Septuagenarian communist activist Kobad Ghandy has petitioned Jharkhand High Court seeking speedy trial in a terror case, saying he has attended 62 hearings in a Bokaro court in the 53 months since November 2018 without any serious witnesses being produced.
“…In this entire period, only 2 witnesses have come, one of which was declared hostile while the other made no mention of me in his statement,” Ghandy has said in a statement.
He says the trial judge had on February 24 — at the 61st hearing — issued a DO (demand order) to the Jharkhand DGP (to ensure that witnesses are produced) “but apparently this was not processed by the court clerk”.
“This case pertains to a 2006 incident. Since 2009 I was in jail for 10 years and now another 4 years have passed, yet the case drags on,” the statement, issued on April 15, says.
“How much longer? Not only does such slow process take a huge toll on my health and finances but also amounts to massive waste in govt resources. Day in and day out the Supreme Court reiterates one’s right to a speedy trial, but when ignored by lower courts, no action is taken.”
He adds: “While I was in jail (and attended hearings via videoconferencing), court dates were given every 14 days. Today it was given after two months.”
The charges against Ghandy are that he is a member of the banned CPI (Maoist) and masterminded two rebel attacks in Bokaro district in 2006 and 2007. Jharkhand police arrested him in December 2017 and framed the chargesheet a year later. He was kept in a Hazaribagh jail before receiving bail in 2019.
The “10 years” in jail he refers to in the statement include his imprisonment in Visakhapatnam following his arrest in Delhi in 2009 in another terror case. He was freed on bail just three days before being arrested by Jharkhand police from a Telangana court in December 2017.
“My client is aged 76 years and faces multiple health issues like a gall bladder stone of over 7cm, which cannot be operated on because of his deteriorating health and advanced age,” Anjani Nandan, Kobad’s counsel in the high court, told TheTelegraph.
“He has hypertension and arthritis in both knees, and walks with a stick.”
Nandan added: “After being refused bail by the lower court, we had applied to the high court and were finally granted bail on April 11, 2019. Since then Khobad Ghandy has been appearing regularly for hearings at the Tenughat sub-divisional court in Bokaro. We filed the criminal writ petition in the high court on April 15.”
Nandan said he had filed a closure petition on April 20, 2022, on which the sub-divisional court is yet to take a decision.
Ghandy’s statement says that following the court clerk’s failure to process the DO, “amounting to contempt of court the judge merely said he will not still close the case but will now serve that DO again”.
“…The entire case is based on a supposed confession before the Delhi police. As this is not admissible in court as per the Evidence Act and the Delhi court in its judgment has itself rejected it, what standing does this have?” the statement asks.
The Jharkhand police had used the alleged confession that said Ghandy was a member of the CPI (Maoist) central committee and had helped plan attacks on security forces in several places including Jharkhand.
Ghandy has been charged in connection with a 2006 landmine blast in Nawadih, Bokaro, that killed 13 special task force policemen and an April 2007 Maoist attack on the CISF camp at the Bokaro thermal power station that killed six people including two jawans.
Ghandy told this newspaper: “I have been acquitted in (cases in) Delhi… Mahbubnagar (in Telangana) andVishaka (Visakhapatnam). This is the only other case pending except two conspiracy cases —one in Surat and one in Karimnagar (in Telangana).”
Ghandy had been arrested in Delhi in 2009 for allegedly establishing the Maoist party in the capital, where he was being treated for cancer. Although acquitted of terror charges in 2016 by the Patiala House courts, he was convicted of cheating, forgery and impersonation.