POTA NOT APPLICABLE IN GODHRA RIOTS CASE: GUJARAT HC (FEB 13, 2008, TIMES OF INDIA)
In a blow to the Gujarat government, the Gujarat High Court on Thursday ruled that the seven-year-old Godhra train carnage was not an act of terror and hence Pota was not applicable to the case. The state government appointed special investigating team (SIT) had applied Pota after 59 persons, mostly kar sevaks, were killed when S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express was set ablaze on February 27, 2002, sparking off Gujarat-wide riots. The news would come as relief for 79 undertrials who allegedly formed the mob at Godhra railway station on that day, who, according to sources, have already started celebrating their prospective release.
A division bench of the High Court upheld the Pota Review Committee’s conclusion that the Godhra train fire was not a result of terror conspiracy. Now, the accused will be tried under IPC where bail would be easier. "Our priority now is transfer of proceedings to Godhra sessions court and moving bail plea for prisoners who are in jail for quite a long time," said advocate Ilyaskhan Pathan, amicus curiae appointed by the Pota court. The High Court dismissed the petition by Sardarji Waghela, a relative of a Godhra carnage victim, which was supported by Gujarat government and VHP. The court also pulled up the state government for relying heavily on confessions by an accused, Jabir Binyamin Behera, to build a terror angle without any other supporting evidence.
The HC’s evaluation of the case, after the SC supported the review committee’s recommendations for removal of Pota charges in this case, is in stark contrast with the state government-appointed Nanavati-Mehta judicial probe panel which concluded the burning of the coach was a part of "deep-rooted terrorist conspiracy". Seven kg of sweets were brought to the Sabarmati Central Jail on Thursday evening by some visitors. Unbridled celebrations erupted in the jail campus after that as 79 prisoners booked under Pota for the Godhra carnage sensed freedom finally. "It was like Eid inside the jail campus. The Godhra undertrials were embracing each other and celebrating. They now feel that can get bail soon," said a jail official. All these prisoners are kept in the high-security zone.
The inmates have asked their advocates to move a caveat in the Supreme Court to ensure their point of view is taken if the matter goes for a review. At Signal Falia, Godhra, where it all happened seven years back, the joy was echoed but there were no open celebrations. Polan Bazaar, which chief minister Narendra Modi had visited on January 26, there was an air of subdued excitement. Saeed Umarji, son of Maulana Umarji – the prime accused of hatching the "terror conspiracy", said: "The judgement has rekindled our hope for justice. The immediate cause for joy is that the families will hopefully see their men come back soon."
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DSP SLAPPED WITH MURDER CHARGE IN 2002 GODHRA RIOTS CASE (FEB 9, 2008, TIMES OF INDIA)
Valsad Deputy Superintendent of Police K G Erda,the first police officer to be arrested by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigating Team (SIT) in a 2002 Gujarat riots case, has been slapped with a murder charge besides dereliction of duty and evidence tampering offences. Erda was produced before the Metropolitan Magistrate C B Patel at his residence on Monday morning and remanded in police custody till February 13 after the SIT sought his custody for detailed interrogation.
Erda, who was posted at Meghaninagar police station as an inspector during the post-Godhra riots, was arrested yesterday in connection with the gruesome mob attack on Gulbarg society that left 38 people dead including ex-Congress MP Ehsan Jafferi. The SIT, which since March last is investigating afresh some worst post-Godhra riot cases, has under its scanner some key police officials posted in areas affected by communal clashes during post-Godhra 2002 riots.
Erda, who has been accused of dereliction of duty and tampering with evidence, has also been charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which include 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder). He was recently interrogated by the SIT along with some other policemen posted in the riot affected areas.
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FILE STATUS REPORTS ON CUSTODY DEATHS: SC TO STATE GOVTS (FEB 10, 2008, INDIAN EXPRESS)
The amendments brought in recently in the CrPC drew the attention of the Supreme Court on Monday, which observed that these amendments have rendered the famous landmark judgment in D K Basu case ineffective. The judgment had specified measures to be taken while carrying out arrests or preventive detention. "After CrPC amendments, the earlier order on arrests no longer survives," observed the Bench, headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, as it agreed with the counsel assisting the court that custodial death was a serious issue that needed to be checked.
After hearing senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who is assisting the court as an amicus, the Bench, also comprising Justice P Sathasivam, asked all state governments to file their status reports, detailing the exact number of such incidents and steps taken to check them.
Earlier Singhvi, while arguing before the court said that the number of deaths in custody has been increasing and is hence, a cause of worry. Citing the case of Punjab, where 73 cases of death in judicial custody were reported in 2006 and seven cases of deaths in police custody during the same period, the counsel said the states have not been filing their replies.
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KOLI AND PANDHER GET DEATH IN NITHARI CASE (FEB 13, 2008, IBN)
Businessman Moninder Singh Pandher and his domestic help Surendra Koli were on Friday awarded the death sentence for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl – the first punishment in the gruesome murders of 19 children and young women from Nithari village near Noida city in Uttar Pradesh. A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court ruled that the rape and murder of Rimpa Halder was the "rarest of rare" crime and deserved capital punishment. Of the 19 cases of abduction, rape and murder, the CBI has filed charge-sheets in 16 cases. All the cases are being heard separately. Koli, 38, has been charged with rape, abduction and murder in all the cases and Pandher, 55, is co-accused in six cases.
The courtroom, packed with relatives of the victims who were raped, murdered and some eaten, fell into silence as judge Rama Jain pronounced her sentence. "No more penalty could be awarded to the accused persons otherwise. They deserve more punishment as their act of murder and rape in this particular case was beyond all the canons of humanity," the judge said. Pandher, a supplier of earth-moving machines, looked dejected and resigned when the court announced the punishment. It was behind his bungalow in Noida that the body parts of the victims were found in December 2006.
His estranged wife Devinder Kaur and son Karandeep were present as the death sentence was pronounced. "Don’t worry, we’ll appeal to a higher court," Devinder told her husband and tried to hug him before police whisked him away. "I can’t let my dad die," Karandeep told IANS. "Although my father said ‘let me die’, we will be filing an appeal in the high court," Karandeep said about his father, a member of India’s elite old boy’s club having graduated from St. Stephen’s College and done his schooling from Bishop Cotton in Shimla.
There was no such support for Koli, who hails from a village in Uttarakhand, who stood surrounded by policemen, his face covered with a black balaclava. It was pulled down by police, probably for the cameras, and Koli seemed ready to burst into tears. But for Rimpa’s father Anil Haldar, an autorickshaw driver who has lived with the knowledge that his daughter was sexually abused and cannibalised, the ruling was some sort of vindication.
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THE TEMPLE TRIDENT (FEB 9, 2008, INDIAN EXPRESS)
As former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh reworked his position on the demolition of the Babri masjid ahead of the Lok Sabha polls – he owned "moral responsibility" and immediately followed it up by taking "total responsibility" – his old enemy and new "friend" Mulayam Singh was not the only one tracking his hectic exertions. At least three of his former colleagues in the BJP, key protagonists in their own right in 1992, were watching and remembering, in different ways, the movement that brought them together and then splintered. Uma Bharti sees Kalyan Singh’s cross-over as primarily arising from "personal hurt" rather than an ideological shift, caused by the lack of accommodation shown by the BJP to a senior leader. For Govindacharya, it is a marker of a larger change in the BJP; the former BJP ideologue laments the passing of the age of "political polarisation" that he also sees as a time of "political innocence". Vinay Katiyar, however, expresses outrage that "anyone" could join hands with "those who claim ancestry from Babar" and vindication at BJP president Rajnath Singh’s invocation of the Ram temple issue in his speech at Nagpur on Saturday.
Uma Bharti, frozen in public imagination as the "fiery sanyasin" because of her aggressive speeches and role in the Ramjanambhoomi agitation in the late ’80s and early ’90s, is one of the eight accused in the demolition case. Expelled from the party in December 2005, she floated her own Madhya Pradesh-based outfit, the Bharatiya Janshakti Party to take on the BJP in April 2006. "Kalyan Singh became chief minister because of the Ramjanambhoomi movement," she says. "He took advantage of it, and got a clear majority. But he did not lead the movement in UP. I did." Bharti does not view Kalyan’s new political alignment with the Samajwadi Party as an ideological shift. "The BJP should have responded to his grievance. If he said that Ashok Pradhan should not be given a ticket from Bulandshahar, because Pradhan had humiliated him there, the party should have fielded Pradhan from some other seat. The BJP is a big party. It should have listened to Kalyan Singh."
Bharti reiterates her own role in the movement for the Ram temple that "collapsed" after the demolition. "I am proud of it. I will never disown it. If there is another movement to construct the Ram temple, I will certainly participate in it." Because "for me, Hindutva was never a political agenda. It was a personal faith that drew me to the BJP and the sangh". And because, "the demolition of the masjid was necessary", though "not in this manner". A temple would have been built, claims Bharti, if the high-level political talks that were underway at the time, engaged in crafting a "consensus", had been allowed to "mature". Then, she says, Ramjanambhoomi would not have been an issue today. Today’s issues, says Bharti, must be different. "Terrorism and corruption should be the political issues today."
Govindacharya was the high-profile and highly articulate Hindutva ideologue from the late ’80s to 2000 when he took a sabbatical from the BJP; he left the party three years later. Now he heads the Rashtriya Swabhiman Aandolan which takes up issues that are "pro-poor" and "pro-India", and stakes claim to a political space that he says has been vacated by both the Congress and BJP. Kalyan Singh’s leaving the BJP and floating his own party in 1999, or his joining forces with Mulayam Singh now, does not surprise or shock him, says Govindacharya. Because, "Kalyan Singh merely took the credit after the demolition. Even on December 6, his reaction to the loss of power showed that he did not have conviction in the movement. He only tried to encash it politically later". The "lessons" of December 6, he says, have not been learnt. "The BJP has neither confronted nor resolved the tension between the dynamic of a cadre-based party and that of a mass movement." Moreover, "the BJP is becoming more like the Congress, the difference between the two parties is narrowing everyday", he says.
The "old polarisation" that was so visible in 1992 is lost, laments Govindacharya. "We need a new polarisation", he says, in which the Congress and BJP are seen to be on the same side. Vinay Katiyar, long-time Ayodhya trooper, founder president of the Bajrang Dal and former president of the BJP’s UP unit, was most recently in the news for demanding a ban on the Islamist seminary of Dar-ul-Uloom. He is also one of the eight accused in the demolition case. For Katiyar, the issue has not changed in 17 years. "Everyone has the freedom to decide where they want to be," he says. "But those who advocate terrorism, and organisations like the SIMI, and those who praise Aurangzeb, must not be supported," he says on Kalyan Singh’s decision to campaign for the Samajwadi Party. "I feel insulted every time the Ram Janambhoomi is referred to as the Babri Masjid. I don’t know about the BJP, but Vinay Katiyar began the movement and Vinay Katiyar will see it through," he says. For Katiyar, once a Ram temple is constructed, "all terrorism will end and our borders will be secure".
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MORAL POLICING: GIRL COMMITS SUICIDE IN MANGALORE (FEB 12, 2008, INDIAN EXPRESS)
In a tragic fallout of moral policing in the city, a teenaged girl allegedly committed suicide after suspected Sangh Parivar activists publicly humiliated the girl for being friendly with a Muslim boy and handed both of them to police. Sixteen year old Ashwini, a student of class ninth at the Aikala High School in Kinnigoli, along with her friend Mahadevi had gone to Maroor near Moodabidri in a bus to meet Saleem, a conductor-cum owner of the bus on Tuesday afternoon.
A group of suspected Sangh Parivar activists stopped the bus and took the three to Maroor police station. Police then called Ashwini’s parents and handed her over to them. Unable to bear the humiliation, the girl committed suicide by hanging herself at her house on Wednesday night, police said.
However, on the complaint of the girl’s father, a case has been registered against Saleem under Section 376 and 305 of the IPC for luring and raping the girl, police said. The case come close on the heels of the kidnap of the daughter of a Kerala CPM MLA, who was dragged out of a bus while she was talking to her male friend, who belonged to a minority community.
- Abductors slapped me, says CPI(M) MLAs daughter (Feb 7, 2008, Hindustan Times)
- In police records, Sene gen secys Delhi address is BJP leaders house (Feb 11, 2008, Indian Express)
- Attackers asked me not to speak to Christians or Muslims (Feb 9, 2008, The Hindu)
- Sena in Rajasthan turns Sene overnight (Feb 10, 2008, Indian Express)
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VHP MEN RANSACK JHARKHAND POST OFFICE FOR SELLING V-DAY CARDS (FEB 13, 2008, HINDUSTAN TIMES)
Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) supporters on Thursday ransacked the main post office of Bokaro district to protest the sale of Valentine’s Day cards. A post office employee was injured, police said. More than 50 supporters of VHP attacked the Bokaro head office on Thursday afternoon. They shouted anti-Valentine’s Day slogans and smashed window panes. Shashi Das, an employee, sustained head injures.
Das was admitted in a private nursing home for treatment. His condition is said to be out of danger. Police arrested three VHP supporters involved in the incident. The post office employees filed a case against the VHP workers at a city police station.
The post master of Bokaro head office Laldeo Singh told reporters: "There is nothing wrong in selling Valentine’s Day cards. It is beyond our imagination why VHP supporters attacked the post office and stared abusing the postal department staff and the customers."
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TWIST IN RIZWANUR CASE, COP FOUND MURDERED (FEB 11, 2008, IBN)
A key witness in the Rizwanur Rahman murder case that had rocked Kolkata and the West Bengal government has been found dead. Arindam Manna was found dead in exactly the same way as Rizwan. Manna, who was also the first investigating officer in the case and later turned witness, was found on the railway tracks in Hooghly with cut marks on his neck. The body was found at 0830 hours IST on Wednesday morning.
Police believe it is a case of murder. Manna was posted with General Railway Police, and had begun investigation in the Rizwanur Rehman case. The Supreme Court on January 16 granted bail to Kolkata industrialists Ashok Kumar Todi and Pradeep Kumar Todi in the Rizwanur case. A Bench of Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and P Sathasivam rejected the CBI’s argument that the accused will influence the investigation if freed on bail.
The apex court, however, granted liberty to the CBI to move an application for cancellation of bail if and when the accused indulge in such attempts. Ashok Kumar Todi and his brother Pradeep have been accused by the CBI of abetting the suicide of Rizwanur Rehman due to his matrimonial relationship with the former’s daughter Priyanka Todi. Rizwanur, a 30-year-old graphic designer working with a multimedia firm, was found dead on September 21 last year near railway tracks at Kolkata’s Patipukur suburb, barely a month after marrying Priyanka.
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FEROZABAD COP SUSPENDED, BOOKED AFTER RAPE CHARGE (FEB 10, 2008, INDIAN EXPRESS)
A Ferozabad Station Officer was suspended and booked for allegedly molesting a rape victim at the police station on Sunday evening. The girl, who belongs to the Dalit community, alleged that when she came to the police station, the SO, Satyendra Sheel, took her in a room to "record her statement" and then raped her. The ADG (Law & Order), Brij Lal, said Sheel had not raped the girl, but he has been suspended. The Superintendent of Police (SP) Ferozabad-Chandra Prakash said, an internal inquiry concluded that "it was a case of molestation, not rape."
The CO Jasrana, Jai Prakash, who conducted the inquiry, said the circumstantial evidence and the statement of other policemen suggested that the SO was alone in a room with the girl and he made advances on her. "But the doors of the room were open and no attempt was made to rape the victim. Still, since the girl alleged rape, a detailed investigation is on," he said. The Station House Officer of Jasrana, BD Pushkar, is formally investigating the case. Sheel was suspended after the Prakash’s report was submitted to the Superintendent of Police, Chandra Prakash.
The 18-year-old girl, a resident of Keshpura village, had come to the police station after her brother lodged an FIR at the Fariha police station on February 7, alleging two local men, Tinchu and Shilesh, had raped her. Sheel asked him to bring her and get her statement recorded, said Chandra Prakash. The brother later alleged that the girl rushed out of the room and told him that the Sheel had raped her. Earlier, the girl had denied that she had been raped by Tinchu and Shilesh, the SP said. Initial inquiries revealed that she had eloped with Tinchu and her family had forcibly brought her back. Later, they lodged the FIR. The medical examination of the girl after the first FIR had ruled out rape, the SP said.
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COPS SUSPENDED OVER DALIT WOMANS DEATH (FEB 12, 2008, TIMES OF INDIA)
As many as nine police personnel, including the police station in-charge, were put under suspension on Wednesday in connection with the death of a Dalit woman, who was assaulted by the cops from Itwa police station in Sidhartnagar district. Additional director general of police (ADG) Law & Order, Crime and Special Task Force (STF) Brij Lal said that the action was initiated on the basis of the news report (front-paged by TOI in its edition dated February 11, 2009 highlighting police attempts to hush up the case). "Senior officials have been directed to look into the lapses including the delay in lodging of a case in connection with the woman’s death and fix responsibility accordingly," Brij Lal said.
The nine policemen suspended include all those who were involved in the said raid at the house of victim Baasumati in Itwa police circle late night on February 7. "Apart from the police station in- charge, a sub-inspector, six con stables and a police driver have been put under suspension with immediate effect and an inquiry has been ordered into the entire episode," Brij Lal said. Allegations are that a police team from Itwa in Sidhartnagar district reached the house of Baa sumati looking for her teenaged son Bindeshwari on February 8, 2009. The police action came after two alleged robbers picked up by the Itwa police earlier the same evening, named Bindeshwari as their associate. When the police failed to find Bindeshwari, they allegedly assaulted his mother Baa sumati, who suffered severe injuries and was admitted to the hospital, where she later died.
Surprisingly, the Itwa police tried to hush up the case and the station officer (SO) Itwa himself denied that any such incident had happened when contacted by the TOI on phone on Tuesday night. Sidharthnagar SSP though admitted to be aware of the incident, expressed his inability to confirm if any FIR had been lodged in connection with the incident. "I think the scene of the incident would come under Balrampur district but I am not sure," SSP Sidhartnagar Sridhar Pathak said. SP Balrampur, however, claimed that he too had heard that such an incident had taken place, but even he was not aware of the details. "It must have been registered with the Itwa police in Sidhartnagar," SP Balrampur K Eji learsan told TOI on phone on Tuesday night.
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