An endless wait for justice

Updated on Feb 07, 2008 01:45 AM IST
The Bombay High Court is scheduled to hear a three-year-old petition by two victims of the 1992-93 communal riots today, reports Chitrangada Choudhury. More report
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Hindustan Times | ByChitrangada Choudhury, Mumbai

After a 19-month lull, the Bombay High Court is scheduled to hear a three-year-old petition by two victims of the 1992-93 communal riots on Thursday. Seminary teacher Noorul Ahmed and handcart puller Ashfaque Ahmed are demanding that the state prosecute the policemen, including then Joint Commissioner Ramdeo Tyagi, who gunned down nine men — deemed innocent by a judicial commission that probed the riots and a government task force — on January 9, 1993, at the Suleman Usman Bakery on Mohammed Ali Road.

This was at the height of the communal riots that followed the Babri Masjid demolition in December 1992.

While the police maintained that the Tyagi-led Special Operations Squad was acting against an armed group sheltered in the bakery, the Srikrishna Commission that probed the riots challenged this account in 1998. A Special Task Force reiterated this in 2001, charging the policemen with murder.

The firing marked one of the worst cases of police violence during the riots that left over 900 dead. It also brought into focus the state’s reluctance to prosecute riot crimes, especially by men in uniform.

Tyagi, who retired in 1997 as Mumbai’s commissioner and now runs a security firm, said: “The Sessions Court cleared me. All the facts are in the judgment. People should read it. I am not interested in the case anymore. There has to be some finality of action in these matters rather than subjecting police officers to political victimisation.”

In April 2003, the Sessions Court discharged 10 policemen, including Tyagi, saying they “acted in discharge of their official duty”.

The petitioners, both in their 40s today, were reluctant to talk. Their lawyer Hansa Advani said: “The legal process and the long struggle to get justice have extracted an emotional toll. They don’t want to talk to the media.”

The high court last heard their petition in June 2006, and it asked the state counsel to reply within a week. The reply never came. The state’s Chief Public Prosecutor Satish Borulkar said: “I will have to check this… But we can argue in court... an affidavit is not necessary.”

Borulkar said the state would reiterate what it stated in its January affidavit to the Supreme Court on another petition charging the state with not delivering justice to riot victims. The state said that an appeal against the policemen’s discharge “is being examined in consultation with the Law and Judiciary Department.”

Meanwhile, a teacher and a handcart puller wait for justice. It’s been 15 years and it seems the ordeal will last a lot longer.

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