(Kunal Patil/ HT Photo)
(Kunal Patil/ HT Photo)

Innocence Network: After freedom, the fight for justice

The wrongfully incarcerated come forward to demand justice and reparation
By Dipanjan Sinha | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON APR 11, 2019 03:20 PM IST

Wahid Shaikh is a 40-year-old teacher in Mumbai’s Abdus Sattar Shuaib Primary School. He started working in 1999 but he is still new here, familiarising himself with the staff and students. Shaikh was away for a decade, a period from which he carries memories of a broken arm, being blindfolded for long stretches, and nights of mental and physical trauma.

Shaikh was in prison since September 29, 2006 on the charge of harbouring some of the accused in the June 2006 Mumbai train blasts that killed 188 and left 829 injured. “I was in custody for three months before I was finally sent to jail,” he recalls. “There, I got to know the charges against me for the first time.”

Prison is where Shaikh met 12 other inmates who had also been accused of the crime. Their experiences of being tortured into admitting guilt were horrifying similar to his own. “That is when we made up our mind to fight this injustice and not agree to any falsehood thrust upon us, whatever the degree of torture,” he says.

It was a long wait. Shaikh was released in April, 2015, after a special court acquitted him of all charges. Always innocent, now free again, his life is far from the one he dreamed of in prison. The blindfolds have triggered glaucoma in both eyes and he’s progressively losing his sight. “I have to use two eye drops thrice a day. Each container costs Rs 500 and lasts about ten days,” he says. He ends up spending Rs 6,000 on medicines every month.

Shaikh’s memories of torture are laced with something more potent, a conviction to fight for justice that eludes him and the inmates still behind bars. “It is baffling that no one is pulled up despite case after case indicating that innocent people have spent years in jail and faced torture,” he says. “There is no reprieve for us either,” he says.

Read: Irshad Ali was a police informer. Until the police framed him

Upon release, he has worked alongside organisations like the Jamiat Ulema-I-Hind, to fight a legal battle for the other accused. In 2015, Suhail KK, an activist with the research and advocacy group Quill Foundation, introduced Shaikh to the Innocence Network, a collective inspired by similar initiatives across the world that offers pro bono legal aid for those wrongfully imprisoned, which was then taking shape.

(Kunal Patil/ HT Photo)
(Kunal Patil/ HT Photo)

To highlight the plight of those who have been wrongfully prosecuted, the network held its first tribunal in October last year. Fifteen victims from across the country shared their testimonies with a panel that included academics like Nandini Sundar, chairman of the 20th Law Commission of India, Justice AP Shah and filmmaker Saeed Akhtar Mirza among others.

A forthcoming study by the Quill Foundation on terror prosecution in Maharashtra since 1993, finds that more than 460 people accused of terrorism have been declared innocent after spending an average of three to six years in prison. The study found that both the judicial process and the conviction rate in terror-related cases has been very low: only 42 of 93 cases filed since 2001 against the Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi, with more than 200 accused), have been heard and concluded. Of these, only three saw convictions and 39 have resulted in acquittals.

Suhail, who is also a core member of the network, says that the aim is to build a comprehensive legislative framework to compensate and rehabilitate the wrongfully prosecuted. The second edition of the tribunal will be held in Calicut on March 11.

Read: The Innocent Accused: Are we biased against the minorities?

Shaikh, meanwhile, has recorded his experiences in jail and custody in his book, Bey Gunah Quaidi, which he will release on March 1. “It is not just my story but the story of what all the 13 accused in the case had to go through,” he says.

Delhi-based activist and academic Manisha Sethi, who is involved with Innocence Network, says that it is looking to incorporate psychological counsellors to help freed victims rebuild their lives. “When they come out, the exonerees are a psychological wreck and it is important they get some kind of help immediately,” she says. “They will also be better placed to cope with the intense pressure caused by surveillance after release.”

It’s a move that should come from the government, believes Shaikh. “The state gives compensation and rehabilitation for Left wing extremists and even separatists when they surrender. So why then is there no policy for the innocents?”

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Tewari, one of the 23 leaders who wrote a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi seeking internal reform in the party, addressed the Kerala meeting at the invitation of the Congress’s ally, Indian Union Muslim League.
Tewari, one of the 23 leaders who wrote a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi seeking internal reform in the party, addressed the Kerala meeting at the invitation of the Congress’s ally, Indian Union Muslim League.

After Jammu G23 meet, Tewari hits campaign

By HT Correspondent, Hindustan Tmes, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 03:17 AM IST
  • The meeting came a week after Tewari and other letter writers, the group has been tagged the G23, addressed a meeting in Jammu in honour of retired MP Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Close
In Puducherry, where the party lost power weeks ago, 70 people have hit the ground with the same goal.(PTI)
In Puducherry, where the party lost power weeks ago, 70 people have hit the ground with the same goal.(PTI)

Over 300 people try to gauge mood for Cong in TN, Kerala

PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 03:12 AM IST
  • In Tamil Nadu, the Congress is in alliance with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham (DMK).
Close
Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Karnataka, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu were identified by the Centre as the six regions that have seen a rise in new cases in the recent weeks.(REUTERS)
Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Karnataka, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu were identified by the Centre as the six regions that have seen a rise in new cases in the recent weeks.(REUTERS)

6 states continue to record spike in Covid cases: Centre

By Rhythma Kaul, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 01:22 AM IST
  • The observations from the Union health ministry come a day after the country reported the largest single-day increase in new Covid-19 infections in two months.
Close
Union minister Smriti Irani addresses a press conference, in New Delhi. (PTI)
Union minister Smriti Irani addresses a press conference, in New Delhi. (PTI)

‘Women are not pleading, they are leading’: Smriti Irani

By Vinod Sharma, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 08, 2021 12:53 AM IST
  • Smriti Irani says, "I’m the only female politician who’s also recognised by her former vocation. I recognise the bias in that."
Close
Another senior official said on condition of anonymity that the second half of the session, which starts on Monday, may run for just two weeks.(PTI)
Another senior official said on condition of anonymity that the second half of the session, which starts on Monday, may run for just two weeks.(PTI)

2nd half of Budget session may be cut short due to state polls

By Saubhadra Chatterji, Sunetra Choudhury, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 08, 2021 12:40 AM IST
  • An official said that both Houses could meet at 11 am from the second week following the vaccination of eligible MPs.
Close
Bodies of the man and his son were found in the house while the bodies of the three woman were found near the house, the official added.
Bodies of the man and his son were found in the house while the bodies of the three woman were found near the house, the official added.

Five of family found dead in Chhattisgarh

By Ritesh Mishra, Hindustan Times, Raipur
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 12:27 AM IST
  • A suicide note found at the spot said they took the decision because of acute financial distress, an official said.
Close
Parliament in September 2020 approved an Ordinance promulgated in June to improve revenue from the mining sector and the Centre now wants states to carry out these changes too.(REUTERS)
Parliament in September 2020 approved an Ordinance promulgated in June to improve revenue from the mining sector and the Centre now wants states to carry out these changes too.(REUTERS)

Govt plan to take over mine auctions faces opposition from a few states

By Chetan Chauhan, Gerard de Souza, Hindustan Times, New Delhi, Goa
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 12:21 AM IST
  • The changes have been opposed by some states who see it as another attempt by the Centre to take over mining auctions and impose central rules on a state domain.
Close
India must rapidly build and nurture grassroots-based habitat monitoring and governance.(Representational Photo/HT File)
India must rapidly build and nurture grassroots-based habitat monitoring and governance.(Representational Photo/HT File)

India must strive to catch the ecological bus

By Bharati Chaturvedi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 12:16 AM IST
  • A re-invigorated biodiversity management policy is India’s survival strategy. At this point in our development trajectory, we don’t pay any heed to either biodiversity or landscape conservation.
Close
Satellite image of NASA's Fire Information for Resource Management System of forest fires.(Courtesy- NASA)
Satellite image of NASA's Fire Information for Resource Management System of forest fires.(Courtesy- NASA)

Early summer, lack of rain spark fires

By Jayashree Nandi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 12:10 AM IST
  • According to Forest Survey of India’s forest fire alert system, there were 2,317 fire points last year between February 26 and March 7, but the figure rose to 53,211 this time after data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (SNPP) was taken into account.
Close
Selvi at the age of 32 rappelled down blindfolded from a 155 feet high rock mountain in a Tamil Nadu village(Representative Image )
Selvi at the age of 32 rappelled down blindfolded from a 155 feet high rock mountain in a Tamil Nadu village(Representative Image )

Woman, 32, mother of two rappels down 155-feet mountain blindfolded in 58 sec

ANI, Kancheepuram
UPDATED ON MAR 07, 2021 11:54 PM IST
The record was entered in the UNICO Book of World Records and was certified by an official adjudicator R. Sivaraman.
Close
The incident took place in Transit Camp Colony of Rudrapur on February 19, 2019, when the boy went missing, Gupta said.(HT file photo)
The incident took place in Transit Camp Colony of Rudrapur on February 19, 2019, when the boy went missing, Gupta said.(HT file photo)

24-yr-old man gets death for rape, murder of 5-yr-old boy

By HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Rudrapur
UPDATED ON MAR 08, 2021 12:56 AM IST
Special Pocso judge Vijay Laxmi Vihan also awarded four years of imprisonment to the father of the accused and three years to his mother for concealing the crime, Vikas Gupta, special assistant district government counsel, said.
Close
A charge sheet against the man was also filed in April 2018, prompting him to approach the Allahabad high court for getting the FIR quashed.(Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)
A charge sheet against the man was also filed in April 2018, prompting him to approach the Allahabad high court for getting the FIR quashed.(Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

Every breach of promise to marry doesn’t mean rape: SC

By Utkarsh Anand, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 08, 2021 01:05 AM IST
An SC bench of justices Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud and MR Shah elucidated the legal position while exonerating a 30-year-old man of the rape charge under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code.
Close
HT Image
HT Image

Women are not pleading, they’re leading: Smriti Irani

By Vinod Sharma
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 10:57 PM IST
New Delhi: On the eve of the International Women’s Day, union minister for women and child development Smriti Irani spoke to HT on the challenges and opportunities the women have in the country, her role as a minister and the BJP’s battle axe against the Congress
Close
"The state government is taking a series of measures to take women on the path of development and progress," K Chandrasekhar Rao said. (HT File photo)
"The state government is taking a series of measures to take women on the path of development and progress," K Chandrasekhar Rao said. (HT File photo)

Telangana government declares holiday for women employees on Women's Day

ANI, Hyderabad, Telangana
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 10:55 PM IST
"Women are competing with men in all the fields and are excelling. Women, who constitute 50 per cent of the population, would do wonders if they were given a chance," Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao said.
Close
Mohammed Muthu Meeran Maraickayar died on Sunday(ANI Photo )
Mohammed Muthu Meeran Maraickayar died on Sunday(ANI Photo )

APJ Abdul Kalam's brother Mohammed Muthu Meeran passes way at 104

PTI, Rameswaram
UPDATED ON MAR 07, 2021 10:48 PM IST
Tamil Nadu deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam conveyed condolences over Mohammed Muthu Meeran's demise.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP