Mumbai, Aug. 4: The city police came in for severe lashing as a sessions court today acquitted all seven persons charged with conspiring to kill deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and said the FIR appeared to be “concocted”.
Distinctly dismissive about the prosecution’s charges, judge M.V. Marathe also noted that the main witness was “unreliable” as he had changed his version many times.
The case is bound to raise serious concerns about Mumbai police’s manner of investigation and their haste in levelling charges under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act against some of the accused.
The police had alleged that the seven — Akbar Hussain Shafi Hussain, Zakir Hussain Shaikh, Mohammed Hanif, Javed Khan, Srinivas Naidu, Mohammed Saddiq Ansari and Mohammed Sadiq Shaikh — were active members of Dawood Ibrahim’s gang. According to the police, they plotted to kill Advani in 2001 and the instructions came directly from the fugitive don in Karachi.
Seven others, reported to be absconding, will be tried separately when they are arrested. They include Dawood and underworld kingpin Chhota Shakeel.
The police said the accused had held a series of meetings in Bharat Cafe in Ghatkopar and tailed Advani to Lucknow in September 2001. The accused also had plans to blow up vital installations in Mumbai, including the secretariat and the police commissioner’s office, the police alleged.
The alleged conspiracy came to light with the arrest of Javed Khan, a small-time gangster who was held in Ghatkopar in another case. During interrogation, he allegedly revealed the conspiracy to kill Advani and to strike at vital installations in the city and elsewhere in the country. After Javed disclosed the other names, police teams from Mumbai went to Chennai, Bangalore and Lucknow to arrest the accused and carry out investigations.
But the court said the police’s use of statements from the other co-accused in the case could not be taken with much seriousness. It said the delay in filing the FIR was not explained properly and it did not mention that the accused had planned to kill Advani.
This is not the first time that the police force has landed with egg on its face. Last year, the police were forced to withdraw terrorism charges against Aftab Ansari, who was alleged to have been involved in waging a war against the nation and having a hand in the attack on Parliament.
The fiasco was followed by the release of former city judge J.W. Singh, who the police alleged had held “repeated and detailed conversations with the underworld, including Chhota Shakeel”. The court had found no merit in the police tapes.
Away from Indian shores, a London court looking into Mumbai police’s charges against music composer Nadeem Saifee — of Nadeem-Sravan fame — caustically remarked that the city police did not seem to have done their homework properly.