People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 06

February 10, 2008


Riots Cases Against Shiv Sena Leaders Unlikely To Be Reopened

Meena Menon

THE Congress-Nationalist Congress Party government is unlikely to reopen cases against Shiv Sena leaders including Bal Thackeray and Madhukar Sarpotdar filed in the wake of the 1992-93 Mumbai riots which broke out after the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

In a January 16, 2008 affidavit filed by the Maharashtra government in the Supreme Court, listing the nine cases filed against the Sena mouthpiece, Saamna, as well as Mr. Thackeray and other party leaders, there is no mention of the State either reopening the cases or challenging the ones which have resulted in acquittal.

Under pressure from human rights groups, the government was making noises about implementation of the Srikrishna Commission report on the riots and it promised justice to the victims, but its affidavit is quite the contrary. It was filed in response to the apex court order last August directing all petitioners to file a joint affidavit listing their grievances over implementation of the Commission report.

The petitioners included the Action Committee for the Implementation of the Srikrishna Commission report, the Mumbai Aman Committee and the Lawyers Legal Aid Committee.

"No intention to punish"

According to lawyer-activist Shakeel Ahmed, who is among the petitioners, this affidavit is not different from the one the State filed in 2001 after the Special Task Force was set up to examine the 1,371 riot-related, closed cases. It clearly shows the government is not going to punish the Sena leaders or the police, or reopen any case, he says.

The police filed nine cases against Mr. Thackeray and Saamna for provocative writings. In four cases, no charges were framed and Mr. Thackeray and the other accused were discharged on October 18, 1996. In two cases, Mr. Thackeray and others were acquitted on October 2, 1996. Three other cases have been closed.

Appeal dismissed

The government, by a civil application, appealed against acquittal in the two cases but the High Court dismissed the plea in 2007. It observed that no ends of justice would be served by digging up the old cases after the expiry of seven years and they would only revive communal tensions. Time had already passed. In view of these circumstances, it was difficult to find fault with the additional chief metropolitan magistrate's order terminating the proceedings in the two cases, the High Court said.

As for Mr. Sarpotdar, who was intercepted on January 11, 1993 by an army column, the police filed a complaint after two days. He was caught in a jeep full of weapons, including a licensed revolver and two unlicensed guns, apart from swords and hockey sticks. But the two cases filed against him resulted in acquittals in 1998 and 1999.

"Not fit to file appeal."

Now the affidavit says assistant public prosecutor A.B. Patil has opined that the cases are "not fit to file appeal." Only the case filed against Sena leader Gajanan Kirtikar is still pending trial after it was reopened in 2001.

The affidavit has denied that cases were not registered due to oversight. It reiterates what the STF said in 2001 about the 1,371 closed cases. It says 112 cases were re-investigated and charge sheets filed in eight new cases.

The affidavit also reiterated that of the 31 policemen indicted by the Commission, 10 were punished after departmental enquiries, 11 were found not guilty and one died. The then Joint Commissioner R.D. Tyagi and inspector B.T. Lahane were discharged along with seven others in 2003 by the sessions court in the Suleiman Usman Bakery case, in which the police were alleged to have killed nine persons. Nine other policemen are facing trial.

The affidavit says the Law and Judiciary Department is re-examining whether a revision appeal can be filed in the High Court.

Shahnawaz Wagle case

As for the instances where the police filed no case, the affidavit says that in the Shahnawaz Wagle case an offence was registered on January 10, 2003 against Wagle and other rioters. A charge sheet was also filed against him and the case is pending in the sessions court. The Commission described the killing of teenaged Wagle as a "cold blooded murder" and demanded a special probe. But the affidavit says no evidence was brought to show that Shahnawaz was killed by policemen.

According to the Commission, his sister Yasmin was witness to the entire incident. The police closed the investigation without even registering a case and concluded that inspector Wahule of the Byculla station was neither responsible nor related to the killing of young Wagle.

The government is also not inclined to file appeals in other major riot cases including the Star Metal incident, in which 11 persons were burnt to death. The nine arrested were later acquitted by a TADA court in November 1996.

Steps taken

The government says it has taken steps for implementing the Commission report. It constituted a high-power committee chaired by the Additional Chief Secretary (Home) and three others to examine the riot cases pending in criminal courts. There are 253 cases pending in various courts and 93 cases are in a dormant file. The government also set up four special courts to deal with riot cases. Sixteen important cases were shortlisted and sent to these courts.

The affidavit said a special drive was launched and 41 absconders were arrested. In all, 539 cases related to the riots have resulted in acquittal. The Police Commissioner has been instructed to scrutinise all these cases and 379 have been found unfit for appeal. The Law and Judiciary Department is examining 50 cases whether they are fit for appeal.

Courtesy: The Hindu, January 31, 2007