Framed, Damned, Acquitted: Dossiers of a ‘Very’ Special Cell
Given below is the report Framed, Damned, Acquitted: Dossiers of a ‘Very’ Special Cell, released yesterday in Delhi by the JAMIA TEACHERS’ SOLIDARITY ASSOCIATION.
When human rights activists, or families of those arrested on charges of terrorism, allege foul play on part of the investigating agencies, the usual response is this: Surely, there must have been some involvement, or else why would the police arrest him, and not me?
The findings of this report counter and contest the complacence of such all too familiar commonsense. We document here 16 cases, in which those arrested, in main by the Special Cell of Delhi Police, were accused of being operatives and agents of various terrorist organizations (Al Badr, HUJI, Lashkar), and charged with the most heinous of crimes: sedition; war against the state; criminal conspiracy, planning and causing bomb blasts; training of terrorists; collection of arms, ammunition and explosives and the transfer of funds for terrorist activities. The penalties demanded by the police and prosecution in these cases were also, correspondingly, the most severe: in most cases, life sentence or the death penalty. However between 1992 and 2012 a large number of those arrested were acquitted of all charges by the courts.
The report documents the story of these acquittals. It draws primarily on the court judgments, but also on media reports of the arrests and the trial that followed. The evidence that the report presents shows clearly that the acquittals were not simply for want of evidence. What judgment after judgment comments on is the manner in which the so-called evidence provided by the police and the prosecution was tampered with and fabricated, how story after story as presented by the prosecution was unreliable, incredulous, and appeared as concocted.
The fabrication of evidence is a serious offence under the Indian Penal Code.
You will find in this report, instances where the courts clearly indict the Special Cell for framing innocents; reprimanding them for violating due process and fabricating evidence; ordering a CBI probe against the Special Cell, as well as directing the filing of FIR and the initiation of departmental enquiries against them.
In the Dhaula Kuan fake encounter case, the Court was of the opinion that, “there cannot be any more serious or grave crime than a police officer framing an innocent citizen in a false criminal case. Such tendency in the police officers should not be viewed or dealt with lightly but needs to be curbed with a stern hand.”
Acquitting an alleged terrorist of the Peoples’ Liberation Army in Manipur, the Court concluded that “the police got him targeted to become a victim of this crime.”
The CBI investigating the apprehension of alleged operatives of Al Badr by the Special Cell was withering in its conclusions and sought “legal action against SIs Vinay Tyagi, Subhash Vats and Ravinder Tyagi” for fabrication of evidence.
Not a single officer in any of the operations described here has suffered criminal proceedings for the framing of innocents. Adverse observations, strictures and censures from the court have not come in the way of promotions, gallantry awards and President’s medals. Even after the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) indicted ACP Sanjeev Yadav – a figure who will surface regularly in these pages – for staging an encounter in Sonia Vihar in 2006, he continues to head probes as crucial and sensitive as the attack on the Israeli diplomat in Delhi.
The paltry rate of conviction in such cases – a mere 30 per cent, as revealed by an RTI enquiry recently – is attributed to inefficiency, to bad investigating skills or poor infrastructure. A closer look however reveals an uncanny, almost scripted pattern in the cases:
- Secret information, which can never be verified or disclosed, leads the police to the accused.
- Public and independent witnesses are rarely joined in the actual operation, even when the accused are apprehended in public places with people present.
- Private vehicles are used in the operation doing away with the need of logs thereby making it difficult if to verify if any such operation did really take place.
- The time and date of the actual ‘picking up’ of the accused is reveled by the subsequent trial to have been much earlier than that alleged in the police story. Illegal detention, a recurrent feature, is sought to be hidden from the court through blatantly concocted narratives.
- Seizure memos are often made in the PS / Special Cell office, and not at the supposed time of seizure, often in the same handwriting and ink as the FIR
- Senior officers are protected from appearing before the court by not making them witnesses
- The nexus between Special Cell, central intelligence agencies and police force of conflict zones, especially Jammu and Kashmir, but also Manipur.
These men – whose cases we document here – were acquitted. Yet they all unjustly suffered the most harrowing of experiences for varying lengths of time: illegal detention and torture (physical and psychological), incarceration and trial. Acquittals were by no means the end of their tragedy for they returned from their experience to a different world: Businesses were destroyed; family members were broken having suffered the humiliation and trauma of being associated with “terrorists”; children had to abandon their studies and the normality of everyday life, while parents passed away in grief and despair. Some cases like that of young Md. Amir Khan, which was a practically open and shut case, where the prosecution had virtually no leg to stand on, got drawn out for 14 painful and long years.
And yet, they have been offered no apology, no rehabilitation. Worse still, none of the officers guilty of framing them have been acted against.
Part of the trauma of those arrested and their families on such serious charges results from the reporting in the press, which is more often than not, tilted heavily in favour of the investigating agency. Almost without exception, the media has acted as ‘faithful stenographers’ of the police; not only presuming the guilty to be innocent but also failing to follow cases where innocence is established. We have tried to reproduce the reportage that appeared at the time of arrests in as many cases as possible. The cases documented below cautions us against taking the police version at face value. The bombastic claims of ‘breakthroughs’ and ‘achievements’ by the police must always be subjected to questioning and independent analysis.
To those who say, ‘there is no smoke without fire’, we hope that this report will serve as a grim eye opener. The reasons behind the police – the Special Cell in this case, but this could be true for any other investigating agency as well – framing innocents can be many: to settle scores, to teach a lesson, to buy favours, to dispose of petty informers past their usefulness, to ‘help out’ colleagues in other parts of the country.
The 16 cases we present here are only the proverbial tip of the iceberg, and simply indicative of the extent of the malaise affecting our policing and criminal justice system.
To procure hard copies of the report in English and Hindi, or to make contributions to JTSA, write to info dot jtsa at gmail dot com.