By Mihika Jindal:
While the entire nation was celebrating the unprecedented victory of Narendra Modi led Bhartiya Janta Party on 16th May, 2014, the Supreme Court delivered its judgment in Akshardham Temple terror attack case — a news that has not really come forth as it should have!
The Supreme Court acquitted all six accused in 2002 Gujarat riot case, taking to task the Gujarat police for a shoddy investigation which was carried out neither on informed decisions nor analysis. The division bench comprising of Justice AK Patnaik and Justice V Gopala Gowda opined that the prosecution failed to establish their crime beyond reasonable doubt which entitled the accused for exoneration from all charges.
The gruesome attack on the Akshardham temple has always been and will continue to be unfortunate page of the history book of India, which claimed 33 lives and left 85 injured in a bloody event that lasted for about 24 hours.Â A special court under the prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) was convened in 2006 where the court awarded the death sentence to Abdul Kayum and Adambhai Suleiman; while Mohd Hanif Sheikh, Abdullamiya Kadri and two others were given rigorous imprisonment ranging between 10 years and life. The same was upheld by the Gujarat High Court. The appeal was filed against these orders which has now finally been heard and allowed by the Supreme Court acquitting all accused.
“On the basis of issues, we have already answered the facts and evidence on record and on the basis of legal principles laid down by this court; we are convinced that accused persons are innocent with respect to the charges levelled against them”, said the court.
The judgment and the opinions shared by the hon’ble bench brought forth the failure of the judicial system, at the hands of which the accused and imprisoned suffered for eleven long years. The case highlighted and authenticated the old saying of ‘justice delayed is justice denied’, making it increasingly difficult for people to vest their faith and trust in the system. The judges further opined that the trial being carried out in the lower courts could not even keep up with the basic requirement of natural justice and Article 21 of our constitution, which is a fundamental right of every citizen.
The accused have spoken a tale of torture and torment post the decision. Mohd Saleem, who was sentenced for life under POTA, recounts, “they picked me up alleging a problem with my passport. They beat me up brutally. I still have scars of my back and my foot got fractured. They asked me which case I wanted to be charged under — Akshardham, Pandya or Godhra. I did not know what to say.” It is clearly heart wrenching to witness the reports of the prisoners, who are arrested and put behind bars in false cases or mere presumptions. It is even more discouraging to realize that these are the accused of the cases hogging media attention who are at least getting to present their accounts as against tons of prisoners who are facing the wrath of the system without justification. What more? The way this news has been made to underplay and has not found spot in the ‘breaking news’ section has forced the general populace to question the reason for this lack of attention.
The scenario is parked at an interesting juncture. On the one side is Mr. Narendra Modi, who is ready to take his oath as the next Prime Minister on 26th May, with his vision up ahead as the reformist leader looking to bring about a substantial visible change in the nation, and on the flip side, is this judgment, which can stir an anti-wave amongst certain classes, forcing them to reconsider their decision of graciously voting for BJP. At this delicate point, it is for the media and people to possibly take out the best and not sit down to ponder over their decision or to swim in pool of doubts and apprehension in context of forthcoming governance. At the end of the day, the innocent have been freed. True that the eleven ruined years will not come back and the life will possibly never be the same but like they say — all is well that ends well!