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DF not serious about Srikrishna Commission Report 
By MH Lakdawala

Mumbai: It is nine years since, the Srikrishna Commission of Inquiry was set up to investigate Mumbai's worst communal riots of 1992-93. The Special Task Force (STF) appointed in August 2000 to act upon the commission's report, has practically been wound up, its task having been completed. 

Do not mistake it that STF has completed its assigned task and all the guilty had been booked and punished. STF has no doubt done an effective job. No not of acting on the recommendations of the Srikrishna Report but doing a fine cover-up job and burying the skeletons of the Bombay riots. 

The Maharashtra Government's last affidavit before the Supreme Court lists the tasks completed by the STF. Prosecution initiated against 25 policemen, departmental inquiries against 26 policemen, eight fresh cases filed, five riot cases re-opened and 44 persons paid compensation. 

The hearing is set for February 12. The STF expects, no doubt having been told by its higher ups in the state home department, that this will be the last one. Its impressive-looking performance sheet will convince the court of its seriousness.

It's now open secret about STF unwillingness to take its difficult task to its logical end. Having traced the original papers, the case diaries, the FIRs and witnesses' statements, STF filed charges either only under the least serious sections or under sections, which just didn't apply. ''Pressure from Mantralaya,'' shrugged an investigating officer. 

Secondly, STF made no effort to see that persons accused of serious crimes, who had roamed free for so many years, thanks to a communalised and indifferent police force, should now pay by spending a few months in jail at least. The same old Public Prosecutors (PP) opposed bail for the accused in the same old lifeless manner. When special PPs were appointed, as in Tyagi's case, they could do their best only when the government felt it politically necessary to punish the accused. When the government had made up its mind that the accused would not spend even an hour in police custody, let alone a few weeks in jail, the PP fell in line. The STF provided the public with the rare spectacle of the PP, who represents the state, actually being more vociferous in his opposition to the lawyers of the victims whom the state was supposed to represent, than to the accused. Even court has to intervene on many occasions and judge asked whether PP is representing the accused or the state. 

On August 27, the Special Task Force had filed a charge sheet against Tyagi and 17 policemen, accusing them of opening fire at the Suleman Bakery on January 9, 1993 leading to death of eight persons of a minority community. 

It has taken almost three months for this simple process, thanks to a number of factors including D Tyagi's absence since he was in hospital and then in Kerala for treatment even after getting bail. The case caused a lot of drama in court as additional chief metropolitan magistrate A A A Kidwai more than once came down heavily on the public prosecutor of the Special Task Force and Tyagi's lawyer for not making written applications as required. At one stage he pointedly asked the PP whether he was representing the accused, i.e Tyagi.This was when an application was made on behalf of Tyagi seeking exemption from personal appearance in court, by the STF through the PP.

In a hearing last November, when Abdullah Qasim asked the court to cancel the bail of the 15 policemen accused along with Tyagi of having conspired to kill his father, the special PP even asked the judge to make Abdullah's lawyers pay for unnecessary litigation. Hence the near winding up of the STF though every single riot accused is out on bail and no plea has been made for expeditious completion of the trials, is nothing to wonder at. 

Mumbai Aman Committee, All-India Milli Council and Lawyers Legal Aid Committee, the litigants in the case filed before the Supreme Court, have alleged that the Democratic Front (DF) government is not serious about implementing the Srikrishna Commission Report on the communal riots that shook Mumbai in December 1992 and January 1993". 

"The Maharashtra state has declared time and again that it has fulfilled its election promise of implementing the Srikrishna Commission report, but those who have been closely involved with the supreme court litigation feel that the government is misguiding the public," said representatives of the three organisations while speaking to the Milli Gazette. 

These Muslim organisations indicted the government on three counts. The government has not nullified the action taken report (ATR) filed by the erstwhile Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party government. It has initiated legal action against only nine of the 31 policemen indicted by the report; and it has during its tenure given compensation to families of only three of the 167 persons missing after the riots.

The organisations charged that the manner in which the special task force (STF) is acting, reflects the government's intention of not respecting the findings of the Commission. "The STF sits in judgment over the Commission's report and has taken pains to nullify the findings of the report. The STF is clearly not the appellate authority," they said. 

Concurring Justice Hosbet Suresh charging the government with "indifference", said "the government should have, first and foremost, dissociated itself from the ATR." Although the present state government has filed four of the six affidavits before the Supreme Court, the latest one in July 2001, none of them has rejected the ATR. 

The ATR filed by the Sena-BJP government had rejected the Commission's findings as "biased" and criticised Justice B. N. Srikrishna for being "pro-Muslim". "Incidentally, a copy of the ATR was burnt by the Congress party, which is now part of the government, on the day it was tabled in the assembly," pointed out Yusuf Muchhala of the Lawyers Legal Aid Committee. 

The organisations demanded that the ATR should be removed from the official archives. "Data in the government archives must remain unpolluted for it is the source of information for the coming generations," said Muchhala.

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