July  2002 
Cover Story

Punish the guilty                                                                              >>>to index page

Several legal initiatives have been launched in post
genocide-Gujarat in an effort to punish the guilty

The Islamic Relief Committee and the Federation of Civil Liberties are two Muslim associations that have lead or
sponsored certain initiatives.

The Jansangharsh Manch, a secular group from Ahmedabad, is also leading some of the cases related to compensation and police atrocities in Gomtipur.

The Citizens for Justice and Peace and CC are handling some criminal cases like the Gulberg-Chamanpura massacres, besides appearing before the Modi government–appointed KG Shah Commission of Inquiry. (Subsequently, Justice DH Nanavati has been appointed co-commissioner). They have also filed writs both in the Gujarat High Court and the Supreme Court.

The People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Baroda and Citizens Initiative, Ahmedabad, have also carried out some legal surveys and assisted with filing affidavits before the Shah-Nanavati Commission. Majlis, Mumbai, India Centre for Human Rights and Law and Lawyers Collective are some of the other organisations that helped individuals file affidavits before the Commission.

Cases before Supreme Court

In April, Mallika Sarabhai and other concerned citizens from Ahmedabad filed a petition challenging the appointment of the Shah-Nanavati Commission and urged that the NHRC be given full powers like a commission to investigate the Gujarat happenings.

Another writ petition filed by many prominent activists and citizens from Ahmedabad and Mumbai urged court directive to hand over major investigations in Gujarat — Godhra, Gulberg Society, Naroda Pattiya, Sardarpur, Visnagar, Kediad, BEST Bakery, Odh etc — to the CBI since the conduct of the Gujarat police has been questioned even by the NHRC. This petition was drafted by advocate Mihir Desai. Both petitions pending admission which have been clubbed together by the Supreme Court and are to come up for hearing in end–July.

In early April, senior advocate Girishbhai Patel appeared in a public interest writ petition urging a fresh date for board examinations given the dislocation caused by violence filed on behalf of scores of students. The Gujarat HC refused to entertain the PIL which was then taken up by India Centre for Human Rights and Law (advocate Colin Gonsalves) in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court directed the government to set a new date for the examinations.

Cases before Gujarat HC

In the Gujarat High Court, senior advocate Nirupam Nanavati appeared with Suhel Tirmizi in the relief camp petition. Suhel Tirmizi is also actively involved in the recording of affidavits for filing before the Shah–Nanavati Commission. Senior advocate Mihir Desai, who has also taken an active interest in legal aid work post–genocide Gujarat, settled the draft of the petition.

In all, over 3,100 affidavits have been filed here by individual complainants before Commission.

Sardarpura massacre, Mehsana

Thirty–four persons, mostly women and children, were burnt alive in a small room in Sardarpur village. In all, there are 46 accused and they have been released on bail through four different applications filed before the additional sessions judge, Mehsana, D. R. Shah. Four applications have been filed for cancellation of bail of the accused by advocate Hashim Qureshi appearing for the victims’ families.

The public prosecutor in the district court, Dilip Trivedi, is also a general secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Mehsana district. (He gave an extremely provocative statement on February 28 to the Sandesh daily).

The four applications for rejection of bail are on the grounds that even after being released on bail, the accused attacked a mosque in the same Sardarpur area. (FIR no. 110/2002 dated May 13 is launched with the Vijapur police station.). The PP did not take any objection to cancellation of bail. The High Court has issued notices in all these four matters filed under section 439(2) of CrPC. Chargesheets have been filed.

Deepla Darwaja, Visnagar, Mehsana district

Twenty–four persons were attacked and subsequently burnt to death. Thereafter, with a view to destroy the evidence, the culprits collected their remains and dumped it in a lake situated in a Patel community area.

Two cancellation of bail applications have been filed by advocate Hashim Qureshi against the 43 accused released on bail. Shockingly, the same PP (Mr. Trivedi) who never objects to bail applications by the VHP and the BJP had in this case, registered his ‘no objection’ to bail being given to the accused.

These applications have made several pleas, the main ones being that the police conduct in non–registration of names of accused, deliberate non–recording of panchnama and subsequent failure to help locate the victims’ bodies all ensured that easy bail was obtained. Prima facie there appears to be biased police conduct, a patent example of culpable negligence. Therefore, a special criminal application has also been made challenging the same.

Gomtipur police atrocities case, Ahmedabad

This case pertains to the death of six persons in reprisal killings by the police on April 21, after a police constable was killed at Dani Limda. Significantly, there were no disturbances in the area on that day, no members of the majority community reside anywhere around where the victims were targeted or shot dead.

Hanifabibi Bashir Ahmed Sheikh (42) a woman residing at Modi Chawl: She was killed because police constable Prakash hit her on the head. The VS Hospital post–mortem report shows cause of death as shock as a result of firearm injury. There is no FIR registered. No compensation has been given to date.

Kalubhai Sheikh (20), male, residing at Jhoolta Minara, Ahmedi Society: Just in front of the society, the police fired from the police chowki. He suffered a head injury and died on the spot. The post-mortem report from VS Hospital identified the cause of death as due to shock as a result of firearm injury.

Naziabibi and Mehmood Husein Sheikh (daughter and father) aged 18 and 42 respectively residing at Patel Chawl, Kamdar Medan: While cooking in her kitchen, Naziabi was hit by a police bullet, and she died on the spot due to head injury. Her post-mortem was done at the VS Hospital. Her father, Mehboob Hussein Sheikh was shot at in the same incident, outside the house.

Abrar Ahmed Hanif Qureshi (22),male, residing at Patel Chawl, Kamdar Medan: Though the main gate of the chawl was closed, police aimed from a hole in the gate. Neck injury, died on the spot. Post-mortem at VS Hospital.

Mehboob bhai Sultan bhai Sheikh, (22), male, residing at Maniarwada, Gomtipur: The police entered the chawl from a private house. Deceased was on the roof of his house when one police constable along with several police personnel beat him mercilessly. Then the constable, using a private firearm concealed in his socks, shot him from point blank range.

Four different applications have been filed before the Gujarat High Court on behalf of the victims and supported by the Islamic Relief Committee, praying for the special investigation by the crime branch and inquiry against the culprits/police constables and for compensation.

The grounds: The police authority totally failed in discharging their duty as per the provisions of the Police Manual, particularly Clause 45, 53, 55, 60 and 61 of part 3 of Volume 2. Therefore, this is a fit case for inquiry through proper channels, by proper office, as per the hierarchy of the police department.

In a case of Darmishta behn, the Gujarat High Court has led down the law on payment of compensation. The court ruled that when great loss and injustice is caused to a person who has loss his beloved, and his life has become miserable by way of an atrocity by the police officer, then he is not in position to meet with any orthodox litigation and proceeding. Therefore, interim compensation can be awarded under Article 226.

Dr Bhavnagari Case, Ahmedabad

On February 28, when many areas of Ahmedabad and the state of Gujarat were being attacked, a large mob of 5-7,000 had targeted the Paldi area of Ahmedabad where. Dr Bhavnagari, a respected doctor and his son lived in the Delite Apartments.

Dr Bhavnagari owns a licensed gun and is also an ace shooter, being a member of the National Rifle Shooters’ Association. When the mob advanced close and threatened the doctor and his family, he used his gun and fired. Two persons were injured and later one fell victim to the bullets.

The police arrested Dr Bhavnagari despite there being a strong case under section 66 onwards of the Indian Penal Code that permits a person firing in self–defence when his life is endangered. The police also filed an FIR against both the Dr Bhavnagari and his son on the ground that both had fired. The son surrendered to the police in late March.

Though the police had met one of the survivors of the bullets on March 3, they recorded his statement only on March 14. In his statement, the young man had stated that both father and son had fired in which two persons died. Applications for anticipatory bail filed for both father and son by advocate Haroon Momin were rejected in the City Civil and Sessions Court, Ahmedabad. The bail applications were then pending before the Gujarat High Court.

In its report, filed under section 159, CRPC on June 24/26 before the Sessions Court, the police stated: "If he had not fired, he could have died. A mob of 1,500–2,000 had attacked the building; shops were burning, they had deadly weapons and it was only when sections of this mob climbed the staircase of Delite Apartments that Dr Bhavnagari and his son fired."

When this report was filed in the Sessions Court, Chetan Shah, advocate for the VHP (he is appearing in all their cases) asked to be joined as party. Magistrate Purani turned down the application saying that he had no locus standi. The matter for deliberation on the police report under section 159 was pending.

Meanwhile, 90 days had passed since Dr Bhavnagari’s arrest. Under section 167(2) of the CrPC if no chargesheet has been filed within three months, a person has to be released. Both appeals for bail came up before the HC. Granting bail, the judge, Justice Behram J Sethna passed unwarranted strictures against two police officers — additional commissioner of police Satish Sharma and PI NH Joshi – for filing it’s report under section 159.

He says, "Therefore prima facie I am of the considered opinion that by submitting the aforesaid report, both of them have committed contempt of court for which even contempt proceedings could have been initiated against them; however on the request made by learned additional public prosecutor, Abhichandani and on the assurance given by PI Joshi that that in future this will not be repeated I have not thought it fit to initiate such proceedings. However I am fully convinced that the attempt made by both the police officers Shri Satish Sharma, additional CP Sector I and PI NH Joshi in ‘trying to interfere with the administration of justice by submitting the report dated June 24, 02 and June 26, 02 is a serious misconduct for which both the police officers should be dealt with strictly by way of departmental proceedings by the state govt. When the last day for filing chargesheet was June 30, 02 they submitted such report at the last minute and allowed the main accused to get the bail."


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