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When it comes to terrorists, it's miscarriage of justice yet again

When it comes to terrorists, it's miscarriage of justice yet again

Author: Anil Nair in Mumbai
Publication: Organiser
Date: June 26, 2005
URL: http://www.organiser.org/dynamic/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=84&page=3

Introduction: Where is the furore? All accused in Ghatkopar bomb blast  set free

The Ghatkopar bomb blast case, which came to an end on June 10, 2005 with the acquittal of all the accused, by Special Judge A.P. Bhangale, was almost predictable. The three major reasons given by the POTA court are: dubious confessions, hostile witnesses and shoddy investigations. Even in the past the cases related to the underworld have been marred by the same kind of police apathy. But what is most intriguing is the way the media has been indifferent to the miscarriage of justice. Remember the way the media rose in revolt after the Best Bakery case judgement in Guja-rat. The Supreme Court not only reprimanded the police, the state government and the courts in Gujarat for the Best Bakery trial but also transferred the case to Mumbai for fresh hearing. No such reaction this time round! Some of the newspapers after the acquittal have even paid glowing tributes to the accused by reporting on their family life, their humdrum, everyday, lifestyle and their future plans. Wonder, why the accused in the Best Bakery case did not get such a charitable coverage. The Mumbai Police Commissioner, on the other hand, admitted that ''whenever the case is prepared on the basis of confessional statements, it has ended up in acquittal''. This essentially means that there was simply no supporting hard evidence. The star witness was the conductor of the BEST bus in which the bomb went off. The conductor, Shri Dattatreya Shelkar had earlier in his statement to the police said that he saw the accused planting the bombs in his bus. But when he was produced in the court, he turned hostile and maintained that he never witnessed anything. Out of the 148 witnesses, the important 11 witnesses went back on their statements. When the witnesses are pitched against the underworld goons, you don't expect them to stick their necks out. Do the Mumbai police have any material proof and evidence and other investigation paraphernalia to bolster their case?

The general public opinion is that the police only get hold of a few bystanders, beat them up black and blue and extract some 'confession', which is the end of the investigation. The kind of Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) that is so popular on television, with its in-depth inspection, probe, inquisition, extrapolation, analyses and conclusive evidence are all alien to Mumbai police.

Some of the important witness statements were even 'misplaced' by the police. The confessional statements were not up to legal and procedural standards. Telephone conversations and other electronic proofs were not supported with evidence. And in the midst of all this, some high-profile police officers were arrested for the alleged custodial death of a prime accused, Khwaja Yunus. Above all this there is this huge fear-factor which hangs ominously over the case. Most of the witnesses, their relations and acquaintances refuse to say anything which might be construed as bad-mouthing the underworld. In these circumstances, it is only foolhardy if the police expect the witnesses to stand by their confession.

In all, there have been six bomb blasts all over Mumbai city and these have been clubbed together into two lots before the Special Court. In some of the cases, the Court is yet to frame charges against the accused.

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