A Delhi court’s acquittal of two persons accused of involvement in the 2005 serial blasts in the city, thereby bringing an end to their long incarceration, brings to light another instance of unconscionable miscarriage of justice in this country. Additional Sessions Judge Reetesh Singh acquitted the two men — Mohammad Hussain Fazli and Mohammad Rafiq Shah — of all charges, while saying it found no evidence to link the third accused, Tariq Ahmed Dar, to the blasts, though it convicted him for being a member of a terrorist organisation. At one level, the judgment is a reassuring affirmation of the independence at the lower rungs of the Indian judiciary. But it must invite, visibly, a response from the state to inquire into and address the processes that keep investigating agencies and prosecutors so determinedly on false trails. The frightening monotony with which Indian agencies have been failing to professionally investigate terrorism cases, and are accused of framing innocents, should jolt the system. The court said the prosecution had “miserably failed” to prove its case regarding who carried out the October 29, 2005 bomb blasts, that killed 67 and injured more than 200 people. It noted that the prosecution failed to establish a link between Dar and the other two Kashmiris accused. The explosions, in a bazaar outside the New Delhi railway station, in a bus, and in the Sarojini Nagar market, came just before Deepavali.
This is not the first time that investigation into a terror case has fallen flat in a court of law; nor is it the only instance of the Indian security agencies being accused of framing innocents. The judgment is a telling commentary on India’s faulty counter-terror posture, one that demands a holistic overhaul. There is a long list of terror attacks in which the security establishment failed to carry out a scientific probe and ended up framing innocent persons. The Malegaon blast of 2006, the attack on Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad in 2007, the Samjhauta Express attack of 2007 have all seen the investigating agencies flailing to find the guilty. Such incompetence has grave implications for India’s preparedness to avert terrorist strikes. It is from credible clues gathered during investigations into an attack that agencies pick up the trail to active terror groups, sleeper cells, and so on. Moreover, this incompetence often swallows the lives of innocent persons. In this case, Mohammad Rafiq Shah was just another college student in Srinagar when he was detained in 2005, while Mohammad Hussain Fazli was a struggling carpet-maker. It is difficult to imagine what could be done to compensate them for their long, unjust incarceration. Or to begin to get to the bottom of the terror attack that took 67 lives. A reform of the investigation processes should, however, frame the state’s response to the verdict.