SC Acquits All 4 Muslims Accused in 17-Year-Old Kanpur Riot Case

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Supreme Court of India.

Pointing out several flaws in the investigation, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of Uttar Pradesh Government and opined that no perversity existed in the judgment of the Allahabad High Court in which Wasif Haider along with Haji Ateeq, Mumtaz and Safaat Rasool had been acquitted on May 29, 2009.

Ghazanfar Abbas | Caravan Daily

NEW DELHI— Upholding the acquittal by Allahabad High Court to four Muslims framed as prime accused in the Kanpur riots (2001), the Supreme Court on Monday dismissed all charges (rioting, murder and terror) activities against them. During the judicial procedure, the prosecution had failed to provide substantial evidence before the apex court.

Dismissing the appeal of Uttar Pradesh (UP) Government against Syed Wasif Haider and three others, SC bench comprising Justice N.V Ramanna and Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar pointed out several flaws in the police investigation.

SC opined that no perversity existed in the judgment of the Allahabad High Court in which Wasif Haider along with Haji Ateeq, Mumtaz and Safaat Rasool had been acquitted on May 29, 2009.

“Heard learned counsels for the parties. At the outset, we would like to state that in an appeal against acquittal, the appellate court would interfere only where there exists perversity of fact and law. Further, the presumption of innocence is further reinforced against the acquitted accused by having a judgment in his favour,” the bench said.

Pronouncing the judgment, the SC bench further stated, “We concur with the aforesaid order of acquittal rendered by the High Court, as the present case is ridden with multiple investigative laches and flaws which goes to the root of the matter. We shall be addressing the same in seriatim.”

How an Accused Became a Lead Petitioner

Wasif (46) along with Ateeq and Safaat were picked up by UP Police while Mumtaz by Special Cell of Delhi Police, in March 2001 for the Kanpur riots in which ADM ((Finance and Revenue) Chandra Prakash Pathak had been killed. In January 2004, a session court convicted them for life under section 302/149 307/149, 148 of IPC and under section 7 of Criminal Law Amendment Act. However, all four were acquitted for the charges under Sections 395, 397, 436 and 153A IPC. Wasif was also acquitted for charges under Sections 25 and 27 of Arms Act, 1959 and Sections 4 and 15 of Explosive Substances Act, 1908.

A total of 13 charges including rioting, waging war against the State, sedition, ferrying arms and explosives had slapped against Wasif, following which he became the lead petitioner to challenge the session court’s judgment in Allahabad HC. After having spent eight years in jail and he along with the others were acquitted in October 2009, however, within a year again UP government appealed before the Apex Court challenging the HC order. It took eight years for the proceeding to wrap up before the Supreme Court, only for it to uphold the Allahabad HC judgment.

Apex Court questions the authenticity of investigation

Interestingly, during the proceeding, the Apex Court raised its concern about the authenticity of the Test Identification Parade (TIP), which had made the 7 witnesses identify the accused. SC also questioned the possibility of the witnesses identifying the 4 alleged accused among 200-300 alleged rioters, whom they had seen from a long distance. Not just that, the SC also raised its suspicion over the post-mortem report of the deceased, CP Pathak and the Forensic report as both were incompatible with each other with regards to the bullet wounds found on Pathak’s body.

17 Years of Suffering

It was not just the eight years of imprisonment in jails of Kanpur, Allahabad and Fatehgarh that taxed Wasif, but also the eight years of the legal battle that he had to fight before the SC, despite being acquitted by the Allahabad HC. It was like a mental imprisonment for him.

Syed Wasif Haider (Photo – The Hindu)

Appreciating the SC judgment, Wasif, told Caravan Daily, “This is like a new birth for me. The Court proceeding has consumed a lot of my time as I had to travel to Delhi for the hearing, every month. Due to this I neither could take care of my family nor concentrate on my career in these eight years. I had to dedicate my full time to the lawyers fighting our case.  In this period I have never felt like a completely free human. But, today I am feeling as if I have been set free, despite the fact that I still happen to be without a job.”

Wasif, a science graduate and father of four, sadly added that last year his father Syed Haider Ali Jafri, a Sahitya Academy Awardee, died without getting to see his only son being acquitted. Wasif was 29 when he had been arrested.

“My father was an accountant by profession but he was also into translation work. He even won the Sahitya Academy Award for his translation related work when I was in jail. My mother holds a Masters Degree in English Literature. I belong to an educated and reputed family of Kanpur. There was no criminal record in my family, but still I was arrested” he said with remorse.

Before his arrest, Wasif used to work as the Area Sales Manager in a multi-national company which catered to the health sector. His career went kaput when he was acquitted. Social stigma associated with him for having spent several years in jail made it difficult for him to get his career rolling once again.

“Once I was acquitted by the Allahabad HC, I began applying for a job at various companies and had even appeared for several interviews. But each time the companies made some excuse or the other. The fact that I had spent 8 years in jail was acting as a dampener. My sister and some friends stepped in and financially helped me during this period,” he told.

Biased Bureaucracy 

“Till officers are not made accountable false cases will keep cropping up. I believe that the bureaucrats, the police and administration is completely biased.  They are prejudiced against Muslims because when I was framed with false charges, BJP was in power, when I was convicted, Samajwadi Party was in Power, when the state government appealed before the SC, BSP was in power, so irrespective of the political party in, bureaucracy has been prejudiced and bias,” Wasif said.

He then added, “Despite SP having promised to withdraw the false did nothing. So the attitude of all the parties is the same.”

Delay adds to Agony

In SC, senior counsel advocates Kamini Jaiswal, Abubakr Sabbaq, Siddhartha Dave and Farrukh Rasheed appeared for Wasif. Speaking to Caravan Daily, advocate Abubakr Sabbaq, and National Coordinator of APCR (Association for Protection of Civil Rights) said, “The police story, in this case, was concocted and bogus since the beginning.”

He added, “Without any evidence, the special cell of police arrested them.” Adding to that he said, “Session court had already acquitted Wasif in the Arms Act.”

He then added, “Proceeding delay is the major suffering for the accused in all such cases. Such a long period is like double victimization of the victims. In this case, after 17 years, the accused are being acquitted. Sadly enough, in a case where there was no eyewitness. The delay has only made things difficult for those wrongly accused.”

Media Trial

Unhappy with the way media chose to label him as a terrorist despite him being acquitted by the Allahabad HC, he has even filed a defamation case against newspapers namely Dainik Jagran, Amar Ujala and Dainik Hindustan which allegedly labelled him a “terrorist” in their reports despite his acquittal by HC. The case is still pending at the Allahabad HC.

Now that the SC has also acquitted him, he said that he would be appealing before the Apex Court and the NHRC for compensation.

Read full Judgment here: file:///E:/Download/18655_2010_Judgement_10-Dec-2018%20(1).pdf

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