Mohammad Rafiq ShahMohammad Rafiq Shah
NEW DELHI: Mohammad Rafiq Shah was a student of MA (final) at Shah-i-Hamadan, Institute of Islamic Studies, University of Kashmir, Srinagar, when on the midnight of November 21, 2005, his world plunged into darkness.

He was picked up by officials of Delhi Police‘s special cell and Special Task Force (STF) of Kashmir Police.Two days later – after allegedly subjecting him to torture and humiliation at an STF camp – they brought him to Delhi. His crime: he was alleged to have planted a bomb in a DTC bus in Govindpuri on October 29, 2005, which injured many people.

Twelve years later, when he walked free on Thursday – after additional sessions judge Reetesh Singh acquitted him of all charges – the police were facing serious questions of credibility and human rights violations. Rafiq’s claim that “he was made an accused to assuage the public perception that Delhi Police was incompetent to act against terrorism” and that “he was a vulnerable target… made a scapegoat” rang true. Police, it seems, deliberately ignored his alibi at every step to prove their case . They brushed aside his plea that it could be proved he was in his class on the day of the blast. It relied on dubious witness es who ended up contradicting themselves, exposed Rafiq to many people when he was in custody before a test identification parade (TIP) could be conducted and suppressed inconvenient facts.

TOI had as early as on February 12, 2006, raised the question whether it “could be a case of harried cops under pressure to show results, targeting an innocent boy?” In a front-page report, “Delhi bomber was in class on October 29”, we had reported that Rafiq was actually attending his MA classes in his college in Srinagar. It was also reported that Rafiq had refused to appear for TIP as he had already been presented before some people, one of whom could be a witness in the Govindpuri blast.

The ground had been laid in Srinagar where Rafiq -according to his reply during framing of charges on January 21, 2008 which was cited by the judge – was allegedly forced to drink urine, kept naked and sexually abused, all in order to perhaps break his spirit. He had also alleged that rats were put in his trousers and attempts made to hurt his religious sentiments. “It seems I am being victimised only because I am a Kashmiri Muslim,” he said, expressing his faith that justice would prevail and the police get exposed.

The court drew attention to Supreme Court’s observation that when it comes to the notice of the investigating agency that a person accused of an offence has a good alibi, then it is the duty of that agency to investigate the genuineness of the plea of alibi and submit a report to the magistrate. “In the case of Manu Sharma versus the State (NCT) of Delhi….Supreme Court had observed that the criminal justice administration system in India places human rights and dignity for human life on a much higher pedestal. An accused is presumed to be innocent till proved guilty and is entitled to fairness and true investigation and a fair trial. The prosecution is expected to play a balanced role in the trial of crime and the investigation should be judicious, fair, transparent and expeditious to ensure compliance with the basic rule of law,” the court asserted. Rafiq’s case failed on all counts.

First Delhi Police produced a witness, Danbir Sharma, one of the passengers in the bus, on the basis of whose description, they got a portrait made. However, Sharma later couldn’t identify Rafiq. The portrait then disappeared mysteriously – pointed out by the judge – even as another witness, Rajeev Sinha, surfaced.

His and Sharma’s description of the bomber were at variance. Singh described the bomber as a young man, 22-24 years of age with a French-cut beard and prominent nose, who was wearing a cap with `New York’ written on the right. He said he was wearing a white shirt with grey stripes and cotton trousers, either blue or black. Sharma, however, said the bomber was a boy of 5 feet, 10 inches height and had `sanwla’ complexion. According to him, he was wearing a `coca cola’ coloured shirt and white trousers.

The defence later claimed that Rafiq had a full-grown beard when he was arrested. It was alleged that on November 25, 2005, inspector Badrish Dutt brought a barber to the special cell office and got his beard trimmed to resemble a French cut. He then took a photo of his on his cellphone.

Significantly , Rafiq had refused to participate in a TIP on the ground that he had been exposed to many people while in custody at Lodi Colony and his photographs taken. He particularly mentioned a man wearing spectacles with his lawyers later alleging in court that it was Sinha, a planted witness. Sinha later accepted that he wore spectacles.

Sinha had produced a ticket to prove his presence on the bus that day . This had been left unverified by the police for long though it could have checked its authenticity with the depot manager and the registers he maintained quite easily. It chose not to do so.

The police wrote to the Registrar, University of Kashmir, on February 17, 2006, regarding verification of admission and attendance of Rafiq but chose to forget about it in court. Later, it was claimed that because of vacations, the information could not be procured from the university . However, the judge saw through the charade. DCP S K Tewari had on February 27 – just 10 days after writing the first letter – asked the Registrar “Whether ” A” or “P” is marked in the attendance register of the class?” The court said this question could not have been put to the Registrar unless Tewari had access to the attendance records – the ones later produced by the defence and seen by the court – and hence the vacation plea for not being able to verify Rafiq’s presence “seems to be false”.The court said that in all probability the records had been collected by the police.

The police claimed the other accused, Mohammad Hussain Fazili – who too was acquitted – had led them to Rafiq. Rafiq, however, told the court that he met Fazili for the first time on November 21, 2005, at the STF camp. Fazili, too, denied taking the cops to Rafiq and claimed he was himself misled into believing by inspector Badrish Dutt that he was wanted in connection with an inquiry in a case under the Wildlife Protection Act. He too ended up in jail for 12 years.