On the face of it, it was a mere Rs 5,000 a Delhi court imposed on the UP government for non-appearance of its Special Public Prosecutor in a case of murder of over 40 Muslims. But in effect, it was the judge's comment on the vested interests' ability to delay justice.
Over 19 years have elapsed since 19 Provincial Armed Constabulary personnel allegedly picked up the victims during curfew hours from Meerut's Hashimpura, shot them and dumped their bodies in the Upper Ganga Nahar and Hindon Canal. "If ever there was an instance of miscarriage of justice," said a member of the National Commission for Minorities that took suo motu notice of the case, "this is the one." He said the Spl PP's no-show flew in the face of the UP law and home secretaries' assurances to NCM last Friday of the state's cooperation to ensure a speedy trial.
Of the 19 accused, three — including the commander of the PAC platoon that went on the shooting spree — are dead. The Supreme Court transferred the trial in 2002 to the District and Sessions Judge, Delhi, on being petitioned by victims' families that they had lost confidence in the UP administration that failed to serve on the accused the concerned CJM's non-bailable warrants on 18 occasions.
It wasn't the least surprising, therefore, that Additional Sessions Judge N.P. Kaushik took a dim view on Monday of what he called the "prosecution's evident lack of interest in the case" — as brought out by the absence of Spl PP Surender Adhlakha for the "examination of eyewitness" Zulfikar Nasir, who survived the May 22, 1987 massacre.
On July 22, Nasir, in the course of his incomplete examination, gave a graphic account of the killings. He had also showed the court the bullet injuries he suffered.
The effectiveness of the trial is already in doubt with the CB-CID telling the court it returned to the PAC the rifles (vital evidence) used by the accused. The NCM also took up the matter relating to the murder weapons with the UP officials whom it had summoned. Confirming their "re-circulation", the Home Secretary reportedly promised to take steps to have the rifles traced.
Judge Kaushik has posted the case for further hearing on August 8. Some 164 witnesses have to be examined, Nasir being the first.