Davinder link wouldn’t have affected verdict, says judge in Afzal Guru trial
An alleged link between arrested counter-insurgency officer Davinder Singh and 2001 Parliament Attack convict Afzal Guru would have made no difference to the trial in the terror case, the judge who found the 44-year-old Kashmiri man guilty said on Monday.
Singh, a decorated officer with the Jammu & Kashmir Police, was arrested on Saturday for alleged ties with militants in Kashmir. Police intercepted a car on the national highway and arrested deputy superintendent Singh with two militants and an alleged aide.
The arrest, and Singh’s treatment as a terrorist by police, put the spotlight on an allegation made by Guru in a letter to his lawyers in 2004.
In the letter, written to his lawyer Sushil Kumar, Guru said he helped one of the terrorists killed in the 2001 attack, Mohammed, at the behest of Special Task Force of J&K police and Singh. It was Singh, alleged the letter, who asked Afzal to accompany Mohammed to Delhi and arrange for his stay. In the letter, however, Guru spells the first name of the officer as “Dravinder”.
But justice SN Dhingra, who awarded the death penalty to Guru in 2002, said the allegations would have been distractions and not have had any bearing on Guru’s case.
Guru was hanged in 2013 for waging of war against the state, murder and criminal conspiracy; conspiring and knowingly facilitating terrorist acts and harbouring and concealing terrorists.
“I cannot comment on it (charges against Singh). There are many black sheep in the police, those who just help themselves,’’ said justice Dhingra, adding, “This doesn’t make any difference to Afzal’s case, as that is now done with. At that time, they focussed on terrorists, and if this would have come out, it would have distracted all.’’
But Guru’s lawyer Nandita Haksar alleged the charges were not probed at all, and that Guru was not given proper legal representation. “[Singh] was an important person…but from my own experience, I had my suspicions about his conduct. His luck seems to have run out and now also only convenient truth will come out. Afzal was their asset but was sacrificed as per the demands of the time then,’’ said Sushil Kumar.
During the trial, Afzal never denied his role — that he was in touch with Mohammed. A phone Guru used was in contact with a phone found on Mohammed’s body. But Guru said the phone was provided to him by the STF, and this allegation was not accepted by the courts.
“In the Parliament attack case, I was entrapped by Special Task Force of Kashmir,” Guru wrote in the letter. He alleged that “Dravinder” Singh tortured him and put him in touch with Mohammed. The letter was quoted in Arundhati Roy’s 2013 book, The Hanging of Afzal Guru and the Strange Case of the Attack on Indian Parliament.
Justice Dhingra’s comments came even as the Congress raised questions about Singh’s role in the 2001 attack that killed 14 people and ratcheted up tensions between India and Pakistan. “Who is Devinder Singh? What’s his role in 2001 Parliament Attack? What’s his role in Pulwama Attack, where he was Dy SP DR?,” Congress’s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said in a tweet.
Singh, who was decorated with the President Police Medal about four months ago, was suspended on Monday and continued to be grilled by a team of police and intelligence investigators. His office at Srinagar airport, where he was posted as deputy superintendent of police in the anti-hijacking squad, was sealed.
This isn’t the first instance of officers being accused in terror plots. In 2000, Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) operative Nain Singh was accused of being involved in the Red Fort attack case, where three people died. In the Red Fort case, an investigation by Delhi Police’s Special Cell blamed Lashkar-e-Taiba but the convicted terrorist, Mohammed Arif, claimed he was an agent working for the Indian intelligence community, and that he met Nain Singh at the suggestion of another agency operative.
Arif claimed Nain Singh helped him settle in Delhi, take the identity of a resident of Jammu but ultimately fell out over money. Nain Singh didn’t turn up in court as a witness and the Delhi high court dismissed this allegation. But it acknowledged that the attacker Arif may have been linked to an Indian intelligence wing.
However, it said, that even if Arif knew these police officers through Nain Singh, it was not sufficient reason to conclude that they was falsely implicated.
Haksar said that the two cases underlined the need for transparency in the intelligence services operations.