Gujarat police officers must pay compensation

Gulzar Azmi, Secretary (Legal cell) of the Jamiat E Ulama Maharashtra, seeks compensation for the people framed in the Akshardham attack case by police officers.

By Sayed Abdul Aziz,

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The names of Adam Ajmeri, Mufti Abdul Qayyum Mansuri, Mohammed Salim Shaikh, Abdul Qadri and Altaf Hussain would have been lost in the dungeons of Gujarat’s prisons, had it not been for the sustained efforts of the Jamiat e Ulama Maharashtra (Arshad Madani).

The above named people were arrested by the Gujarat police and tried under the draconian POTA act and locked up in prison for a crime they never committed. They were accused of being a part of the conspiracy to attack Akshardham Temple. The police tortured and coerced shoddy confessions out of them before presenting it to the trial court. In 2005, the trial court sentenced Mufti Abdul Qayyum Mansuri ,Ajmeri and Mansuri to death sentence and the others to 10 years and life in prison. The High Court held the trial court’s decision and the Jamiat took the matter up in the Supreme Court.

Gulzar Azmi, General Secretary, Jamiat Ulema Maharashtra
Gulzar Azmi

It was in the apex court that Jamiat’s lawyers KTS Tulsi, Amarinder Sharan, Kamini Jaiswal and Irshad Ahmed described to the court how the facts of the case were not examined properly by the lower courts. The Supreme Court observed that the grounds of the case were shaky and found no evidence of conspiracy or involvement of the accused in the crime. Setting aside the trial court’s verdict, the Supreme Court acquitted all six accused in the case in May, this year.

Gulzar Azmi, secretary, Legal Cell, Jamiat Ulama Maharashtra, said, “We are defenders of the innocent and not of criminals. In this particular case, the terrorists who had attacked the temple were gunned down at the spot and were killed. These six accused had nothing to do with the conspiracy and the Supreme Court has made that very clear in its May 16 verdict.”

“The President of Jamiat Ulema Maharashtra, Maulana Arshad Madani had instructed us to take up this matter, as the accused were framed under heinous charges and they had no one to help them in the legal battle. The Jamiat offered them legal aid and our panel of lawyers represented them in the courts and got them justice,” added Azmi.

Advocate Khalid Shaikh, who has been representing the accused in the trial court as well as High court, said “This particular case is not just about the six persons who were acquitted, but also about the entire Muslim community. When these people were arrested for this crime, the entire community was humiliated and had to face the consequences. Their acquittal should be viewed as a victory of the community to clear its name.”

“Under the POTA act, section 58, the special court can prosecute the officers who framed the accused on false charges, and can even order that they be prosecuted and the compensation be extracted from the officers or the state,” added Shaikh.

The officers can be sent to prison for 2 years and fined as well.

Despite being innocent, the accused languished in jail for a crime they never committed. “11 years of our life were spent in jails. My life is ruined and so is that of my family,” said Ajmeri.

Salim Shaikh, another accused, was picked up and tortured by the police. “I was told that there was some problem with my passport and the police wanted to check it. I had been working in Saudi Arabia for 13 years. The police assaulted me and fractured my foot. The scars and injury marks from that beating are still visible all over my body.”

The Akshardham case was one of many that the Jamiat legal cell is currently pursuing. “We are currently defending accused in 48 trials across the country. So far we have had 20 cases resulting in acquittals,” said Azmi.

“We spent Rs 52 lakh in legal expenses in the Akshardham case. The matter was heard by the Supreme Court and the verdict came after 4 years,” added Azmi.

The other big victory for the Jamiat legal cell was the acquittal of two accused in the Kolkata US Embassy attack case. The trial court had convicted 7 accused in the case and given them death sentences in 2005. The jamiat’s legal cell then took up the case and the high Court acquitted two accused, commuted the death sentence of 3 accused to 7 years imprisonment, and death sentence of 2 accused to life imprisonment.

The Supreme Court in 2010 stayed the matter and the death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment. Aftab Ansari and Nasir will spend their lives in jail, after the Supreme Court verdict. However, the other 5 accused are now free and have gone back to their families.

The Jamiat spent Rs 88.87 lakh on legal expenses in 2013/14. In addition to Rs 1.34 lakh spent on the upkeep and monthly expenses of the accused in jails.

The legal cell handles the below mentioned cases: Indian Mujahideen cases in Surat, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Jaipur, Hyderabad, and New Delhi. Aurangabad Arms haul case, Malegaon blasts, Mumbai serial blasts, Javed Mozawala case, Rampur CRPF case, Wadala assault case to name a few. In addition, the Jamiat also provides legal aid to accused in cases being tried in Lucknow and other courts in Uttar Pradesh.

But legal aid is not the only charitable act that the Jamiat is involved in. The Jamiat has spent over Rs 1 crore for the rehabilitation of victims from the Muzaffarnagar riots. “Our volunteers have gone on the ground and provided blankets, tents and living accommodation to the victims in Muzaffarnagar,” said Azmi.

There was another case in Moradabad, where an accused, Hafiz Nadeem, was arrested under NSA over the charge of damaging a statue. “The accused was not mentally stable and after nearly a year the High Court granted him bail. He was soon acquitted of all charges and set free,” added Azmi.

The Jamiat’s legal panel has a group of experienced and seasoned lawyers. The panel comprises of Advocate Ansar Tamboli, Advocate Shahid Nadeem Ansar, Ejaz Qureshi and a host of senior lawyers. “Whenever an accused’s family approaches us, our panel of lawyers checks the facts of the case to see if the accused is innocent or not. Only when our panel is convinced that the accused is innocent and has been framed do we accept the case and provide legal aid,” said Azmi.