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Cry to try terror cops

New Delhi, Nov. 23: Pressure is mounting on the government to prosecute police and intelligence officials accused of framing Muslim youths in terrorism cases that collapsed in courts.

In many cases over the past few years, the courts have indicted the police for framing innocent youths and concocting evidence.

“Trial and punishment of the guilty security officials are necessary to regain the shattered confidence of the Muslim community. I am going to take up the matter with home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, seeking prosecution of such officials. This is very unfortunate as such cases seem to be on the rise,” K. Rahman Khan, the minority affairs minister, told The Telegraph.

For the first time, the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has also taken up the matter with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Wajahat Habibullah, the NCM chairperson, said that he spoke to the Prime Minister a fortnight ago. “It’s a very serious issue and I brought this to his notice recently. The Prime Minister was very forthcoming and said there was no reason why security officials found by the courts to have falsely implicated Muslim youths in terror cases should not be prosecuted. He said it’s a criminal offence to arrest someone on false charges and said he would look into the matter,” Habibullah said.

The appeals come at a time the execution of Ajmal Kasab has ignited a clamour for tough action in terror cases.

Earlier, Congress MP Mani Shankar Aiyar had written to Shinde, urging him to announce corrective measures during this Parliament session.

Against the backdrop of growing demands to hold police accountable, a former intelligence chief has said care should be taken to ensure that only the officials who show “wilful mala fide intent” were punished.

“When there is a wilful mala fide intent on the part of security officials to implicate an innocent person, it amounts to criminal act. Exemplary punishment should be given to such police officials as this lowers the credibility of the force,” former Intelligence Bureau director Ajit Doval said.

But he added that all acquittals did not mean that the accused were completely innocent and were framed by the police. “When a person, arrested on the basis of a prima facie evidence against him, is acquitted by a court, it does not mean he is innocent. He gets benefits of doubt and it is the discretion of the court to decide,” Duval added.

In September, the Jamia Teachers Solidarity Action, a civil rights group, had said in a report 16 Muslim youths framed by Delhi police’s special cell in terror cases were acquitted by the courts for lack of evidence. Alleged illegal detention, torture, imprisonment and trial had exacted a heavy toll on all the 16 victims and their lives are in a shambles.

Yesterday, Delhi High Court had acquitted Mirza Nissar and Mohammad Ali Bhatte. Both were sentenced to death by a trial court for the 1996 Lajpat Nagar blast that killed 13 people. The high court had passed severe strictures against the police.

“This (framing of innocents) must stop. This high-handedness has led to a widespread impression in the Muslim community that it is invariably targeted by police after any terrorist strike,” said Rahman, the minority affairs minister who took over from Salman Khurshid last month. Rahman said he would personally speak to the home minister whose various agencies are facing charges of persecuting youths.

Habibullah, the National Commission for Minorities chairperson, said the home ministry needed to dispel unfounded apprehensions among Muslims and security officials should be upholding the spirit of the Prime Minister’s 15-point programme for welfare of the minorities.

Manisha Sethi, the president of the Jamia association and a professor at Jamia Millia Islamia, said the organisation had sent copies of the report demanding rehabilitation of the victims. “We welcome the initiatives of the minority panel and the ministry to take up the matter with the government for prosecution of terror cops,” she said.

Sethi added that the 200-page document on the 16 innocent youths was based solely on the court judgments and it was enough to bring out the pattern in which officers of Delhi police operate. “This will stop only if policemen are prosecuted for framing the innocent,” she said.

In a letter to the home minister, Congress MP Aiyar said: “I am sure you are already aware of the problem of long, unconscionable detention and the agony caused particularly to innocent youths and their families, of long drawn out and delayed trials, which eventually lead to the acquittal of the innocent but not before causing untold agony, hurt and insult to the families concerned. Indeed this kind of injustice on the part of the state could even become, and has already become, a breeding ground for terrorists.”