After full 14 years in jail, Mohammad Amir Khan was acquitted in all terror cases in January 2012. NHRC took up his case suo motu in 2014 and for the next four years it relentlessly fought for compensation for his wrongful confinement.
MUMTAZ ALAM |Caravan News
NEW DELHI: In a first by Police in the country, the Delhi Police has given Rs 5 lakh to city resident Mohammad Amir Khan in compensation for his wrongful confinement in the jail for 14 years in false terror cases. “No amount can compensate for my prime 14 years that I spent in jail,” says Amir, yet he thanks NHRC for fighting for relief and also the Delhi Police for the compensation but more importantly for the two words of regret.
Amir was 18 when he was picked in December 1997 by the city police from a market area in the heart of the national capital. Over a period of time, he was slapped with 18 terror cases, including bomb blasts. But none could stand trial in the court of law. He was acquitted in all the cases one after another but it took a long tiring journey. When he came out after 14 years in jail in January 2012, the teenager Amir had grown up into a full man of 32 years. In this period, sadly, he had lost his father and mother had got paralyzed.
Completely broken Amir restarted his life with nothing of his own but the humble support of the civil society including some Muslim organizations.
Two years after his release from jail, India’s federal human rights body – National Human Rights Commission came across media reports about his 14-year wrongful confinement and issued a notice to the Union Home Ministry which controls the Delhi Police in March 2014.
In April-May 2014, the NHRC got reply. Both the Home Ministry and the Delhi Police had sent an enquiry report of Deputy Commissioner of Police, Special Cell (the anti-terror wing of Delhi Police). The report, NHRC notes, said: “Mohd. Amir Khan was arrested in fifteen cases in a series of bomb blasts which took place in Delhi and adjoining states, between December 1996 and December 1997. It is stated that, with the arrest of Mohd. Amir Khan along with six other accused persons, the series of bomb blasts that were taking place during 1996-1997, stopped.”
But the NHRC was not satisfied with the report because it talked little about Amir’s acquittal in the same terror cases one after another. In December 2015, the rights panel issued a show cause notice to the Delhi Government asking “why monetary relief of rupees five lakh should not be recommended to be paid to Mohammad Amir, who was released after 14-year long incarceration in jail, destroying his youth, due to his wrongful arrest…The victim had been acquitted in 17 cases, including one by the High Court of Delhi.”
NHRC had given six weeks to the Chief Secretary, Government of Delhi to respond but even after six months, there was little development. The rights panel repeated the same in June 2016. It got a reply which said that as two cases were pending against Amir, there was no point of compensation at this juncture. But the NHRC was not satisfied with the response.
In January 2017, while commenting on the reply to its show cause notice, the NHRC noted: “The reply to the show cause notice is not based on merits. The Show Cause Notice was issued on the point of acquittal of the victim in 18 cases by the courts and long incarceration of the victim in the prison. The Commission is not concerned with the appeals pending in two cases. The fact is that the victim had to spend 14 years long incarceration in the prison for no reason violating his human rights. In these circumstances, the Commission finds no merits in the report of the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Vigilance, Delhi and recommends an amount of Rs.5,00,000/- as interim relief to be paid to the victim.” It asked the Chief Secretary, Government of Delhi to submit the proof of payment made to the victim within a period of six weeks.
Chronology of Events
Dec 1997: Mohammad Amir Khan was arrested by Delhi Police.
Jan 2012: He was acquitted of terror charges and released.
March 2014: NHRC took notice of his 14-year confinement.
April-May 2014: Police justified his arrest.
Dec 2015: NHRC issued notice for Rs 5 lakh compensation to him.
Jan 2017: NHRC insisted on Rs 5 lakh compensation to him.
Jan 2018: NHRC issued summons to Chief Sec., Delhi Police chief.
April 2018: Mohammad Amir Khan got compensation of Rs 5 lakh.
What happened in weeks before Amir got compensation?
Though the NHRC had given six weeks time in January 2017, its order for compensation was not executed for full one year. This compelled the rights panel in January 2018 to issue summons to Chief Secretary, Delhi Government and Delhi Police Commissioner for their personal appearance before the commission on 20th March 2018.
“Despite sufficient time and opportunity having been given, the compliance report along with proof of payment of compensation of Rs.5,00,000/- paid to the victim has not been received. In these circumstances, let summons be issued for the personal appearance of the Chief Secretary, Government of NCT of Delhi and Commissioner of Police, Delhi before the Commission on 20.3.2018 at 1200 hours along with the requisite report and also an explanation for delay in submission of the report. It is to be reminded that in the absence of the explanation as called for as above, the Commission may recommend appropriate action against them to the Government,” said the NHRC.
On 5th April, two police constables visited Amir at his home and told him that Deputy Commissioner of Police wants to meet him in office.
“I went to meet the DCP along with the constables. There I met an Assistant Commissioner of Police. He said that ‘whatever happened with you was really sad. It is not possible to return those years. But just to make things better ahead, we are giving you Rs five lakh on the order of the NHRC.’ He said that NHRC had ordered the Home Ministry for the compensation and the ministry forwarded it to the Delhi Police, and thus they were executing their order,” Amir told Caravan Daily on Sunday, day after he came to know from his bank that Rs 5 lakh has been transferred to his account.
Amir said that he requested the police officer to give him something in written, but he politely refused to do so, saying it was their internal matter, and so nothing could be given in written.
It’s A Welcome Step, Need To Be Done More: Amir
“I see the development as a welcome step. NHRC intervened and the Delhi Police acted upon its order. It is good. This does not mean that I am now fully satisfied. It is obvious that Rs 5 lakh or even 50 lakh cannot compensate for the 14 years in jail, but this step will indeed act as a balm to the wounds and that is why I am saying it is a welcome step,” said Amir.
He said that what he got is on the intervention of NHRC, but there is urgent need for the government, both state and central, to develop a mechanism for proper rehabilitation of innocent people who are acquitted after years and years in jail.
“There is a scheme for rehabilitation of even terrorists who surrender and return to mainstream life. It is good, and there is nothing wrong about it. But I want to ask that when we have a rehabilitation mechanism for such people, why don’t we have similar one for the innocent people of mainstream life who are falsely implicated in terror cases, tortured and put behind bars for long long years and then they are acquitted by the court?,” asked Amir.
“Like me, there are many people in the country (those who were implicated in false terror cases by police and later acquitted by courts). They deserve compensation. This step of the Delhi government should become an example for the whole country,” he said.
The best rehabilitation, he suggested, would be to provide a self-respect job to such victims so that they could start their life afresh in a better way and work as a good citizen of the country as earlier.
First Compensation by Police in False Terror Cases
“I think this is the first time that the police in the country, though on the order of NHRC, have given compensation to a person for his wrongful confinement. Last time such compensation was given by a state government (Andhra Pradesh) some years ago for the innocent Muslims falsely imprisoned for the Mecca Masjid blast,” says Amir.
“I take the step of the Delhi Police as our moral victory. Though not in words, they have admitted that wrong was done with me. And in compensation for that, they have given me Rs 5 lakh,” he said.
Want To Spend A Part Of This Amount On Legal Aid To Victims Like Me: Amir
Himself not in strong economic condition, Amir wants to spend a portion of this compensation amount on legal aid to innocent people like him who are languishing in jails.
“The amount is not big, yet it will give me a relief. I will use a portion of this amount in repaying my debt and will give another portion to NGOs educating children and also to the NGOs who are providing legal aid to innocent people like me,” he said adding that it is the civil society that helped him when he was inside the jail and also when he came out.
“It was government’s duty to rehabilitate me but it didn’t. This work was done by the civil society. There were individuals like Shabnam Hashmi, Harsh Mandar, Manisha Sethi, Lenin Raghuvanshi, ND Pancholi and some Muslim religious organizations that came up and helped me.”
“I also want to thank the media. NHRC took suo motu notice of my case after media reports,” said Amir and also appealed to media to highlight acquittal of a person as prominently as his arrest.