28, Mar 2018 | Deborah Grey
A fast track court in Ramgarh sentenced 11 cow vigilantes including a local BJP leader to life imprisonment for lynching 45 year old coal trader Alimuddin Ansari. In this exclusive interview to CJP, Advocate Md Shadab Ansari explains the challenges of the trial.
Q) Tell us a bit about your team and how you came to take up this case.
A) There are three of us. Raju Hembram, Md Mumtaz Ansari and I decided to travel from Ranchi where we are based to Ramgarh to visit the family after the lynching and discovered they had no legal representation. We decided to take up the case as cases like this have been increasing and we felt the need to do something about it.
Q) What was the most challenging aspect of this trial?
A) The most challenging aspect was the social and political clout enjoyed by the accused. Every time there was a hearing at least 40 men would turn up at the court wearing saffron clothes and tilaks! While they would not say or do anything, just their presence proves how the accused were well connected and influential.
Q) What was some of the crucial evidence that helped you secure convictions?
A) Well, the call data records help us prove that this was a conspiracy and that the plan had originally been hatched 7-10 days before the crime. It also helped us show how Alimuddin was followed for over 15 kms before being ambushed and lynched and that his assailants were updated in real time about his whereabouts all along. This helped in securing three convictions under Sec 120 (B) for conspiracy in addition to Sec 302 for murder. The second clincher came in the form of eye witness testimony by Jalil Ansari who was present at the spot and positively identified the assailants in court. He did not know their names but recognised their faces and pointed them out. Plus the police had used the same call data records to nab the assailants many of whom confessed to the crime. We also had their confessional statements.
Q) What did you make of the death of Jalil Ansari’s wife in a bike accident? Do you think it might have been a ploy to silence the witness? What was the impact of this death on the case?
A) No, Jalil Ansari’s wife’s death was just an accident. I know because it was Alimuddin’s son who was riding the bike and he said he lost his balance when the accident took place. Jalil was originally scheduled to testify on that day and had left his ID at home. His wife died in the accident when she was on her way back home to retrieve the ID. He was understandably shaken by his wife’s death and needed time to grieve, so his testimony was postponed. But when he did testify he told the court about everything he saw.
Q) Has any compensation amount been fixed for Alimuddin’s family?
A) Well, Mariam Khatoon was already given Rs 2,00,000- after the attack. Now the court has directed the District Legal Service to pay adequate compensation.
Q) What kind of a precedent does it set? What do you plan to do next?
A) The most important message this judgment sends out is that no matter how influential or well connected you may be, if you break the law, you will not escape justice. The people who have been convicted will appeal against their conviction in the Ranchi High Court, but we will be ready to oppose that appeal.