Justice at Last

 Mufti Abdul Qayyum Ahmed Husain Mansuri     Courtesy: theweek.in

He is a Mufti. He is not a Terrorist. Apex Court reaffirms justice.

It would be easy to lose faith when you read a book like the one Mufti Abdul Qayyum Husain Mansuri has penned. I am a Mufti And I Am not a Terrorist.

In Gyarah Saal Salokhon Ke Peechen – This is the book recounting the unspeakable experience of being dubbed a terrorist for a crime he and others did not commit. After almost eleven long years, on May 16 2014, the Mufti was set free acquitted. The same day Narendra Modi swept to power in Delhi.

It was past 8.30 p.m. on the next day that he and the others walked out of the prison in Ahmedabad to a changed reality.  It was in that city charred and scarred by the genocidal carnage of 2002 where Mufti (like so many other community leaders) had set up relief camps for the shelter and sucour of the maimed and the traumatised. For that he had to pay and suffer the ignominy of being dubbed a traitor to his own country. Another Mufti, Maulana Umerji underwent a similar tragic fate after he had run the Godhra Relief camp where among others, Bilquees Bano had sought shelter. The cross state bonding of the security agencies when it comes to ‘terror’ attacks is a real challenge to the Constitutional bedrock of our democracy. This ‘terror’ is attributed to people of one community by the agencies and is a consequence of deep rooted prejudice. The rank unprofessionalism of sections of the Gujarat Police’s Crime Branch (evident to this day by the many judgments given by Supreme Court) and their Kashmiri compatriots shows a training and mindset which doesn’t pay heed to apolitical and honest investigation .   Remember Vanzara walking out of jail in February 2015 saying “Acche Din Aye Hai ” !

There are many things we could say about the book published by the Jamiat Ulama Gujarat and Maharashtra. We can comment on the quality of printing, editing, production etc. All that could have been better, much better. But much more than the obvious, it is the courage of conviction that shines through in the very act of publishing. Regardless of the not most presentable quality, the fact that an organization like the Jamiat has brought this truth before us all, raw and questioning, should make all of us Indians, think. Will it?

We live in a state of de-sanitized emotions where the daily firing squads led by some television anchors prevents any introspection into deep, systemic lapses. We are talking about serious injustices.

It was bad enough to read about the pathetically cruel attempts to make the Mufti write and re-write the letter that would damn him. Supreme Court didn’t believe the letter although it was full of details concocted by the minds of the Gujarat crime branch. One sentence that struck me deeply was towards the end of the book. This is when the Mufti is describing the indescribable joy he feels on the day of the release of the ‘convicts’. Outside the jail, his jail companion, Haji Farooq had made a bed of flowers that looked like a carpet. It was a poignant moment as fellow convicts, relatives all hugged each other. Loud and victorious slogans rent the air. Large sections of the print and electronic media were present and detailed euphoric interviews were taken. However, little got published or telecast. As the Mufti charmingly puts it, “But perhaps it was the censorship of the media, they censored the whole talk”. Remember it was also the day when an election result had been declared.

As Mufti Abdul Qayyum Mansuri says the judgment delivered by the Supreme Court is a symbol of true justice which, in this fearful and depressed environment is a ray of hope and motivation for all. The Judgment apart from acquitting the innocent has exposed the lies of the oppressor and the incompetence of the investigation agencies. Here was a case where the Supreme Court had used its special powers and re-examined chits in Urdu, so called Fidayeen’s clothes, dissected the cynically concocted evidence.

As our clients have been proved innocent and stayed imprisoned for 11 years, the Court should take immediate action for their release because even after being acquitted the formalities and legal procedures are lengthy in which the Sessions court and Jail Authorities take many days. – Adv Kamini Jaiswal

The moment the historic judgment was delivered, one of the senior advocates for the accused Ms Kamini Jaiswal stood up and said that “As our clients have been proved innocent and stayed imprisoned for 11 years, the Court should take immediate action for their release because even after being acquitted the formalities and legal procedures are lengthy in which the Sessions court and Jail Authorities take many days.”

A wireless fax message was sent to the Sabarmati Jail authorities by the Supreme Court. The unfairly and unjustly held accuseds were released the next day!!

The Court acquitted all accused including those sentenced to lesser sentences. The Court held that the case was totally foisted on them and they were uninvolved and innocent. The quiet drama that unfolded that day in the Supreme Court reaffirmed faith in justice and non-discrimination.

What is remarkable is that the POTA Trial court and the High Court of Gujarat had both convicted the accused and therefore the SC effectively was overturning the concurring judgments of 2 courts. The entire case rested on confessions given by the accused, which were repudiated later on (i.e. withdrawn by them). There have been documented attempts at torture and coercion. The SC pointed out that there were so many inconsistencies amongst the confession statements themselves, that they could not be believed, apart from an important point, that there was no independent evidence to lend support to the confessions. The SC pointed out poignantly that the effect of such failure to notice inconsistencies was that the accused found them convicted and sentenced for serious crimes.

The following quotes are poignant and tell their own story:
Para. 131: " ….. take note of the perversity in considering this case at various stages, right from investigation level to the granting of sanction by the State Government ….. We being the apex court cannot afford to sit with folded hands when such gross violation of fundamental rights and basic human Rights of the citizens of this country were presented before us.”

Para 136: "Before parting with the judgment, we intend t express our anguish about the incompetence with which the investigating agencies conducted the investigation of the case of such a grievous nature, involving the integrity and security of the Nation. Instead of booking the real culprits responsible for taking so many precious lives, the police caught innocent people and got imposed the grievous charges against them which is resulted in their conviction and subsequent sentencing".
Such verdicts no doubt reaffirm each citizen’s faith in the judiciary. The tale of trauma and injustice deserves fair recompense and prosecution of the perpetrators.

Full Supreme Court Judgement

A version of this appeared as the author’s weekly column in the daily, Rashtriya Sahara





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