No innocent person should be branded a terrorist and put behind bars simply because s/he belongs to a minority community, the Supreme Court told the Gujarat police.
Police must ensure that no innocent person has the feeling of sufferance only because “My name is Khan, but I am not a terrorist,” a Bench of Justices HL Dattu and CK Prasad said on Wednesday.
It ordered the acquittal of 11 persons arrested under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act and other laws for allegedly planning to create communal violence during the Jagannath Puri Yatra in Ahmedabad in 1994.
“We emphasise and deem it necessary to repeat that the gravity of the evil to the community from terrorism can never furnish an adequate reason for invading personal liberty, except in accordance with the procedure established by the Constitution and the law,” the Bench maintained.
Being an anti-terrorist law, TADA’s provisions could not be liberally construed, the Bench said. “The district superintendent of police and the inspector-general and all others entrusted with operating the law must not do anything that allows its misuse and abuse and [must] ensure that no innocent person has the feeling of sufferance only because ‘My name is Khan, but I am not a terrorist’.”
Writing the judgment, Justice Prasad said, “We appreciate the anxiety of police officers entrusted with preventing terrorism and the difficulty faced by them. Terrorism is a crime far serious in nature, graver in impact and highly dangerous in consequence. It can put the nation in shock, create fear and panic and disrupt communal peace and harmony. This task becomes more difficult when it is done by organised groups with outside support.”
But in the country of the Mahatma, the “means are more important than the end. Invoking the TADA without following the safeguards, resulting in acquittal, gives an opportunity to many and also to the enemies of the country to propagate that it has been misused and abused.” In this case, Ashraf Khan and 10 others, who were convicted under the TADA, the Arms Act and the IPC were aggrieved that no prior approval of the SP, as mandated under the provisions, was obtained before their arrest and recording of statements.
The court’s observation opens a can of worms relating to human rights violations against innocent majority among minorities the world over, being tortured in detention for a crime they have not committed.
In April 2012, coinciding with the acquittal of Delhi-based Mohammed Amir Khan who spent 14 years in jail, a document released by the All Indian Milli Council claimed that 300 cases were registered against innocent Muslim youth since 1997 in terrorism cases and incidents that never happened. The communal arrests, according to the document topped in Madhya Pradesh, followed by Maharashtra and is now pervading into South, including states like Kerala.
Even weeks after the arrests of 11 well-placed (scientist, doctor, journalist and engineer) terror suspects, the Bangalore police are yet to come out with concrete evidence on their involvement in terrorist activities alleging that “they are hard nuts to crack.”
Maher Arar, a telecommunications engineer with dual Syrian and Canadian citizenship and Time Magazine’s Canadian citizen of 2004, suspected to be an Al-Qaeda member was held without charges and in solitary confinement in the Unites States. His case seeking compensatory damages against the US government that violated his constitutional, civil, international and human rights is still on.
After receiving approximately $1-million compensation for the ordeal he went through in 2007, Bangalore doctor Mohammed Haneef received a formal apology from the Australian government in which the Australian Federal Police acknowledged that it was indeed a mistake and that Dr Haneef is innocent of the offence he was suspected of in the 2007 Glasgow International Airport attack.
Military reports released by Wikileaks in 2011 revealed the laziness of both thinking and detail in the handling of Australia’s Mamdouh Habib and David Hicks. “In detaining terror suspects, US sloppiness reigns supreme,” maintained The Atlantic.
While focusing on these false alarms that cause loss of a lifetime of opportunities for those unrelated to crime, the war against terrorism should continue. We should fight as a united world of differences, affected hard by violence and counter threats perpetrated by ideological groups.