The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted bail to Gulzar Ahmad Wani, a former Aligarh Muslim University scholar, who has been languishing in a Lucknow jail for the last 16 years, reported the PTI. The bail will, however, be effective from November 1, 2017.
The court told the Uttar Pradesh government that Wani should be released on bail on November 1 if the trial court is unable to complete the examination of witnesses by that time. “The trial court is directed to complete the exercise of examining the material witnesses by October 31, 2017. Whether the exercise is completed or not, the petitioner (Wani) shall be released on bail from November 1, 2017, on set terms and conditions of the trial court,” a bench led by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar said.
The Supreme Court also came down heavily on the Uttar Pradesh government for incarcerating Wani for 16 years despite his acquittal in most of the cases. “Out of 11 cases, he has been acquitted in 10 cases. What a shame! The problem is that you want to keep him inside the jail but not complete the trial. He was acquitted in all other cases,” the bench told the counsel for Uttar Pradesh, according to a report by The Indian Express.
The court noted that the trial moved slowly despite its directions asking recording of evidence to be completed within six months. “You seem to be very casual,” the bench said. Only 20 of the 96 prosecution witnesses have been examined so far in the case.
However, senior advocate PN Mishra, counsel for the state government, submitted that Wani has not been imprisoned for the pending case in the past 16 years.
Wani, now 43, is a native of Peeparkari area in Srinagar. He is currently lodged in the Lucknow district jail. He was earlier convicted and sentenced for 10-years-imprisonment for allegedly carrying explosives for a blast in Delhi, but his sentence was suspended later. The pending case against him pertains to the Sabarmati Express train blast.
The 2000 blast had occurred near Kanpur on the eve of Independence Day when the train was on its way from Muzaffarpur to Ahmedabad. The blast had claimed ten lives.
Note: A previous version of the article incorrectly stated that Gulzar Ahmad Wani is a resident of Baramulla, where he is reported to have studied prior to joining AMU. The error is regretted. The article has been updated to include details of the Sabarmati Express blast.