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Since 1st March, 1999
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Phone call no proof of plot role: Court
(From top) Geelani, Navjot Sandhu, Mohammad Afzal, Shaukat Hussain

New Delhi, Oct. 29: The decisive factor that tilted the scales in favour of S.A.R. Geelani in the Parliament attack case was the prosecution’s excessive reliance on the phone conversation between the lecturer and one of the accused.

“We have pondered over this evidence (the phone conversation). It is a relevant circumstance but by itself, without anything more on record, is not sufficient to draw an inference against S.A.R. Geelani that he was involved in the conspiracy,” the Delhi High Court bench of Justice Usha Mehra and Justice Pradeep Nandrajog said while acquitting the suspended Delhi University lecturer.

The bench accepted the prosecution’s contention that Shaukat Hussain, the death sentence against whom was upheld today, used to contact Geelani on phone. However, the court added that “there is no evidence of Geelani being in touch over the telephone with the terrorists”.

The prosecution had alleged that Geelani was in touch with the two accused and said that this was prima facie evidence of his being a co-conspirator.

Police had pointed out that Shaukat made the first call to Geelani when his mobile phone was activated and the lecturer responded to Shaukat’s call immediately after the Parliament raid as pointers to his involvement in the conspiracy.

But the court said: “When one acquires a mobile phone, it is but natural that one would test it for use. What other number would one connect other than that of known person'”

“By itself, with nothing more, we are afraid that conviction cannot be sustained on this evidence,” it added.

The court also rejected the prosecution’s allegation that Geelani had an incriminating talk with his brother a day after the December 13, 2001, attack.

“We had, while discussing the taped conversation — even assuming the prosecution version to be correct — come to a conclusion that there was nothing which could incriminate Geelani as far as the conversation is concerned,” the bench said.

Maintaining that the only evidence against Geelani was the record of telephone calls between the duo and himself, the judges said: “This circumstance, in our opinion, does not remotely, far less definitely and unerringly, point towards the guilt of accused Geelani”.

“We, therefore, conclude that the prosecution has failed to bring on record evidence which cumulatively forms a chain so complete that there is no escape from the conclusion that in all human probabilities, accused Geelani was involved in the conspiracy,” the bench said.

Family outside Tihar

Geelani’s wife was elated after the high court overturned the trial court’s death sentence on her husband and acquitted him for lack of evidence. “We had firm faith in the law that my husband would be acquitted,” said Quratulin Arifa.

“We were convinced that my husband was not involved in the crime and he was implicated in the case,” Quratulin Arifa said.

But despondency enveloped her when Geelani was not released from the capital’s Tihar jail because the court’s order to release him did not reach the authorities till 7.30 pm.

Quratulin Arifa, along with her son and daughter, had waited outside the jail hoping he would walk free after having spent about two years behind bars. She will have to wait till tomorrow for the court order to reach the Tihar authorities.

Geelani’s lawyers alleged “foul play”, with civil rights activist Nandita Haksar threatening to move court. She claimed that the high court had directed his release today.

Shaukat’s wife Navjot Sandhu, alias Afshan Guru, will also be released from Tihar jail. Sandhu’s family was not to be seen outside the jail. It was learnt that she wants to go back to her hometown in Punjab. Her son, who was born in custody, also stays with her in the jail.

“We are relieved and happy that Geelani was acquitted as there was not a shred of evidence against him,” said Tripta Wahi, Geelani’s university colleague.

Ram Jethmalani, Geelani’s counsel, applauded the acquittal, saying it “will restore the confidence of the entire world, particularly the inhabitants of Jammu and Kashmir, in the integrity and competence of Indian judicial system”.

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