PUCL Bulletin, Feb., 2001

Is their any hope of justice?
Hashimpura (Meerut) Killings by the PAC
-- By Iqbal A. Ansari, Secretary-General, Minorities Council

The following account of the proceedings in the courts in the Hashimpura case will be helpful to those who are monitoring / researching on the functioning of the criminal justice system, the statutory commissions and the human rights and community organisations in India.

The Chief Judicial Magistrate, Ghaziabad continued issuing bailable and then non-bailable warrants against the 19 PCA men who faced charges of murdering40 Muslims of Hashimpura (Meerut) in 1987, twenty three times between January 1997 and April 2000. They were never arrested and produced before the court, though all along this period they were in active service with known postings and residential addresses. At the end of May and early June 2000, sixteen of them surrendered and got bail. The trial court fixed dates in September and October 2000 for framing of charges. For which the Govt. counsel was not prepared. On 13 December the CBC ID submitted that it wanted time for appointing a Special Public Prosecutor. The case has adjourned for 25 January 2001.

This sequence of legal proceedings can hardly inspire confidence in the aggrieved parties and the public that justice will be done in the case. Following are the facts of the case.

1. On 22 May 1987 during curfew in Meerut in the State of U.P. The Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) picked up several hundred innocent Muslims mostly youth, from their homes and took them away in trucks, while there was no rioting in that area of the city. A few days later about forty dead bodies of some of those arrested were found floating in the upper Ganga Canal in Murad Nagar, District Ghaziabad (U.P.).

2. Inquiry reports by reputed journalists like Nikhil Chakravartty and, Kuldip Nayar, and organisations like the People's Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL) and the People's Union For Democratic Rights (PUDR) revealed that it was a case of barbaric cold-blooded murder by the PAC personnel. Nikhil Chakravartty compared the event with "Nazi Pogrom against the Jews, to strike terror and nothing but terror in a whole minority Community". The Amnesty International's inquiry report observed, " There is evidence to suggest that members of the PAC have been responsible for dozens of extra judicial killings and disappearances". (AI Index: ASA 20/06/87)

2.1 In a joint statement eminent persons including I.K. Gujral, Rajindar Sachar, Kuldip Nayar, Subhadra Joshi and Badr-Ud-Din Tyabji demanded, " the government must prosecute all those who have disgraced their uniform. Their misdeeds must treated at par with treason and tried by special Courts".

3. The Govt. of U.P. ordered an inquiry into the ghastly incident by the CNCID. A thorough Inquiry Report was submitted by CNCID in Feb. 1994 in which 666 PAC-Police personnel of all ranks were indicted.

4. A Writ Petition (No. 1379 of 1995 MIB) was filed by Jamaluddin and others of Meerut on 15 Feb. 1995 before the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court for making the Report public, prosecuting all those indicted and payment of adequate compensation to victims.

5. The Govt. of U.P. filed cases against only 19 PAC men of lower rank in the Court of CJM Ghaziabad on 20 May 1996 u/s 374/307/302/201 of the I.P.C. (Case No. 1267/96).

6. In the counter-affidavit filed on 13 March 1997 in the High Court the CNICD admitted that "the remaining detenues were taken in the PAC truck URU 1493 to the Hindu Canal (Village Makanpur) and the Platoon Commander and PAC men shoot them dead". Para 10 of the affidavit states, " it is submitted that the incident and human right violations not denied".

7. In spite of this background of admission of guilt, the following is the sequence of proceedings in the law courts at Ghaziabad from May 1996 till October 2000.

i) The accused were never arrested and produced before the Court, although they were all along serving members of the PAC whose posting and home addresses were known even after issuance of bailable warrants six times between 31 January 1997 and 16 February 1998 and of non-bailable warrants 17 times between 20 April 1998 and 29 April 2000 by the CJM Ghaziabad. On 16 Feb. 1999 the CJM had also ordered for proceedings to be taken against the accused U/S 82/83 Cr. P.C. for declaring them
absconders and for confiscation of their properties.

ii) During those five years of the pendency of the case of the case the lack of will on the part of the successive Govts. of U.P. is matched by equal lack of interest by the Muslim organisations, the Human Rights groups and the media.

iii) Things, however, started moving after this write personally visited Meerut and Ghaziabad in May 1999 to collect papers related to the case. Subsequently in a meeting convened by the Minorities Council on 7 July 1999 a decision easy taken that the Council in cooperation with other organisations willing to lend support, including article under the title FORGOTTEN MASSACRES on Hashimpura case from 1987 till August 1999 in
the Autumn 1999 issue of the quarterly IOS Bulletin Human Rights today that I edit, which made some impact and led to Siddharth Vavadarajan of the times of India taking interest in the case, who published from page story in the Times of India of 17 May 2000 on the bizarre proceedings in the CJM Ghaziabad court. That was the time when on our representation, the NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR MINORITIES (NCM) impressed upon the union Home Minister and the govt. of U.P. to take early measures for payment
of adequate compensation and speedy trial. This pressure from the! Minorities Council, the NCM and the times of India seems to have forced the U.P. Govt. to realise that it could no longer shield the guilty PAC men.

iv) As a consequence of this pressure, 16 of the 19 accused PAC men surrendered in groups in the last week of May 2000 and early June 2000. They were refused bail by CJM, Ghaziabad. However they were allowed bail by District Judge Shir. R.P. Mishra on the ground that there was no direct evidence against them and that being members of the PAC there was no chance of their absconding. Apparently their practically being absconders from January 1997 to May 2000 did not weigh with the learned Court while easily allowing bail to all 16 in groups on 2 June 2000 (Bail Application No. 1353/2000); 5 June 2000 (No. 1412/2000); 27 June 2000 (No. 1564/2000) and 4 July 2000 (No. 1620/2000).

v) None of the 16 accused PAC men have been suspended from service, On 11 July 2000 the case against these 16 accused PAC men was committed to District Judge for trial, who transferred the case to the Additional District Sessions Judge (iv) (Room No. 204) as case No. ST 1362/2000. The case has been adjourned three times for framing of charges against the accused. Charges, however, have not yet been framed. The following
order was passed by the learned court. "30.10.2000 for charge. Sd/. Additional Sessions judge". On 13 December 2000 the plea of the CBCID the case has been adjourned for 25 January 2001.

vi) The entire sequence of legal proceedings since the submission of the CBCID Report in February 1994 till date has been rightly summed up by Siddharth Varadarajan of Times of Indian in the following words: "Even by the lethargic and Kafkaesque standards of the Indian judicial system, the Hashimpura case is in a class of its own" (TOI, 17 May 200). Such is the apathy in the Human Rights movement, the press, and legislators that except for the UP PUCL President Ravi Kiran Jain's filing of PIL in the Allahabad High Court in May 2000, no one made it serious public issue even after the publication of the story in the Times of India. The surrendering of 16 accused PAC men and their easily getting bail and the Govt. Sessions not being in a position to get charges framed in September - October and the Additional District Sessions Judge (IV) strangely passing order that 13 Dec. 2000 is being fixed as last chance for framing charges, did not become news in national, regional or local newspapers. The Time of India, however, after our briefing again published a detailed story on 11 December 2000.

vii) Maulvi Mohd. Yasmeen and others of Meerut had approached the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) through their representation of 2/4/1997 on which no action was taken. Subsequently after the Minorities Council's representation of 8 March 1999 and persistent reminders impressing upon the Chairman the gravity and uniqueness of the case, the Deputy Secretary NCM addressed a letter to the Chief Secretary Govt. of U.P on 12/10/99, which was not further pursued.

The present Chairman, however promptly advised the Govt. of U.P. for speedy trial in May 2000, but did not monitor the progress as had been requested by the Minorities Council.

viii) It needs to be noted that at my instance the NCM has requisitioned as official copy of the CBCID Report on Hashimpura killings. In its latest letter of 27 November to Chairman NCM, the Minorities Council has urged the Chairman to intervene effectively in the case. Being a case of custodial killing, the Minorities Council sent a representation to the National Human Rights Commission on 2/8/2000, which has remained unacknowledged till date.

Is there any hope that members of State Forces guilty of crimes against humanity shall be brought to justice and the next of kin of those killed will get adequate compensation? The Govt. of U.P. maintains that the amount of Rs. 40,000/- it paid for each of those killed is enough. It needs to be kept in mind that Hashimpura's is a case of custodial killings by PAC, not that of killings during riots because of failure of governance as in 1984 in Delhi for which the Delhi High Court awarded compensation of Rs. 2 lakhs.


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