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The Hindu: Justice Done and letters

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  • Imran
    The Hindu, October 31, 2003. Opinion - Editorials    Justice done ALL IN ALL, the Delhi High Court s verdict in the high-profile Parliament attack case will
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 31, 2003
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      The Hindu, October 31, 2003.

      Opinion - Editorials   
      Justice done

      ALL IN ALL, the Delhi High Court's verdict in the high-profile Parliament
      attack case will be remembered less for whom it convicted and more for whom
      it acquitted. In acquitting S.A.R. Geelani, a Delhi college lecturer, and
      Afsan Guru, wife of one of the accused, the two-member Bench has overturned
      the controversial and ill-reasoned judgment of the designated POTA court,
      one that was widely regarded as having made a string of presumptions in
      favour of the prosecution that had absolutely no basis in law. The case
      against Mr. Geelani ‹ who was convicted and sentenced to death by the
      Additional Sessions Judge, S.N. Dhingra ‹ was ludicrously weak. The lecturer
      in Arabic was said to have been in contact with the co-accused, Mohammed
      Afzal and Shaukat Hussain Guru, a fact of no significance by itself and one
      that Mr. Geelani freely admitted. The prosecution also made much of an
      intercepted telephone conversation between Mr. Geelani and his brother,
      which was interpreted in an extremely fanciful manner to suggest that the
      former was involved in the attack on Parliament House. While holding, and
      quite correctly, that such flimsy evidence cannot be used to draw inferences
      against Mr. Geelani, the Delhi High Court has drawn attention to the total
      lack of evidence against the lecturer in critical areas. For instance, there
      was no evidence that Mr. Geelani was in touch with any of the five
      terrorists who were slain in the attack. Moreover, there was absolutely
      nothing on record to suggest he had a role in arranging hideouts and
      procuring either arms or explosives used in the conspiracy.

      While the designated POTA court had absolved Afsan Guru of being a part of
      the conspiracy, it found her guilty of failing to report it despite having
      prior knowledge. The Delhi High Court, however, found that there was
      insufficient evidence even to draw an imputation that she was aware of the
      conspiracy, thus raising more questions about the disturbing manner in which
      the prosecution went about its job in its apparent over-enthusiasm in
      cracking this high-profile case. If there is a perception that the Delhi
      High Court's judgment is a `soft' one, it is mistaken. This is borne out by
      its decision to enhance the sentence awarded by the designated court against
      Afzal and Shaukat Guru on one count. The High Court sentenced them to death
      for the offence committed under Section 121 (waging war against the state)
      even though the designated court had only imposed a sentence of life
      imprisonment under this Section.

      At one level, the Delhi High Court's judgment is a welcome reflection of the
      strength of the judicial process, particularly its capacity for
      self-correction. It comes at a time when there are serious anxieties about
      the increasing abuse of power and disregard for civil liberties in the name
      of waging a war against terrorism. At another level, the Court's judgment
      has indirectly exposed how, despite the much-touted safeguards in the
      Prevention of Terrorism Act, the draconian legislation makes it inordinately
      difficult for an innocent man to defend himself. The very fact that Mr.
      Geelani could have been convicted and sentenced to death by one court of law
      and acquitted on the ground that the evidence "does not even remotely, far
      less definitely" point towards his guilt by another reveals the inherent
      danger in the anti-terrorism law that dispenses with the safeguards
      contained in ordinary criminal procedure. Mr. Geelani's travails lend an
      additional dimension to the fatal flaws in POTA, which in its short history
      has already demonstrated that it can be used to fix political opponents and
      put people behind bars for indefinite periods. Its use in the Parliament
      attack case provides another telling reason why POTA should go.

      The above link is to the Editorial titled Justice Done.

      This one is to the Letters to the editor section...Abrogate POTA.

      Sir, — The acquittal by the Delhi High Court of the Delhi University
      lecturer, S.A.R. Geelani, who was sentenced to death in the Parliament
      attack case by a designated POTA court, further underlines how justified
      your editorial was in issuing a call to `Throw POTA out' ( Oct. 28 ). With
      such draconian laws, the dividing line between life and death, for innocent
      citizens, has become very thin.

      G. Radhakrishnan,

      * * *

      Sir, — Before it was enacted, many people, including the media and political
      parties pointed out that in the name of curbing terrorism there was every
      possibility of its misuse. As you rightly said, "... the only real safeguard
      against the built-in and politically inevitable misuse of POTA is its

      Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee,
      Faridabad, Haryana

      * * *

      Sir, — The terrorism situation in the country needs immediate attention and
      POTA is the only answer. It should be retained with adequate safeguards
      against misuse.

      S. Rajagopalan,

      * * *

      Sir, — The Government should make provisions to punish those found guilty of
      misusing the Act and form a mechanism for speedy trial of POTA cases. Mere
      amendments without a time-frame for disposal of complaints will not help.

      Sutirtha Sahariah,
      New Delhi

      * * *

      Sir, — No one can disagree with the comments made by the senior lawyer, F.S.
      Nariman, on the ordinance to amend POTA. According to him, unless the power
      of arrest is taken away from the States, misuse of POTA cannot be prevented.

      T.P. Gopalakrishnan,
      Kannur, Kerala
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