01, Nov 2018 | Teesta Setalvad
October 31 was a historic day in the history of painfully meandering case of the Hashimpura targeted killings of May 22, 1987. Thirty-one years after armed PAC men shot down in cold blood more than 40 males of the Muslim minority, 16 criminal PAC men have been convicted. On May 21, 2015 a trial court had, while not disputing that the killings had taken place, had acquitted the accused for lack of evidence.
The Delhi High Court, in the 1987 targeted killing of more than 40 Muslim men by members of the PAC, overturned the acquittal by the trial court. Justices Muralidhar and Goel convicted the 16 surviving PAC personnel under Section 302 IPC for life imprisonment holding that this was a case of targeted killings of the minority community.
Excerpts from judgment in Hashimpura PAC massacre case:
By this judgment in the said appeals, we proceed to reverse the judgment of the trial Court and hold the 16 accused guilty of the offences with which they were charged viz., criminal conspiracy, kidnapping, murder, causing evidence of the crime to disappear. In arriving at this conclusion, we have also relied on the additional evidence recorded, which was not available to the trial Court. We hold that this was targeted killing by armed forces of the unarmed, innocent and defenceless members of a particular community.”
We have proceeded to reverse the judgment of the trial court as the evidence is of a clinching nature. This is a case of targeted killing of members of the minority community by state forces. The GD entry and statement of accused recorded on 16th April 2018 prove their presence beyond reasonable doubt.”
The rest of the judgement may be read here
Further the court held that “the compensation paid and conviction after 31 years is still a miscarriage of justice for the victims. There is clear evidence of prior meeting of minds.”
Senior Advocate Rebecca John appeared for the Victims and Vrinda Grover in the appeal filed by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). It was the order of the Delhi High Court on an application by the NHRC under section 319 of the CrPC that allowed for the recording of additional evidence. It was this evidence that clinched the crime as committed by the accused named in a vehicle on the day that it was committed. It was the NHRC application that unearthed the suppressed evidence.
Then SP, Ghaziabad, Vibhuti Narain Rai has played a pivotal role in this case. From registering the FIR, to giving evidence, to writing extensively on the subject in his book, Rai’s has, unusually for an officer not allowed this mass targeted killing to be forgotten from public memory.
In a ghastly case of pre-meditated targeted killing, 42 to 45 persons were abducted and barring five who survived i.e. Zulfiqar Nasir (PW-1), Mohd. Naeem (PW-2), Mohd. Usman (PW-3), Muzib-ur-Rehman (PW-4) and Babuddin (PW-11), the remaining were killed by the PAC jawans/officers. Zulfiqar Nasir is the appellant in the case. Evidence provided from the photographs (and negatives) of Praveen Jain, who had covered the horror for the “Sunday Mail” proved critical to identifying and corroborating evidence about the dead.
Even after the order of the Delhi HC, the Uttar Pradesh government did all it could to conceal and destroy records that were summoned. It was only the eagle eye of the High Court backed by persistence by the survivors and NHRC that finally unearthed the required alternate corroborative evidence.
It was in the High Court in the appeal that the NHRC intervened to support the Victim’s appeal when it made a prayer for a Direct Inquiry and summon the following evidence:
(i) Registers, duty register, attendance registers, log-books and other documents relating to the names, duty roster, posting and connected relevant details of PAC personnel comprising the Platoon operating under the command of Subedar Surender Pal Singh on May 22, 1987 on riot control duty at Mohalla Hashimpura, Meerut District Uttar Pradesh of the 41st Battalion, ‘C Company, Provincial Armed Constabulary, Uttar Pradesh.;
(ii) The Report of the CB-CID Inquiry into the incident.
(iii) The Report of the Commission of Inquiry headed by Retd. Justice Gyan Prakash to inquire into the killings, which was “submitted to the State of U.P in 1994. B.
After the tortuous process of some of this evidence getting collected, the Trial Court was ordered to lead and record further evidence which it did. Time and again, the fact that the UP government was concealing evidence had to be brought to the notice of the High Court.
Finally, the crucial bit of evidence emerged to prove the use of a particular truck that carried those males whom the PAC had picked up before mercilessly killing them at two spots that night. But not before every effort was made to protect the accused PAC officers.
Custodial Targeted Killing
As crucial as other aspects of the judgement is the fact that the court has held it to be a case of targeted custodial killing.
A disturbing aspect of the present case is the targeted killings of persons belonging to one minority community. It was submitted on behalf of the accused that the prosecution in the present case has not proved motive for the commission of the crime and since the 42 persons allegedly abducted were total strangers, the accused had no grudge or animosity against them and further that “no sane and prudent person much less than members of the disciplined force like the accused/Respondents would commit such gruesome crime.”
This was a case of a targeted killing revealing an institutional bias within the law enforcement agents in this case.”
Justice delayed they say is justice denied but in this case, it has restored a sense of justice. The fact that detailed Guidelines have also been issued in this case is not insignificant.
We shall re-visit crucial aspects of this historic verdict, in a series of analyses.