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Tyagi arrest triggers demands for the arrest of the rest
By MH Lakdawala, Mumbai

The rejection of Tyagi's bail by the high court has triggered off demand to arrest 16 other accused in Suleman Bakery incident and other similar incidents. Sixteen of the accused in the Suleman Usman Bakery firing incident have been charged for murder along with former police commissioner R D Tyagi under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Despite the murder charge filed against them, these accused have not yet been suspended from service. While Tyagi sought anticipatory bail, these officers have made no such application and arresting them would require government sanction. These were the officers who actually confronted the inmates inside the bakery and the madrasa. Witnesses before the Srikrishna Commission provided graphic descriptions of their role inside. Fifteen of the 16 are still serving policemen.

Eminent lawyer, Majeed Memon, opines their arrest was legally justified in view of the seriousness of the offence. As Tyagi's bail plea was rejected by the high court, the other cops should be arrested because they were similarly placed with him and charged with the same offence. Over and above the role they may have played individually, there was a criminal liability of participation in the crime, Memon said.STF sources, however, were tight-lipped on the arrest of the 16 policemen. "We are examining each case on merits and will determine the role played by each of them before considering their arrest", the sources said. P A Sebastian, civil rights activist and noted lawyer, says the normal practice after filing a FIR was to arrest the accused. It is for police to arrest them and produce before court which will then remand them to custody or grant bail."So far the police have failed to arrest the 16 cops and produce them before the court. The people are thus led to believe that the police force is above the law. They can commit excesses and get away with it", Sebastian said."Prima facie it appears that the police had not fired in self-defence at the nine victims in Suleman Bakery incident. Although Tyagi denied before the high court that he had not entered the bakery and ordered firing, yet the judges were not convinced with his submission and rejected his bail plea", Sebastian said. "It appeared to be a cold blood murder and the way police had dealt with the case showed that they were not serious to probe the crime. Delay of eight years in filing FIR against the accused occurred because successive governments sided with the culprits and did not arrest them", he felt.

Abdullah Qasim, a student at the Madrasa Dar-Ul-Uloom Imdadiya, whose father was shot dead when the police entered the madrasa adjacent to the bakery, had filed an intervening application opposing Tyagi's anticipatory bail application.

STF files FIR on May 25The Special Task Force, set up after the Srikrishna Commission of Inquiry into 1992-93 communal riots submitted its report, had filed an FIR on May 25 against Tyagi and 16 policemen who opened fire at Suleman bakery leading to the death of nine persons. Tyagi, who was then joint commissioner of police, is charged with issuing orders to his cops to open fire. Fearing arrest, he had moved the High Court on June 2 with a petition urging for anticipatory bail.Tyagi alleges "political pressure".Tyagi's anticipatory bail plea had generated a great deal of public interest in the wake of Democratic Front government constituting the Special Task Force to implement the report of Srikrishna Commission of inquiry into the 1992-93 riots. Tyagi, in his petition, denied that he had ordered the firing.

The government contended in an affidavit that Tyagi had abused his position and that there was ample evidence to show that he had taken control of the entire situation and executed the operation under his leadership. Tyagi has also been held responsible for the destruction of bloodstained clothes of those killed in the firing by cops.The STF also has on videotape the Suleman Usman Bakery and its surroundings to show how impossible it is to accommodate 90 people inside the bakery at a time, as former police commissioner R D Tyagi claims.STF sources remarked that the bakery is so congested as to make it impossible to move if 80-90 people are inside. "This proves that the claim of the accused that there were 88 persons inside the bakery and that some of them were actually firing at police using sophisticated weapons, is completely false," said STF sources.

In a similar firing incident that took place the day after the Suleman Usman Bakery tragedy no legal action was taken against those indicted by the Srikrishna commission. On January 10, 1993, some policemen of R A K Marg Police Station opened fire inside the Hari Masjid on the main R A K Marg. Six persons were killed. Sub-Inspector Nikhil Kapse (who led the R A K Marg police at the time of the firing) is among the 31 policemen indicted by Justice Srikrishna. Kapse has been accused of unprovoked firing. Amnesty International had asked the Maharashtra government to conduct an inquiry into the Hari Masjid incident. But at that time the victims were deposing before the Commission and their counsel told the government to treat these testimonies as evidence, instead of making them depose all over again before the police. The government refused, and the inquiry was dropped. The Special Task Force (STF) set up to implement the Srikrishna Commission Report has decided not to initiate legal action against Kapse. But it has recommended a departmental inquiry against him. STF officers argue that such an inquiry can work better than a criminal trial, where strict reliance must be placed on witnesses' testimonies. However, in another case where a departmental inquiry was held against an inspector indicted by the Commission, the officer had threatened the main witness in the very room where the inquiry was being held. In the last affidavit filed by the government in the Supreme Court, the STF had said that it was still investigating whether Kapse had in fact ordered the firing. This, despite the conclusion reached by Justice Srikrishna that he did. Kapse is today posted at the CID.

Thus inspite of repeated assurance by the state governments Justice is still elusive for the victims of the police high headedness.For the survival of any civilized society Justice is not only important but itís the foundation on with it is based.Any society which does not guarantee Justice to its citizens, can it call itself civilized?
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