The Lawlessness Of Terror Investigations.

Police have an incentive to invoke stringent articles of Indian Penal Code [IPC] such as Sedition or Waging War or Criminal Conspiracy, and  draconian laws like Unlawful Activities Prevention Act [UAPA] or Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act [MCOCA] in the investigation of *terror attacks*. The incentive stems from public hue and cry over inept policing and consequent political pressure to *arrest the culprits* quickly. Thus the haste coupled with poor training in crime investigation results in marshalling of dubious evidence, framing of supposed *terrorists*, and preparing shoddy charge-sheets.  Something a Magistrate well versed with law and acting without fear or favour would and is likely to throw out at the preliminary stage of framing of the charges. This would obviously cause acute embarrassment to the police and the establishment. But if stringent provisions of IPC or of draconian laws are invoked, then a Magistrate too develops cold feet in taking an objective view. Most of the terror investigations in our country  suffer from this defect and get stymied at trial stage or in superior courts. More likely than not, innocents suffer, lose precious years of their life, which can never be restored and are never compensated; and the real perpetrators of terror get away.
This is what happened on Monday when Mumbai High Court granted bail to Mohammed Ateeq Mohammed Iqbal, a 29-year-old former computer engineer with Infosys who was arrested by Mumbai Police Crime Branch in October 2008 for allegedly being a member of Indian Mujahideen [IM]. He was arrested on October 4, 2008, following the Ahmedabad and Surat blasts of July 26, 2008, for which IM had claimed responsibility in emails sent to the media minutes before the strikes. Police had slapped the provisions of UAPA on Mohammed Ateeq for being a member of a terrorist organization, that is IM. But Mumbai Crime Branch had made a glaring mistake in their haste, and the additional public prosecutor, P S Hingorani, who should have flagged it missed it too. But Justice A M Thipsay caught the lapse. Neither on the date of the crime, nor on the date of his arrest  was IM banned under the provisions of UAPA and added to its schedule. That happened only on June 4, 2010. When IM was not a terrorist organization prior to June 4, 2010, how could police hold that Mohammed Ateeq was a member of  terrorist organization? In a throw back to the supreme court judgement, which held that mere possession of literature of a banned organization or its membership will not by itself make a person criminal; the judge further held that ^^Mere presence at a discussion or a dinner party cannot amount to membership of an organised crime syndicate [OCS] or a terrorist organisationIt said issues allegedly discussed at the IM meetings were broad and a person was free to express his/her views. …that cannot make a person a criminal unless it is shown that he has actively done something to further the activity^^.  Judge threw out the application of MCOCA because he said ^^it is highly doubtful that IM can be called Organised Crime Syndicate^^. It is prosecution’s wishful thinking that if enough charges are slapped, then at least something would stick. Mohammed Ateeq was the third accused in the case to get bail. Though the case against him is yet to be decided, the *quality of charges* brought point to his likely acquittal. If that happens, it would be yet another dubious terror investigation added to a dismally long list.
Tehelka Magazine has documented in the past the trail of shoddy investigations, arbitrary arrests, dubious evidence, and painfully long trials, which are an injustice in themselves: The Kafka Project, All the Wrong Men, and An angry hall of fall guys. And unfair arrests, are some of those to cite a few. Today’s Indian Express has began a series in similar vein, and Part -I says: A children’s magazine, newspaper, Urdu poetry – anything can land you in jail. ^^In the story of men getting branded “SIMI activists” and charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), innocuous objects take the form of “incriminating material”. The list of such “material”, in which anything written in Urdu or Arabic comes right at the top, is by now predictable — and includes Urdu poetry, pamphlets issued by Hindu groups, newspaper articles about the Sangh Parivar, pictures and videos of the Gujarat riots, books on Islam, complaints against discrimination, as well as verses of the Quran…… During investigation, Inspector Bhadoria claimed, SIMI pamphlets with an aim to “propagate enmity between religions’’ were recovered from the accused. According to the final report, the police seized two papers from Faisal which had “bhadkane wali aayaten (provocative verses)” from the Quran against other religions. The story of this document is interesting. The document, “Quran ki kuch aayten jo Iman walon (Musalmanon) ko anya dharamvalambiyon se jhagda karne ka aadesh deti hain (A few of the verses from the Quran that order the Muslims to fight those belonging to other religions)”, had been printed by the Hindu Writers’ Forum, New Delhi, in which they had made derogatory remarks about the Quran. Another “incriminating” document is a one-page document in Urdu that talks about the basic tenets of Islam—namaz (prayers), fasting, zakat (charity), and Hajj^^. Or see the report of 4 days earlier: We have come up the hard way… when such a thing happens, you wonder why. ^^A terrorism investigation has arrested the dreams of several Muslim families from the small north Karnataka town of Hubli. In swoops in Hubli and Bangalore on August 29 and 30, and for what is still a hazy terror plot, the Bangalore Central Crime Branch (CCB) arrested 12 youths — seven in Bangalore and five in Hubli — all aged between 20 and 29. Eleven were from Hubli and one from nearby Davangere. The primary accusation by the police — while invoking the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, the Arms Act and Indian Penal Code sections for criminal conspiracy, waging war against the country, attempt to murder and theft — is that the youths were planning to kill two right wing-inclined journalists and three right-wing politicians^^. Coincidentally, both the cases cited in the foregoing have occurred in BJP ruled states – Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. 
It is alleged by some that police often frame Muslim criminals known to them and operating in their jurisdiction in the wake of terror attacks to show their promptness in terror-tracking and to please the superiors. ^^इरफान व अयुब हे मुळचे सराईत कार चोर. 2008 मध्ये अहमदाबादेत दोन व्हॅगन आर गाड्यांमध्ये स्फोट झाला तर सुरतेत न फुटलेले बॉम्ब सापडले. या गाड्या नवी मुंबई, नेरूळ व न्यू पनवेलमधून चोरल्याचे स्पष्ट होताच मुंबई गुन्हे शाखेने त्याच सुमारास समांतर तपास सुरू केला. स्फोटानंतर काहीच दिवसांत गुन्हेशाखेच्या एका विशेष पथकाने या दोघांना चौकशीसाठी ताब्यात घेतले. त्यांच्या चौकशीत दोघांनी चोरलेल्या आणखी काही गाड्या नवी मुंबईत दडवून ठेवल्याची बाब समोर आली. या पथकाने त्यांना नवी मुंबईत नेऊन गाड्या शोधून काढल्या. घटनास्थळी गेल्यावर गाडी कशी चोरली, याचे प्रात्यक्षिक दाखवा, असे आदेश एका वरिष्ठ निरिक्षकाने त्यांना दिले. तेव्हा चावीशिवाय गाडीचे दरवाजे घडून ते ड्रायव्हींग सीटवर बसले. पुढे या अधिकार्‍याने चावीशिवाय गाडी चालवून दाखव, असे सांगितले. तेव्हा गाडीला धक्का मारावा लागेल, अशी विनंती पोलीस पथकाला केली. पथकातील झाडून सर्व अधिकारी निष्काळजीपणे आरोपींना गाडीत सोडून स्वत: गाडीला धक्का मारू लागले. याचाच फायदा घेत आरोपींनी गाडी सुरू केली आणि धूम ठोकली^^. This story shows how car thieves are turned into terrorists, and later probably coerced into becoming approvers and witnesses. Incidentally it is the same case in which Mohammed Ateeq got bail on Monday. 
The unfortunate thing in all this is what lessons the hapless *accused*, their families and friends, and the community at large will take home. The foundation of Democracy is the rule of law. When that itself is under assault in every sphere of life, doesn’t it pose the gravest danger to democracy contrary to what Prime Minister and Indian Government would have us believe? 
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5 Responses to “The Lawlessness Of Terror Investigations.”

  1. Indian Express Says:

    Part-II2 years, 5 cities, 6 cases – and ‘proof’ everywhere is the same magazineOn April 16, 2006, Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh was tense. There had been communal clashes a week ago during Eid-e-Milad. In the afternoon, policemen from the Kotwali police station arrested two women, 20-year-old Aasiya and 23-year-old Rafia, daughters of one Abdul Hafiz Qureshi. The police, in their seizure memo, claimed to have recovered “incriminating material” from Aasiya — three copies of an April 2004 issue of a Hindi magazine, Tehrik-e-Millat, and a SIMI donation receipt towards “office construction fund” (receipt no. 0033359, dated January 25, 2006) with the name “Kumari Aashiya Khan” in Hindi for an amount of Rs 500.SIMI was banned in 2001. If an underground outfit issuing a donation receipt for a building on their old stationery seems unlikely, the story of the magazine is even more odd.All the three copies of Tehrik-e-Millat allegedly recovered from Aasiya have her name written by hand in Hindi as “Aashiya” on the cover. The police also claimed to have seized two copies of Tehrik-e-Millat with “Rafia” written by hand in Hindi on the cover. Tehrik-e-Millat is a fortnightly published from Kota in Rajasthan. Though the Kotwali police station in Khandwa later booked the magazine’s owner-editor M A Naiem, the magazine has never been proscribed……..

  2. Indian Express Says:

    Part IIIOver a month, four ‘terror’ arrests in Indore for ‘shouting slogans’.It’s just not Urdu writings or a magazine copy that can get you booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). In many cases — including five over the course of one month, April 2008, four of them in Indore alone — the script was the same: a mukhbir or informer tipped off police about men “shouting anti-government slogans” outside mosques or in front of their homes, and the men were arrested and then left to battle it out in court.* September 27, 2001, SolapurThe case was filed on the day the Centre issued its first notification banning SIMI. Assistant Police Inspector Dattatray Bapurao Patil of Sadar Bazar police station noted in the FIR (3824/2001) that he and his team were patrolling when “we found one person Abdul Rehman Ahmad Ali Kalyani had gathered some people in front of Konchikozi galli…

  3. Sebastian Says:

    The rule of law says even if a criminal escapes an innocent should not be punished.But I feel there are more innocents in our jails than there are criminals.What has gone wrong with our police department.This is because of the attitutdes and behaviour of the police department and the type of investigation our police department do. The department expected to safeguard the cityzens of this country have become the enemies of the people,ofcourse there are exceptions.They are not interested in establishing the truth and getting justice done.Sebastian

  4. Indian Express Says:

    The posters that landed retired SIMI secy in jail.Cases registered 12 years ago — before SIMI was even banned — on flimsy charges and an investigation that has been rapped for loopholes left Munir Deshmukh a wanted man for years and have kept him in jail for the past 21 months. Once the SIMI national secretary, Deshmukh retired from the organisation in February 2001, seven months before it was banned.OCTOBER 22, 2000It was 11 months before the first ban on SIMI in September 2001 that Deshmukh had the first FIRs filed against him in two police stations in Bhopal the same day. Both FIRs related to exactly the same “incriminating” evidence — a SIMI poster……

  5. Indian Express Says:

    Criticising Delhi Police for its “slipshod approach” and “casualness”, which failed to ensure “minimum standards or proof required in a criminal trial”, the Delhi High Court on Thursday acquitted two men, Mirza Nisar Hussain alias Naza and Mohd Ali Bhatt alias Kille, who had been sentenced to death by a trial court in the 1996 Lajpat Nagar bomb blast case.

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