Give Justice Another Chance by Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam (JULY 31, 2013)

The court verdict on July 25 and sentencing of Shahzad Ahmad on July 30 in the infamous Batla House encounter case has too many gaping holes in it. As some of the crucial issues involved were overlooked by the judge, justice must be given another chance at it.

We have been dismayed by the judgment. We, as the minority suffering most from police prejudice and excesses, do not feel reassured to see the police version being endorsed by the court without giving a proper consideration to the written argument by the defence lawyers.

It is encouraging to know that already the defence has prepared to go in appeal to the High Court. Rightly so, as all the six witnesses in the case were police personnel. Curiously, even they had not seen anybody getting into or out of the Batla House flat during the siege or firing, or soon after it.

The point is, how did Shahzad escape unscathed from the flat surrounded by heavily armed policemen during the encounter and go to a media house. He was arrested a couple of hours later several kilometers away from the encounter site. At the time of the encounter he was not in Batla House, while the prosecution lawyer has been gloating over his achievement in “proving” that he was in the besieged flat during the encounter.

Enigmas like no bullets recovered from the body of Inspector M C Sharma, who died from injuries sustained in the counter, nor any matching of it with the weapons supposedly used by those under siege. Shahzad’s impossible escape from the spot has been taken for granted by the judgment, a “fact” not supported even by the six witnesses, who had not seen anybody getting in or out of the flat.

The six bullet holes in the centre of the top of the crown of the slain youth, Atif, leave everyone amazed as it is impossible to shoot somebody in the centre of the crown in an encounter. The only way of doing it is to force him to sit and shoot him from above.

A number of such questions central to justice in the case, have been left unaddressed. The judge had also rejected the defence plea to visit the area to ascertain the impossibility of a cornered person escaping out of the flat.

As the defence argument and facts have not been given a proper consideration, and the judgment has been merely an endorsement of the police version, the aggrieved must go in appeal to a higher court to complete the due process left incomplete in the judgment.

At the end one must take note of Finance Minister P. Chidambram’s hasty endorsement of the judgment as justification for the police encounter. As lawyer he should know that it was a lopsided judgment of a sessions court most likely to be overturned by a higher court that would take into account all crucial issues overlooked by the lower court. We expect patience and dignity from important government leaders like Mr Chidambram, who happened to be the Home Minister at the time of the encounter.

 

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