Justice Denied: Investigation, Prosecution and Judicial DelaysThere were serial blasts in Delhi in 2005. The Delhi police arrested two youngsters, Mohammed Rafiq Shah and Mohammed Hussain Fazili. They were put in jail while the investigating agencies went about their task of collecting evidence and examining witnesses in the case. After 12 long years, the court threw out the collected evidence and witness records saying that it did not prove the guilt of the arrested persons. It set Shah and Fazili free and castigated the agencies for sloppy work in investigating the case.
By Sunil Garodia
Consider what has happened. By taking the wrong route, the investigating agencies have allowed the real culprits to remain unidentified and unpunished. On the other hand, they have made two youngsters lose the most productive years of their life and become branded as terrorists. This is not to say that the police must not have examined various leads in the case. But it is often seen that investigating agencies take the easy way out. With Shah and Hussain in hand, the entire focus of the police shifted to tie up the evidence with these two. In the process, it either did not follow up on other leads or thought them to be inconsequential. The saying that people see what they want to see is not wrong. The police, having made up their mind that these two were the culprits, did not even consider the alibi of one of them that he was attending class at the time he was supposed to be planting a bomb. They even tried to destroy the evidence pointing to the fact and were taken to task by the court for this.
This case exemplifies what is wrong with the both the policing and judicial system in India. While the police often disregard protocol, professionalism and best practices to work on pre-assumed premises, the judiciary allows inordinate delays in cases and that makes the word justice lose its meaning. While it is true that both these wings are hampered by shortage of personnel and infrastructure, a degree of professionalism and efficiency, combined with a sense of urgency can be expected, at least in high profile cases such as the present one.
There are several things that need an overhaul in the light of the botched up investigation and delayed justice in this case. Although guidelines about police investigations, especially in terrorism cases, exist, it is often seen that it is not followed properly. The government must ensure that such investigations are handled by a specially skilled and trained unit. It is not enough for the unit to be trained for ferreting out the truth. It must also be trained in the legality of making the case stand in court. That what the police think is evidence and what the courts admit as evidence as per existing laws are two separate things is quite evident from the way things went in court in this case. Hence, investigating officers will have to understand that bashing up a suspect or witnesses and making them admit to things that did not take place and then proceed on that basis to investigate further and build up a case can look foolproof to the police department but not to a judge. The old ways must yield space to collecting and presenting evidence that can stand judicial scrutiny. Further, it is often seen that the main officer handling the case is transferred, in many cases more than once. That also breaks the momentum of the investigation and makes the team lose focus as any new man at the helm comes with his own set of ideas.
The judiciary, on the other hand, is guilty of letting the cases drag on for years. It has a duty towards the Constitution and the society to ensure two basic things: that no innocent is punished and that justice is delivered speedily, as delayed justice is no justice at all. In the present case, there is no way the courts or the government can compensate the two men who were wrongly incarcerated for 12 years and who will have to live with the stigma of being branded as terrorists. To prevent the police from cooking up such false cases, the courts should at least ensure that there is a law under which the concerned police officers can be charged and punished, if found guilty. This will act as a strong deterrent and induce a sense of professionalism in the force.