Dark night, deserted road, one lone hero walking along. Suddenly a gypsy from the back comes, 4 to 5 gunmen step out and kidnaped the man at the gunpoint. Can you relate the story? Well, it is a typical Hindi movie story, in which the protagonist would be taken away and tortured. But, if something like that happens in real life, how would it feel? In films, there is the conviction that the protagonist would fight back and come out of all tribulations. But, in real life, one is neither a filmy hero nor would one find any savior to rescue the victim. Doubly so, when the lone man is a common man devoid of any heroism and the others are policemen with all authority and legitimacy.
Such an incident took place recently. Mohammad Amir Khan, an-18-year old resident of Old Delhi was taken into police custody in 1998 on charges of Terrorism and terrorist activities. As he says, he was charged with bomb blasts that happened in Delhi and adjacent areas in 1996-97. As he unfolds his story, he was abducted from his locality on the fateful night of February 20, 1998, without being apprised of the charges. He was pulled inside a gypsy by a group of people. Nor was it revealed that they were policemen. It was later when he was interrogated, he came to know that they were policemen. As he narrates, he was charged with 17 charges of low-intensity bomb blasts that happened in Delhi NCR between 1996 and 1997.
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But, the brave boy of 18, who had charges equalling his age, fought for justice for long. He got admission in a college and continued his education from jail through distance mode. But, it took 14 long years for him to prove his innocence. In 2012, all the charges against him were dropped by the court and he was released. He entered the jail as an 18 years old boy but came out of it as a 32 years old man. A married man now, he works with an NGO working on Human Rights front.
This story of the young man tells a lot about our justice system. Every year thousands of under-trials are put in jail and they are left to languish just because of the dilatory justice system. Many, incarcerated in the minor offense, cannot take bail owing to the payment of a lump sum bail money. Some others again cannot afford a lawyer or lawyers would deny taking certain cases. As delineated by Mohammad Amir Khan, no lawyer would take up the case to fight for a terrorist like him (as if he was convicted already ) until he found Human Rights Lawyer, Narayan Das Pancholi, who agreed to do that. After he was released, media reports aired the story. Thanks to the National Human Rights Commission(NHRC) that had taken suo moto on the basis of the media report and fought the case. At the recommendation of the NHRC, the Delhi Police gave him a compensation of Rs. 5 lakhs.
But, can this 5 lakh rupees buy him the years he lost. Undoubtedly not. It is too little to buy 14 years of youth and too late for making a difference. However, it would definitely help him support his family and finance his young daughter’s education for a few years. The way he was ‘abducted’(as he puts the term) and incarcerated for years without any substantial ground, reflects the travesty of our policing system. I am all praise for him that he still holds optimistic view of the Indian justice system, as he says, ”After having gone through all these, I still hold pride for being an Indian. ”
Our judicial system should be fast-tracked, especially for the under-trials who often have to suffer long for a minor offense or no offense at all. Mohammad Amir suffered one and a half decades for crimes he never committed. But, everybody is not like him. People often have a desire to take on the system that ruins them. A prolong under-trial of an innocent may make him go astray after a point. Therefore, we need to take utmost care that no innocence should suffer for as long that can never be compensated. After all, the criminal justice system should reform rather than creating a potential enemy of the state. Fairness and justice should prevail above all. “Satyamev Jayate”