The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court today rejected the decision of the state government to withdraw criminal cases against 19 persons facing terror charges in connection with the serial blasts in Lucknow, Varanasi and Faizabad. This comes as a big set back to the ruling Samajwadi Party ahead of the 2014 parliament elections, as it had promised in its election manifesto for the March 2012 assembly elections, the withdrawal of cases against all innocent Muslims lodged in different jails of the state.
A three-judge bench of the high court ruled that all the 19 persons were charged under Central laws like the Passport Act and Unlawful Prevention of Activities Act, and hence the state government cannot withdraw the criminal cases against them without getting prior sanction from the Centre. The court said that even if the sanction is granted by the Centre, the cases cannot be withdrawn without the approval of the designated court.
The bench, comprising Justice DP Singh, Justice Ajay Lamba and Justice Ashok Pal gave this judgment after a two-member bench had earlier stayed the decision of the state government to withdraw the cases. The government had decided to release suspected terrorists accused in the serial blasts in the districts court of Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Lucknow, the CRPF center at Rampur and other places of the state.
The government’s counsel in the high court pleaded that the state government has decided to withdraw the cases as per the recommendations of the Nimesh Commission. The commission was constituted by the previous Bahujan Samaj Party government in March 2008 to probe the arrests of Haqeem Tariq of Azamgarh and Khalid Mujahid of Jaunpur by the STF in connection with the serial court blasts. The report of the Nimesh commission was tabled by the state government in the state assembly in September 2012.
Earlier in May this year the state government suffered a jolt when a Barabanki court rejected its plea to withdraw cases against the two alleged Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) operatives. The Special Sessions Judge Kalpana Mishra rejected the application moved by the state government on 24 April to withdraw cases against Tariq Kasmi and Khalid Mujahid, accused in the 2007 Gorakhpur bomb blasts, which left six injured. The State had argued that the withdrawal of cases was in “public interest and for the sake of communal harmony,” but the court took it to task for submitting faulty and incomplete papers instead.
Senior SP leader and minority affairs minister Azam Khan refusing to comment on the merit of the court’s order said, “The law department will examine whether there was any lapse on the part of the government’s counsel in forcefully pursuing the case before the court”.
“If the high court had directed the state government to seek the prior sanction of the Centre, then the state government would have approached the Central government with the belief that they would do justice with the persons of the minority community lodged in jail under terror charges”, said Khan. However, criticizing the Congress he said, “Congress has always worked against the interests of the Muslims, they have passed the food security law but have no concern for the Life security law”.
The UP government has so far filed two applications for withdrawal of cases, but the courts have not allowed either. The terror accused whose cases the government has decided to withdraw include Shamin alias Sharif, accused in the Varanasi blast, Mohammad Tariq Quasmi, accused in the Gorakhpur serial blast, Mukhtar Hussain, Ali Akbar, Azijur Rahman, Naushad Hafiz, Noorul Islam and Yakub, a suspect in the serial blasts in the civil courts of Lucknow, Faizabad and Varanasi. The list also includes Maqsood, Javed and Taj Mohammad, accused in the terror attack on the CRPF center at Rampur.