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Nigar Cinema accused go scot free
By Obaid Nasir, Lucknow

Nigar Cinema Victims...A two-member Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court on 23 February accepted the appeal of ten persons accused of the Nigar cinema massacre and freed them all. The High Court upheld the December 1999 order of the U.P. state government and of the district and sessions judge of Meerut under which the cases of murder, dacoity and arson against the accused were withdrawn. This order was passed by Chief Justice S.K. Sen and Justice Jagdish Bhalla on the appeal of the accused who had filed it against the order of Justice Mohammad Asghar Khan of the Lucknow Bench of the High Court which had harshly criticized the state government for withdrawing the cases against the accused for brutally murdering 19 Muslims in Nigar Cinema Hall in Meerut (UP) during a communal clash on the eve of the parliamentary elections of 1991. The bench had also ordered the district and sessions judge, Meerut, to re-open the case against the accused persons.

The Nigar cinema saga took a dramatic turn when, on 15 February, the main accused of this heinous crime and city vice president of Shiv Sena Dharam Dutt Sharma, alias Dharma, was shot dead by three scooter-borne youths on Meerut-Baghpat Road. Two other accused, KD Gaurav and Sirohi, were shot dead earlier by the UP Police in an encounter. Dharam Dutt Sharma was a top goonda of the district and was placed by Meerut police at number six in the top ten list of criminals.

Mr. Justice Mohammad Asghar Khan of the Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court had given his judgement on a revision petition filed by Muhammad Yusuf and Ms Munni Devi against the judgement of the district and sessions judge, Meerut, passed on 7 December 1999.

On the other hand, RSS and Shiv Sena started mounting pressure on the then UP Chief Minister Kalyan Singh to withdraw the case but he refused and the proceedings of the case continued in the district court of Meerut.

In his arguments the petitioners’ advocate Mr Siddiqui said that with the change of guard in U.P., RSS and Shiv Sena continued with their pressure tactics and the incumbent Chief Minister Ram Prakash Gupta bowed to political pressure and ordered to withdraw the case under the pretext of ‘public interest.’ Subsequently the state counsel filed an application in the court of the district and sessions judge, Meerut, to withdraw the case and the application was promptly granted whereas the proceedings against Muslims accused in th same case continued. Thus the government application was not in public interest but was in ‘communal and political interest.’ Moreover, no consent was obtained from the dependents of the victims who were brutally killed for no crime of theirs except that they happened to be Muslims. The petitioners’ advocate further said that government's decision was violative of section 321(IPC).

Accepting the arguments, the high court on 13 April 2000 had declared as null and void the judgement of the district and sessions judge, Meerut, delivered on 7 December 1999 withdrawing the case. This ruling of the high court was challenged by the accused through a revision petition which was also rejected by Justice Mohammad Asghar Khan of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court. Thereafter the case was brought to the two-member bench which reversed the earlier verdict and let off the murderers. 
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