How can Victims be Punished for Judicial Delay: Petitioner Questions SC Over Bombay Riots Verdict

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21 years after the petition was filed, the court ordered the state government to pay Rs 2 lakh with an additional 9 percent interest per annum since January 1999, when the government had passed the government resolution

Team Clarion

NEW DELHI – Shakil Ahmed, a petitioner, questioned the Supreme Court as to how a victim could be punished for the judicial delay after the apex court observed that it is too late to do anything about the disciplinary action recommended by Justice B N Srikrishna Commission report against the 31 erring policemen for their role in the 1992 Bombay riots.

“How can the (Supreme) Court then give delay as the reason for not dispensing justice? Can victims be punished for the judicial delay? If anything, the courts and the government are responsible for the delay,” Ahmed was quoted by The Wire as saying.

On 4 November, the apex court passed the judgment on Ahmed’s petition demanding action against over 30 policemen as recommended by the commission. The petition filed in 2001 also sought compensation for the families of 168 persons who went missing after the riots.

21 years after the petition was filed, the court ordered the state government to pay Rs 2 lakh with an additional 9 percent interest per annum since January 1999, when the government had passed the government resolution. The court has directed the state to form a committee to trace the families of missing persons who have been “deprived of compensation” and “complete the procedural formalities”.

However, on the demand of the action against the erring policemen, a three-judge bench observed, “In view of a long passage of time, as far as the disciplinary action is concerned, now in the year 2022, it will be inappropriate to go into the question of the validity of the orders passed by the disciplinary authorities and the adequacy of the penalties imposed.”

Following the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, Mumbai had witnessed massive communal violence killing 900 people, mostly Muslims. Hindutva groups including Shiv Sena had been accused of inciting mobs to carry out violence. Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackery was accused of playing a role in the riots.

 52-year-old lawyer Ahmed, who was 31-year-old when he had filed the petition, said that he was not shocked by the court’s observation but disturbed by the its grounds to dispose of the petition.

According to Ahmed, from 1998 to 2001 he, along with other citizens groups, had campaigned demanding action against the erring policemen when the Congress government ignored the Commission’s recommendations. Then, he approached the court. Two decades later, it delivered the judgment and failed to direct the actions against those policemen.

“It’s not just the rioters which are to blame. More than them, it’s the government that deprived us of justice and now, so has the Supreme Court (SC),” Ahmed was quoted by Hindustan Times as saying.

Reacting to the issue of delay, he pointed out “We approached the court in time, we weren’t late. We waited for the state government to act, and seeing that it wasn’t willing, we filed the petition. It’s the SC that let the matter remain pending for so long.”

He was equally disappointed about the court’s failure to pass directions with regard to the 1358 riot cases, closed by the police after being classified as ‘A summary’, which translates to ‘True but Undetected’. The Commission had noted that in many of these cases, the victims had given the details of the offenders, sometimes even their names. Yet, the police had closed them. In some areas, most of the cases closed as ‘A Summary’ were those where Shiv Sainiks had been named as rioters.

“The court could have ordered an examination of why so many cases were closed. There is no outer limit for criminal prosecution. But the court didn’t even pass any strictures against the police! Such a big crime took place in those two months, 900 persons were killed, yet, the court says nothing can be done,’’ Ahmed told Hindustan Times.

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