Srinagar/Mumbai: After the acquittal of the Lajpat Nagar blast accused after 16 years in jail, a debate is raging on over the credibility of the police investigation. The question is whether it is a case of innocents being incarcerated for decades or are criminals being set free due to a weak prosecution.
72-year-old Sher Ali Bhat will meet his son Mohammad Ali after 16 years that he spent in Tihar Jail for his alleged role in the 1996 Lajpat Nagar bomb blasts. The Delhi High Court has now acquitted him of all charges. "I am very happy, my whole family is happy," he said.
Padshah Bano, too, is emotional. Her son Mirza Nisar has also been acquitted. Nisar was just 14 when he and his elder brother Iftikhar were arrested for the Lajpat Nagar blast. While Iftikhar was released two years ago, Nisar and Mohd Ali were given the death sentence by a trial court.
Nisar's uncle Mirza Mohammad Hussain said, "We are happy with this verdict but saddened by the fact that his 16 precious years were lost in jail. How is he going to live in future which remains very dark."
The High Court made scathing remarks while acquitting the accused, terming the investigation 'shoddy and full of grave prosecution lapses'. Yet two youngsters spent two years on death row.
The pattern has been repeated in several terror cases with highly publicised arrests ending in acquittals by courts. Former High Court judge RS Sodhi says, "The HC acquits, lower court convicts that is only because there is lack of appreciation of evidence." Supreme Court lawyer Kamini Jaiswal says, "It is so mechanical. Sometimes the accused are not produced, judges don't even read the paper, just sign it and custody is extended."
Acquitted in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case, Syed Imran and Junaid are still trying to repair their dignity. "Even when I was unconscious, they would give me electric shocks in my private parts which led to bleeding in my urine," Junaid said. Syed Imran said, "I was the hero of my locality as I used to win them matches. Now no one plays with me. I used to be known for my dance at weddings. Now they don't even invite me."
At the end, no one gets to know whether an acquittal means a case of an innocent incarcerated falsely, or a suspect who managed to get away.