Jobs @ MG
Apex court pulls up Maharashtra government
By M H Lakdawala
|At the last hearing recently, the
Supreme Court pulled up the Maharashtra government for the delay in
initiating action against those indicted by the Justice Srikrishna
Commission. The Apex court also took state government to task for double
speak on the issue, following which the special task force (STF) was
constituted. STF brief was to go over the Srikrishna report
paragraph-by-paragraph and decide if cases may be made out against any
policeman or if any politician may be booked.
The apex court asked the government to state when STF and departmental
inquiry will be finished, when chargesheets will be filed and trials will
commence against police personnel indicted by justice Srikrishna. Present
a chart, the court said, on the status of the other riot cases. Explain
exactly who has not received compensations.
If the court has to go so far to block further avenues for delay, that
should have embarrassed the state government, but to no avail.
It’s nearly a decade and still no convictions have been obtained. Till
now five constables have been suspended. The fact is that the policemen
against whom cases have been filed are relatively junior. No action
against the big fish has been taken. Prominent among those indicted by the
commission was the then joint police commissioner R. D. Tyagi who had
ordered a police firing on a group of Muslim students at a madrasa on
Mohammed Ali road. Nine innocent lives were lost which includes Madrasa
students and workers of Suleman Usman Bakery.
Tyagi was later promoted and even served as commissioner of police Mumbai,
even though the commission's indictment of him is surprisingly explicit.
According to the report, Tyagi, and police inspector Lahane of the special
operation squad are guilty of excessive and unnecessary firing.
The Supreme court has asked the Democratic Front government to submit an
affidavit detailing the action taken by the STF. The STF had reopened two
cases against Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray as well as the Suleiman Bakery
firing case against R.D. Tyagi.The Srikrishna commission report had not
recommended any action against Thackeray while a government-appointed
committee had exonerated Tyagi saying that he was merely doing his job.
The state government is totally silent on initiating steps to reopen over
1,358 criminal cases that the police had categorized as ‘true but
undetected’ - a category used to classify crimes that have actually
taken place but where the accused cannot be identified owing to lack of
evidence. The human rights groups have contended that the Srikrishna
report contains sufficient evidence to identify the accused in a number of
these cases, and that the government should reopen them for fresh
investigation on the basis of the facts gathered by the judge during his
four and a half years enquiry.
They have argued that full compensation should now be paid to the
relatives of those 500 people declared ‘missing’ (and now assumed
dead). Apparently, they are still being made to run from pillar to post to
obtain what should have been rightfully theirs according to the
government's own orders.
The justice B. N. Srikrishna commission report is a vital documentary
report. In a parallel with the truth, justice and reconciliation
commission investigating the sins of apartheid in south Africa, stating
the truth for the truth as it happened is the critical stepping stone
towards attaining justice for riot victims.
Thus a full eight years after Bombay ‘was rocked’ by what Srikrishna
later described as ‘riots and violence unprecedented in magnitude and
ferocity, as though the forces of Satan were let loose, destroying all
human values and civilized behaviour’, the wheels of justice continue to
grind slowly, if at all.
One of the parameters to judge a civilized society is its impartial
judiciary and application of law equally to one and all- no innocent be
punished and none of the guilty howsoever high and mighty spared.
The family members of 1,500 people killed, 1,829 injured and 165 missing
in the gruesome riots of December 1992, and January 1993 in Mumbai are
denied Justice till this date.
The ruling Democratic government (DF) has filed the affidavit in
compliance with the Supreme Court order of July 21, 2000. In the
affidavit, the DF government has praised the Mumbai police for its
‘secular, impartial and free from bias character.’
This is in stark contrast to the Srikrishna Commission’s report, which
had categorically stated that, the ‘Police are biased against the
Muslims’ and had suggested that measures be taken for the ‘de-
communalization for the police force.’
Justice Srikrishna has pointed out how the police response to Muslims'
appeals was ‘cynical and utterly indifferent’. It says,’ on
occasions the response was that they were unable to leave the appointed
position others, the attitude was that one Muslim killed was one Muslim
less.’ Muslims were given ‘harsh and brutal treatment sometimes
bordering on inhuman (behavior). ‘Registered riot-related cases were
Inspite of these facts all recorded before the Srikrishna commission DF
government dares to say that guilty policemen acted in line of the duty
and are free of communal bias. In fact, the contamination of police is one
factor that comes out whenever riots between Hindus and Muslims are
Who will give Justice to the innocent victims? Politicians are busy
settling scores and worrying about their own political career. Judiciary
has its own limitation. Media though active over the commission inquiry
has other interesting stories to report. The public in turn has become
cynical of these commissions and their reports.
In the case of 1992-93 riots and Srikrishna Commission recommendations,
however the citizens cannot afford to be cynical. The psych of the city
after the riots had been ruptured. Mumbai till then a land of opportunity
and amity between the different strata of the society, after the riots it
turned to be a requiem for a voice of sanity and peaceful co-existence.
Of the Maharashtra Government logic of ‘let bygones be bygones’,
Justice Srikrishna opines that, ‘By that Logic, you would have to scrap
the entire criminal law. It’s based on the theory of retribution –
identify the criminal and punish him. As a judge it’s my duty to see
that the guilty are punished. If a judge says. ‘Let bygones be
bygones’, he’s abdicating his responsibility.
British, Jurist Sir, Cyril Salmon, in a lecture on ‘Tribunals of
inquiry’ had observed ‘in all countries certainly in those which enjoy
freedom of speech and free press moments occur… causing a nation wide
crisis of confidence in the integrity of public life. When it does, it is
essential that public confidence should be restored, for without it no
democracy can long survive…’ indisputably, the Mumbai riots of 1992-93
constituted such a moment.
Yet it needs to be re–emphasized that the enforcement of the law and due
process is almost entirely depending upon the pressure of Public Opinion,
because given half a chance, politicians and Policemen – who one can
safely assume are guilty of dereliction of duty, if not worse – will
scuttle or ignore the commission’s recommendations. It is for the people
of this great country to build up enough pressure through peaceful means
to ensure that justice is not only done but also seen to be done. Only
justice can act as an anodyne for our fractured social fabric.