The Supreme Court Judgement on the December 13th Attack on Parliament

Within days of the terrorist attack on Parliament on 13th December 2001, the NDA government initiated a full scale mobilisation for war against Pakistan, saying that the terrorists were Pakistanis sponsored by the Pakistan Government. That mobilisation brought us to the brink of a nuclear confrontation with Pakistan, cost the public exchequer almost 10,000 Crores, led to the death of about 800 soldiers, over a hundred children and the loss of livelihood of thousands of farmers living in the border areas.

The only evidence of the identity of the terrorists was the alleged identification of them by Afzal to the police and his confessional statement. Afzal along with Shaukat, Afsan and Geelani had been arrested by the Special Cell of the Delhi police, which claimed to have solved the case with remarkable speed. Afzalís confession along with Shaukatís had been obtained by the Special cell before their DCP, since under POTA confessions before police officers became admissible in evidence.

The Supreme Court has however acquitted Geelani, Shaukat and Afsan of the charges of conspiracy, blowing a gaping hole in the conspiracy story concocted by the Special Cell, which was faithfully reproduced by sections of the media again and again, even during the trial. The court has however convicted Shaukat of an entirely new charge of concealing knowledge of the conspiracy, though he was neither charged of this offence, nor was there any argument in court on this issue. The Court has also made unfortunate, unjustified and entirely uncalled for remarks against Geelani, that because he laughed in a conversation with his brother, he must have approved of the attacks.

Afzal has been convicted of conspiracy primarily on the basis of statements of police witnesses and seizures of materials from him shown by the police, which went unrebutted during trial, because Afzal was practically unrepresented in the trial. Be that as it may, the fact remains that the court has acquitted 3 of the 4 persons charged of conspiracy and has held that the manner and circumstances in which the confessions were obtained, makes them unreliable.

However, it is only on the basis of these unreliable confessions that the then government immediately committed the country to a full scale war mobilisation against Pakistan with the possibility that it might have escalated to a nuclear war. The mobilisation was used by the NDA government for political purposes. POTA was immediately enacted, and anti-Pakistan as well as communal feelings were whipped up in the war hysteria which was drummed up taking advantage of the attack on Parliament.

No attempt was made to properly identify the persons who attacked Parliament. Instead of a proper high level inquiry into such an enormous conspiracy which shook the foundations of the republic, the government of the day was content with the facile and self-serving story concocted by the Special Cell and based primarily on confessions extracted by the Cell in their own custody, when everyone knows how such confessions are extracted. With the confessions set aside, we do not know the identity of the militants, though the then Home Minster L. K. Advani said that they looked like Pakistanis!

Moreover, Afzal, the only person found guilty by the Apex Court of conspiracy, is a surrendered militant, who was not only supposed to report regularly to the Special Task Force of Jammu and Kashmir, but was also under their surveillance. How could such a person mastermind and execute such a complex conspiracy? And how could a terrorist organisation rely upon such a person as the principal link for their operation? On whose behest was he acting? Is there some credibility to his statement that both the leader of the attack, Mohammad, and one of the masterminds in Kashmir, Tariq actually belonged to the Special Task Force? And what of the Press report from Thane (Times of India, Pune edition, 26 December 2001) that 4 terrorists including one Hamza (the same name as one of the terrorists killed in the parliament attacks, identified by Afzal) had been arrested by the Thane police in November 2000 and handed over to the Jammu and Kashmir police for further investigation? Even after three judgements by the courts, these questions remain unanswered. It will be a travesty of justice to hang Afzal without ascertaining answers to these questions.

In any case, it seems clear that there has at least been gross negligence on the part of someone in the Special Task Force for them to have been unaware of such a conspiracy planned under their noses by a surrendered militant, who was supposed to be under their surveillance. It is also clear that the Special Cell of Delhi police tried to frame at least three innocent persons. The High Court had found the investigating agency guilty of producing false arrest memos, doctoring telephone conversations and illegal confinement of people to force them to sign blank papers. It is also clear that false confessions were extracted by torture. All this, along with the serious questions that have been raised by reputed civil liberties organisations about the encounter killings carried out by this Special Cell, require that the methods of this rogue police cell, which functions as a law unto itself, be investigated and it be made accountable.

These are grave and momentous issues for the future of our democracy. In these circumstances, it is necessary that there be a full scale and in depth Parliamentary inquiry into all these issues. The country must learn the truth behind the attacks. Those guilty of negligence, concoction of evidence etc. must be held accountable. And above all, those who almost took the country to war in such a reckless manner must be made accountable.

Nirmala Deshpande
Chairperson
Committee for Inquiry of December 13th.

11th August 2005

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