Remember Irfan Hussein? Like Shivani Bhatnagar, he too was an enterprising journalist—a cartoonist with the Outlook magazine. Both were murdered in 1999 in East Delhi just three months apart. Revenge again was the alleged motive in both the cases.
But similarities end here. While Shivani got justice with the conviction of former IPS official RK Sharma, the court acquitted all five accused in the Irfan murder case in February 2006 after witnesses turned hostile.
His 79-year-old father Mansoor Bhai is now fighting a lonely battle to get justice for Irfan. Shuttling between Delhi and Nagpur, where he now resides, he is upset at the media turning a blind eye to his son's cause despite him being a journalist.
The old man's efforts suffered the biggest blow when the police categorically told the Delhi High Court that it would be futile to file an appeal against the trial court verdict.
A status report filed by DCP H M Meena said: “since the case was entirely based on circumstantial evidence, it would not stand the test before the High Court as neither the chain of events was complete nor the key witness supported the case”.
A city court had on February 28, 2006 acquitted accused Mustafa, Sanjay, Heera, Mohammed Jasin and Mohammed Shahid giving them “benefit of doubt” as all key witness turned hostile.
According to the police, Irfan was abducted allegedly by highway carjackers on March 8, 1999 while he was driving home from the Press Club. His decomposed body was found in a bush five days later near Ghazipur in East Delhi.
Meena said it was a clear case of blind murder as there was not a single eyewitness. So all the missing links had to be found out by the police by way of circumstantial evidence But this did not succeed as witnesses turned hostile.
But Bhai is not upset over the acquittal of the accused. “Persons charged with the offence had nothing to do with the case and were framed to shield the guilty. My son is a victim of political conspiracy to eliminate him and the police are under pressure to save them,” Bhai said in a petition filed in the High Court in September 2006 through lawyer Anup J Bhambani seeking a CBI probe.
Bhai alleged that at an iftar party, hosted by the then PM A B Vajpayee a few days before the murder, a youth angry over Irfan's sarcastic cartoon on Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray had threatened Irfan. But the police mysteriously did not probe this angle. Bhai told the court that after the abduction, wife of another Delhi cartoonist received a threat call. The caller said: “Irfan was dead, and your husband a cartoonist with National Herald in Delhi was the next.”
The High Court, which is to hear the case on March 31, has summoned the case records from the lower court rekindling hopes of a re-investigation in the minds of Irfan's father. “Aap log meri madad kijiye. Tabhi Shivani jaise mere bete ko bhi insaaf milega,” (You all please help me. Only then my son will get justice like Shivani Bhatnagar) the distraught father told the Hindustan Times from Nagpur.