Court acquits 29 booked under Tada

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By PANKAJ SARMA
  • Published 13.12.11
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Guwahati, Dec. 12: A case of police misusing the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act has come to light.

The prolonged ordeal of 29 persons, who were booked under the anti-terror law for laying siege to a police station and allegedly manhandling a police officer to protest the suspected murder of a 14-year-old boy around 21 years ago, ended yesterday when they were acquitted by designated Tada court judge H.C. Sarma.

The counsel for the accused, Nekibur Zaman, described it as a classic example of misuse of Tada by the police to harass people, who neither belonged to any banned militant group nor possessed any illegal weapon.

The now-scrapped Tada was introduced in 1985 to counter terrorist activities. The act, which was enacted to curb terrorism, was, however, rampantly misused.

Giving details of the case, Zaman said 14-year-old Rupak Sarma, who was employed as a domestic help at the house of the then officer-in-charge of Sipajhar police station in Darrang district, Lankeswar Medhi, was found hanging in an abandoned house. A police cap was also found there. There was widespread resentment in Sipajhar following the boy’s mysterious death as residents believed that it was not a suicide and that he had been murdered by his employer.

Hundreds of enraged people laid siege to the police station on March 11, 1989, demanding justice and allegedly manhandled Medhi.

“The police registered a case against 29 people under Sections III and IV of Tada apart from some IPC sections and arrested them,” Zaman said. Respectable and senior citizens such as retired teachers, doctors and priests were among the accused, he added.

“Registration of the case under Tada by the police was unjustified since it was not an act of terror. Such cases are usually registered under relevant sections of the IPC,” he said, adding that the case had turned out to be an unending ordeal for the 29 accused, 11 of whom died during their 25-year-long struggle for justice.

“Since they have been acquitted, now we will move court seeking compensation for them,” Zaman said. “Apart from misuse of Tada, the inordinate delay of so many years by the state in bringing them to trial also amounts to gross injustice,” he added.

The police filed the chargesheet in the case on December 16, 1996, and charges were framed against the accused on August 18, 2008, finally paving the way for trial.

“Since the case was registered under Tada, the accused had to regularly travel all the way to Guwahati to attend proceedings at the Tada court here, which was unnecessary harassment for them,” he said.