Andher Nagari : Mumbai Police & Judiciary

100 court hearings & 14 years later, man walks free in 1 hour  

      Rukmini Shrinivasan | TNN  Mumbai:

       The much-hyped but much-delayed special courts, which the government set up last year to try 1992-93 riots cases, disposed of the first case on Tuesday—a man accused of stealing two cans of groundnut oil 14 years ago was acquitted. Metropolitan magistrate R C Bapat Sarkar took a little over an hour to acquit Abdul Ghaffar, whose case was one of the “priority’’ cases especially chosen by the government to be tried in the new courts.
           Ghaffar (45), a sherbet seller on Mohammed Ali Road, was arrested by the Pydhonie police in May 1993 for “breaking into’’ and “stealing’’ two cans of oil from a godown near his house in December 1992, an offence registered by the Dongri police.
   

        “Dozens of us were rounded up during those days and charged with offences ranging from theft to murder depending on our ‘look’,’’ Ghaffar said during a break from work at his house near Suleman Usman Bakery. “I was in custody for two-and-a-half months. They beat me up and tortured me in ways that I cannot tell you,’’ he added.
         

       Charged under Sections 380 (robbery) and 454 (trespass) of the IPC, Ghaffar’s trial began at the Mazgaon magistrate’s court and has seen 100 hearings. “My date would come up every two weeks. I’d go to court, sign my name, and then be told that the case was adjourned. I’d return home by evening, a day’s earnings lost,’’ said Ghaffar. 
   

       For the last two years, there was no hearing and Ghaffar was told by the police that his case had been put in the dormant file. Then, a few days ago, he got summons asking him to appear in a new magistrate’s court at Fort, he said.

Cops had no proof to link Ghaffar with theft

       Mumbai: With no lawyer, sherbet seller Abdul Ghaffar, who has been acquitted of the charge of stealing two cans of groundnut oil 14 years ago, sat in the courtroom all of Tuesday morning.
          Human rights activist and lawyer Shakil Ahmed of Nirbhay Bano Andolan, which seeks justice for riots victims, had dropped in at the courtroom to see which of the specially selected cases was going on.
          “While the real culprits—politicians and policemen—escape prosecution, ordinary people like Ghaffar have been made to do the rounds of courts for 14 years for minor offences and with no evidence,’’ said Ahmed.
          The lawyer then read the case papers and argued Ghaffar’s case before magistrate Bapat Sarkar.
          Of the three witnesses on record, two were cops and the third—the pancha—said in his statement that he did not know why the police had caught him and that he knew nothing about the case.
          The police had no evidence to link Ghaffar to the two cans they claimed to have recovered. The magistrate acquitted him.
          “I’m just glad that it’s all over. We never wanted to get mixed up with the police. We are only concerned about our family and giving our four children a good education,’’ said Naseem, Ghaffar’s wife
rukmini.shrinivasan@timesgroup.com  

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