of SIMI it becomes difficult for a judge to hear the trial, they try their best to delay it, so the accused will serve the required punishment before the judgment. In Sec 153(A) of CrPC people get bail in a single day many hate mongers gave speeches and then get the bail to evade arrest, but if a person branded as SIMI member is charged under that same section he will not get bail for months or even years. I am fighting the case of Muneer Deshmukh in Ujjain District Court and went from trial court to High Court to get a bail but no one is ready to give him bail, he is in jail for 1.5 years in that same section.”

He told us an interesting case, Unhel Training Camp Case to illustrate the prejudice attitude of government and judiciary. In that case Four Muslim youths were arrested from Unhel on the charges that they organized a SIMI training camp. They were convicted and sentenced to five years imprisonment in 2008 even when there was no witness and evidence; in 2010 on the occasion of Republic Day MP government issued a circular stating that convicts who had served half of their punishment and with good record in jail will be released. Those four youths got a place into that list, and they were released. Right-wing Hindu groups made demonstrations across MP protesting the release of “Desh Drohis.” MP govt immediately amended that circular.

Those youths who got released were again arrested and put in jail due to the public pressure. Noor Mohammad claims that governmental orders and judgments are reflecting public pressure. He said, “We appealed against that sudden changes in that particular circular in the High Court but till now not even a single proceeding has taken place. High Court judges also want them to complete their full prison term so they can be relieved from giving judgments against public opinion.”

Noor Mohammad ended by saying in rather serious note that they always expect justice from the courts that is why they approach them on every occasion.