Laxman being the silent stoic type it took some days after he came to jail for him to come out with his short and simple story. It seems he had had some earlier relation with the Naxalite movement and had gone before the police to give himself up. The police however, despite all government proclamations to the contrary, did not need surrenders. They preferred to show capture, with associated narratives of bravery and claims of awards. So they detained him for ten days and then cooked up a story of a chase in the jungle and arrest of Laxman Madavi, a “dreaded terrorist”; they showed seizures of a gun, cartridges and explosives and prepared a report of an offence and registered an FIR. When shown to be arrested and produced in court, Laxman had no idea of this “crime” he was supposed to have committed. It was only when, some months later, he was served a copy of his chargesheet that he came to know of this fantastic story. This was in 2008.
Almost six years later, in fact just a few days ago, Laxman was acquitted by an Order the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court dated 23rd July, 2014. Since the only “witnesses” to his “chase and capture” were police personnel, and since the trial court had believed their story, Laxman had been convicted. It was only after appeal to the High Court, that the High Court judge managed to catch the apparent lies of the witnesses. He ordered Laxman’s acquittal stating, ‘The plea of the appellant that he had surrendered before the Police and he has been implicated in a false case later on cannot be rejected in view of the unreliable evidence of the prosecution witnesses.’
But this recognition that Laxman had been implicated in a false case came a bit late. He had already served out his prison sentence. The only purpose left in the judgment was to clear him of the stigma of conviction.
Similar is the case of Bamu Deva Micha, whom we met in jail in 2010 as an ever-smiling teenager. An orphan, he had been left to shuttle from one relative to another throughout his childhood. On one such trip he was accosted by a police squad, who not only arrested him and showed a muzzle loader gun to be seized from him, but also made up a story that he had fired on them from it, thus accusing him of an attempt to murder them. He too was convicted by the Sessions Court and was only set free by the High Court.
In his case, the High Court Judgment dated 10th July, 2013 observed that, ‘The weapon appeared to have been planted on the appellant.’ Analysing the evidence of the prosecution, it pointed out that it ‘gives clear impression that the appellant has been framed in this case.’ It concluded ‘The loopholes found in the prosecution case make it certain that the prosecution case is manipulated against the appellant and he has been framed in this case.’
If you feel that the cases of Laxman and Bamu are exceptions and framing and false implication do not generally take place, you can think again. Some of the biggest criminal cases in recent times have seen the investigating agencies fabricating and concocting evidence to falsely implicate innocent persons. Well-known is the case of the 26/11 attack on Mumbai, where an attempt was made to fabricate evidence to implicate two accused, Fahim Ansari and Sabauddin, for conspiracy in the attacks. This evidence was rejected at the Sessions Court itself and confirmed by High Court as well as the Supreme Court.
Three months ago came the Supreme Court Judgment dated 16th May, 2013 in the case of the attack on the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar of September 2002, which not only acquitted all the accused, but also found that the whole case against them was fabricated and concocted. It stated, ‘…we fear that the story against the accused persons and its corroboration through the statements of accomplices is an act of concoction to make up a case against them’, and it concluded that ‘…there was a serious attempt on the part of the investigating agency to fabricate a case against the accused persons and frame them with the help of the statements of the accomplices, since they had not been able to solve the case even after almost a year of the incidence.’ [Para 96]. It took note of ‘the perversity in conducting this case at various stages’ [Para 131] and expressed anguish over the way in which ‘the investigating agencies conducted the investigation of the case of such a grievous nature, involving the integrity and security of the Nation. Instead of booking the real culprits responsible for taking so many precious lives, the police caught innocent people and got imposed the grievous charges against them which resulted in their conviction and subsequent sentencing.’ [Para 136]
The conclusions of the Supreme Court thus mean: The Akshardham accused are innocent. They spent almost eleven years in jail for no fault of theirs. They suffered because the police framed them just to create a false impression that they had solved the case.
This also means that the real conspirators were never identified. It is now almost twelve years after the attack and the investigation has been buried. There is thus almost no possibility that the actual perpetrators will ever be known.
Fabrication and false implication is thus a very serious crime. One would expect that the guilty officers would be penalised. But there has been no significant case where such officers have been even probed or prosecuted, leave aside punished.
By Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira.