Justice eludes the wrongly accused

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Remains of the day 16 persons were injured in the 2013 Malleswaram blast.
Photo: Bangalore News Photo

Last November, in what was perhaps its first such intervention in a terror case, the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission (KSHRC) directed the state government to pay compensation to three men wrongly arrested for involvement in a bomb blast outside the BJP office in Malleswaram, Bengaluru. But Peer Mohideen, Saddam Hussain and Tenkashi Haneef are yet to receive any compensation.

The blast took place on 17 April 2013, when the state was gearing up for the Assembly election. Congress leader Siddaramaiah, who replaced Shettar as the Karnataka chief minister after the polls, had at that time accused the BJP of carrying out the blast to garner sympathy votes. Later, the Bengaluru Police pinned the blame on the Tamil Nadu-based terror outfit Al Umma, which had earlier been banned by the Tamil Nadu government for orchestrating the 1998 Coimbatore bombings.

The police prepared a list of 17 persons who were allegedly connected with the Malleswaram blast. Thirteen of them were lodged in the Bangalore Central Jail. Most of them had earlier been accused of being involved in the Coimbatore blasts and later acquitted in that case after spending around 10 years in prison.

Mohideen, 39, was named as the “prime accused” in the FIR filed just after the Malleswaram blast. He was picked up along with his brother-in-law Basheer in a joint operation of the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu Police. Mohideen had to spend six months in jail before the investigators realised they had no substantial evidence against him. His name did not figure in the chargesheet filed on 19 October, nor did the names of Hussain and Haneef.

Soon after his release on 29 October, Mohideen had told TEHELKA that he was incarcerated because of his refusal to turn an approver in the case. He also alleged that he had been tortured in custody. Hussain, too, was released soon after, while Haneef continues to languish in the Trichy jail as he was also accused in another case.

The KSHRC immediately took suo moto notice of the cases of Mohideen, Hussain and Haneef, and directed the Karnataka chief secretary to release an interim compensation of Rs 2 lakh each. In its order, the commission stated, “There is a need to look at victims of police lapses. Arresting and sending (people) behind bars on charges of terrorism for no fault (of theirs), amounts to serious lapses on the part of the investigators. Police officers, who, without thinking, subjected innocent men to unjust detention and torture to extract confessions, should be made accountable… The award of compensation was just a small step towards sensitisation of the police force towards the view that a person whose rights have been violated should be regarded as a victim.”

However, Abdul Kalam, legal counsel for the three men, says, “Even after eight months since the KSHRC’s directive and 15 months after they had been arrested in the Malleswaram blast case, not even one of them has received any compensation.”

Home Secretary SK Pattanayak told TEHELKA, “I do not know why the compensation was not paid, but I will look into it.”

So, what lies ahead for the three men who were arrested and then released without their names figuring in the chargesheet?

According to KSHRC member G Hunugund, the commission has already done what it could by issuing a directive to the state government to pay interim compensation to all those who got hurt in the blast and whose property was damaged as well as those who were wrongly arrested. “If the government has not released the compensation for Mohideen, Hussain and Haneef, there is nothing that we can do,” says Hunugund. “The onus is on them to approach the high court.”

Kalam, however, informs that his clients do not want to move the court on the compensation issue as they fear it would antagonise the police and “more innocents might be arrested”.

imran@tehelka.com

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