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Hashimpura killings by the PAC

Is there any hope of justice? Asks Prof. Iqbal A Ansari

The following account of the proceedings in the law courts in the Hashimpura case will be helpful to those who are monitoring the functioning of the criminal justice system, the statutory Commissions and the human rights and community organizations in India.

The Chief Judicial Magistrate, Ghaziabad, issuing bailable and then non-bailable warrants against the 19 PAC men, who faced charges of murdering 40 Muslims of Hashimpura (Meerut) in 1987, twenty three times between January 1997 and April 2000. They were never arrested and produced before the court, though all along this period they were in active service with known postings and residential addresses. At the end of May and early June 2000, sixteen of the accused surrendered and got bail, The trial court fixed dates in September, October and December 2000 for framing of charges, for which the Govt. counsel was not prepared. On 13 December the CBCID submitted that it wanted time for appointing a Special Public Prosecutor. The case was adjourned.

This sequence of legal proceedings can hardly inspire confidence in the aggrieved parties and the public that justice will be done in the case. Following are the facts of the case.

1. On 22 May 1987 during curfew in Meerut in the State of U.P., the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) picked up several hundred innocent Muslims mostly youth, from their homes and took them away in trucks, while there was no rioting in that area of the city. A few days later about forty dead bodies of some of those arrested were found floating in the upper Ganga Canal in Murad Nagar, District Ghaziabad (U.P.).

2. Inquiry reports by reputed journalists like Nikhil Chakravarty and Kuldip Nayar and organizations like the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL)and the People’s Union For Democratic Rights (PUDR) revealed that it was a case of barbaric cold blooded murder by the PAC personnel. Nikhil Chakravarty compared the event with ‘Nazi Pogrom against the Jews, to strike terror and nothing but terror in a whole minority community’. The Amnesty International’s inquiry report observed that ‘there is evidence to suggest that members of the PAC have been responsible for dozens of extra judicial killings and disappearances’ (AI Index: ASA 20/06/87)

2.1 In a joint statement eminent persons including I.K. Gujral, Rajindar Sachar, Kuldip Nayar, Subhadra Joshi and Badr-Ud-Din Tyabji demanded that ‘the government must prosecute all those who have disgraced their uniforms. Their misdeeds must be treated at par with treason and tried by special Courts.’

3.The Govt. of U.P. ordered an inquiry into the ghastly incident by the CBCID. A thorough Inquiry Report was submitted by the CBCID in Feb. 1994 in which 66 PAC-Police personnel of all ranks were indicted.

4. A Writ Petition (No. 1379 of 1995 MIB) was filed by Jamaluddin and others of Meerut on 15 Feb. 1995 before the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court for making the Report public, prosecuting all those indicted and payment of adequate compensation to victims.

5. The Govt. of U.P. filed cases against only 19 PAC men of lower rank in the Court of CIM Ghaziabad on 20 May 1996 u/s 374/703/302/201 of the (Case No. 1267/96).

6. In the counter-affidavit filed on 13 March 1997 in the High Court the CBCID admitted that ‘the remaining detenus were taken in the PAC truck URU 1493 to the Hindon Canal (Village Makanpur) and the Platoon commander and PAC men shot them dead’. Para 10 of the affidavit states that ‘it is submitted that the incident of human rights violations is not denied’.

7. In spite of this background of admission of guilt, the following is the sequence of proceedings in the law court at Ghaziabad from May 1996 till October 2000.

I) The accused were never arrested and produced before the Court, although they were all along serving members of the PAC whose posting and home addresses were known even after issuance of bailable warrants six times between 31 January 1997 and 16 February 1998 and non-bailable warrants 17 times between 20 April 1998 and 29 April 2000 by the CJM Ghaziabad. On 16 Feb. 1999 the CJM had also ordered for proceedings to be taken against the accused U/S 82/83 Cr. P.C. for declaring them absconders and for confiscations of their properties.

II) During those five years of the pendency of the case the lack of will on the part of the successive Govts. of U.P. is matched by equal lack of interest by the Muslim organizations, the Human Rights groups and the media.

III) Things, however, started moving after this writer personally visited Meerut and Ghaziabad in May 1999 to collect papers related to the case. Subsequently in a meeting convened by the Minorities Council on 7 July 1999 a decision was taken that the Council in cooperation with other organizations willing to lend support, including PUCL, will pursue the cases lying in the Lucknow High Court & Ghaziabad CJM’s Court. I also published article under the title Forgotten Massacres on Hashimpura case from 1987 till August 1999 in the Autumn 19 issue of the Quarterly IOS Bulletin Human Rights Today that I edit, which made some impact and led Siddharth Varadarajan of the Times of India taking interest in the case, who published front page story in the Times of India of 17 May 2000 on the bizarre proceedings in the CJM Ghaziabad Court. That was the time which on our representation, the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) impressed upon the union Home Minister and the Govt. of U.P. to take early measures for payment of adequate compensation and speedy trial. This pressure from the Minorities Council, the NCM and the Times of India seems to have forced the U.P. Govt, to realize that it could no longer shield the guilty PAC men.

IV) As a consequence of this pressure, 16 of the 19 accused PAC men surrendered in groups in the last week of March 2000 and early June 2000. One accused is absconding and one is reportedly dead. They were refused bail by CJM Ghaziabad. However they were allowed bail by the District Judge Shri R. P. Mishra on the ground that there was no direct evidence against them and that being members of the PAC there was no chance of their absconding.
Apparently their practically being absconders from January 1997 to May 2000 did not weigh with the learned Court while easily allowing bail to all 16 in groups on 2 June 2000 (Bail Application No. 1353/2000, 5 June 2000 (No. 1412/2000, 27 June 2000 (No. 1564/2000).

V) None of the 16 PAC men has been suspended from service, On 11 July 2000 the case against these 16 accused PAC men was committed to District Judge for trial, who transferred the case to the Additional District Session Judge (IV) (Room No. 204) as case No. ST 1362/2000. The case has been adjourned three times for framing charges against the accused. Charges, however, have not yet been framed. The following order was passed by the learned court. ‘30. 10. 2000: for charge Sd/. Additional Session Judge’. On 13 December 2000 on the plea of the CBCID the case was adjourned for 25 January 2001 and again for a date in March when no business was transacted. A further adjournment to April yielded no results.

VI) The entire sequence of legal proceedings since the submission of the CBCID in February 1994 till date has been rightly summed up by Siddharth Varadarajan of the Times of India in the following words ‘Even by lethargic and kafkaesque standards of the Indian judicial system, the Hashimpura case is in a class of its own. Even after the PUCL President Ravi Kiran Jain’s filing of PIL in the Allahabad High Court in May 2000, no one made it serious public issue even after the publication of the story in the Times of India. The surrendering of 16 accused PAC men and their easily getting bail and the Govt. Counsel not being in a position to get charges framed in September-October and the Additional District Sessions Judge (IV) strangely passing order dated 13 December 2000 as being fixed as last chance for framing charges, did not become news in national regional or local newspapers. The Times of India, however, after our briefing again published a detailed story on 11 December 2000.

VII) Maulvi Mohd. Yameen and others of Meerut had approached the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) through their representation of 2/4/1997 on which no actin was taken. Subsequently after the Minorities Council’s representation of 8 March 1999 and persistent reminders impressing upon the chairman the gravity and uniqueness of the case, the Deputy Secretary NCM addressed a letter to the Chief Secretary Govt. of U.P. on 12/10/99, which was not further pursued.

The present Chairman, however promptly advised the Govt. of U.P. for speedy trial in May 2000, but did not monitor the progress as had been requested by the Minorities Council.

VIII) It needs to be noted that at my instance the NCM has requisitioned an official copy of the CBCID report on Hashimpura killings. In its latest letter of 27 November to Chairman NCM, the Minorities Council has urged to Chairman to intervene effectively in the case.

Being a case of custodial killing, the Minorities Council sent a representation to the National Human Right Commission on 2/8/2000, which has remained unacknowledged till date.

Is there any hope that members of state forces guilty of crimes against humanity shall be brought to justice and the next of kin of those killed will get adequate compensation? The Govt. of UP maintains that the amount Rs. 40,000 it paid for each of those killed is enough. It needs to be kept in mind that Hashimpura’s is a case of custodial killings by PAC, not that of killings during riots because of failure of governance as in 1984 in Delhi for which the Delhi High Court awarded compensation of Rs. 2 lakhs.

Prof. Ansari is the secretary general of the Aligarh-based Minorities Council q

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