Batla House Encounter and Beyond Shahzad’s Sentence Tomorrow

Afroz Alam Sahil for BeyondHeadlines       

Amidst Delhi Police’s demand for death sentence everyone in the community, media, policy circles including the concerned Indians are waiting anxiously to know the fate of Shahzad at the Saket Court in Delhi tomorrow. I think whatever may be the sentence that would not be the end of the road. Nevertheless, I personally feel that the judgment was extremely disappointing given the fact that several questions have been raised not only by the civil society, legal professionals and the media but even by the defence counsel, which the prosecution could not even explain adequately.

Though, this judgment is from the trial court and there remain the options of high court and the Supreme Court. There is no need to lose hope, for we have seen in several cases that the judgment by a trial court has been completely turned down by higher courts. I firmly believe that in our country justice may be delayed, but fervently hope that it would never be denied.  There are hard and difficult days ahead in the legal battle.

Batla House Encounter and Beyond Shahzad’s Sentence TomorrowI am personally involved in this process from the very beginning. Immediately after the alleged encounter, several theories started doing rounds and it was amidst this confusion that I filed several RTI applications to unravel the truth. But when from one department to another repeatedly my requests were rejected, it’s then that my suspensions grew. You would try to hide only when there is something wrong.

When you see the events of the whole case, you will realize that all procedures were set aside in this alleged shoot out as the government tried to manufacture consent that the Indian Mujahedeen network has been busted. Although, as the honurable Judge in this case observed that this particular case had nothing to do with their purported links with terror groups, the fact is that the prosecution failed to produce any credible evidence to establish their basic premise that IM members were hauled up in that particular flat.

Several constitutional and legal norms have been sidelined in the entire case of Batla House Encounter. The NHRC guidelines clearly notes that a ‘Magisterial Inquiry must invariably be held in all cases of deaths which occur in the course of police action and in which next of kin of the deceased must invariably be associated. In this connection the then honourable Lieutenant Governor of Delhi NCT Tejendra Khanna did not allow any enquiry to happen. The Delhi minority commission had constituted a four member fact finding committee, but on the directives of the honoruable Lt Governor that too was not allowed to happen. The NHRC has said on record in a reply to my RTI query that they never visited the site for inspection; and their entire report is based on what the police said. And now in this judgement, the court, it appears, has accepted every argument of the prosecution relating to the events of September 20, 2008. One can go on and on in this…

In the present context as there have been heated debates on whether Sahazad was there or not at the L-18, I find Shahzad’s case is one of the most curious and interesting. In the FIR filed, Police had said that two persons Junaid and Pappu flee from the spot. In some other documents, that I had ed through RTI, besides Junaid, if you notice the other name police gave was Shahnawaz or Shahabaz alias Pappu. Now, the police claim that they had found his passport from the same flat, so if they had the passport, they should have had the correct name from the day one. So why has been this confusion on the name of Shahzad?

In fact one of the “note” prepared by Karnal Singh, Joint-Commissioner of Police (Special Cell) dated 19-11-2008 – again that I accessed through RTI – mentions about seizures made from fake voter ID card to education documents as well train reservation ticket, tapes, pencil cell, etc, but does not mention the Passport. Another letter written by Satish Chandra, Special Commissioner of Police (Vigilance), Delhi Police to the Secretary General of the NHRC (19-11-2008) mentions seizures as follows: laptop, mobile phones, pen drives, internet data card, compact disk, digital video cassettes, broken SIMs, SIM cards of various companies, cycle ball bearings, incriminating documents, including fake voter ID card, fake driving license, reservation slips. This too does not mention the Passport. This was apparently recovered by ACP Sanjeev Kumar Yadav, the IO of the case (FIR No. 166/08, PS Karol Bagh) from the same spot. So seizures are being made by different police personnel.

Do you know so much was reported in media that Jihadi literature was found in flat. But as per police record a book seized was Panchtantra. Now is that a Jihadi literature? Also one can ask that all bullets fired had matched the arms of raiding party and two guns attributed to Atif and Sajid, so if at all Shahzad was there and fired, where have the bullets or shells gone?

Moreover, his family has denied that his nick name was Pappu. In the initial days of arrest, a story was also planted that Shahzad was planning a 9/11 type attack, but that story soon fell flat. All I am saying is that there is much yet to be unearthed. The honourable Judge has relied upon the police version too much, but we hope that once the case is challenged in the High Court, and all evidences are cross checked, truth will come out.

In the encounter one officer was killed and I feel most sorry for the martyr MC Sharma and his family. Imagine a police officer died on duty and there are so many questions and suspensions surrounding the whole event. I feel people who call themselves patriotic and nationalist should have been the first one to ask for an independent probe, as the name of a police officer, who had died was being sullied. Government reiterated that it would affect the morale of the police force, I wonder, when entire operation is being questioned and people doubt even the motive that would put down the morale of the police force, or when fair enquiry – and mind you the magisterial enquiry is as I said part of the guidelines of NHRC – which the government did not allow – conducted that would have given them clean chit would have given them moral booster? But the moment you shy away from an enquiry, suspicions of people will get credence.

Inspector MC Sharma was admitted to the nearest Holy Family Hospital, not more than two kilometers away, and later shifted to AIIMS’ Trauma centre, it still remains to be answered that how he lost 2.5 -3 liters of blood, that eventually caused his death. Moreover, the forensic report explains the directions of entry and exit wounds that have not delved much in the investigations. I must commend the family of MC Sharma though, who stood through all the tribulations and even then when asked if they wanted death penalty for the perpetrators, his widow has answered in negative.

Politics however on the Batla Encounter has not stooped. There is an urgent need that politisc over the death must stop. Unfortunately leaders of all colours have used the Batla House shootout for their own narrow political agendas. Several local politicians have literally risen over the dead bodies of those killed in that flat. Even national leaders have not shied away from exploiting the sentiments of people over the issue. I don’t need to name them again and again. All of us know how they attempted to manipulate emotions over the incident.

As we wait for the trial court’s sentencing tomorrow to announce the quantum of punishment,  I strongly feel for and also stand by everyone who have demanded a fair judicial probe to the Batla House incident. Without a fair probe there is no chance of any closure for the victims and as well for all of us the common citizens of India.


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