Sabarmati Express blast: Kashmiri man acquitted of charges after 16 years

Gulzar Ahmed Wani, who was pursuing his PhD in AMU’s Arabic department, was arrested from New Delhi on July 31, 2001, and named as an accused in the case

 Sabarmati Express Blast
Was 28 When Held, Lost Prime Of His Youth
Coming from an educated family of a government employee from Baramulla district of Jammu and Kashmir, 28-year-old Gulzar Ahmed Wani was pursuing research in Arabic in 2001 when he was arrested as an accused in 11cases of bomb blasts that rocked UP and Delhi on the eve of Independence Day in 2000.But the trial courts spread across Delhi and UP disbelieved the evidence brought against him by police of both states, acquitting him in one case after another. On Friday , he was acquitted in the last one -the Sabarmati Express train blast case -by a court in Barabanki in UP .

Wani has finally come out clean, but paid a heavy cost. He was 28 years old at the time of arrest . Today he is 44. Wani spent 16 years, the prime of his youth, behind bars for crimes the trial courts found he had not committed.

After Wani’s acquittal in the last of the 11 cases, his counsel Irshad Hanif raised some important questions: “Who will compensate Wani for the 16 years he lost in jail?
Will the government fasten accountability on the police officers who implicated him in the 11 cases? How will the government pay back the family?“ When Hanif argued for his bail last month in Sabarmati Express blast case in the Supreme Court, a bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar had asked the trial court to finish trial expeditiously while taking an unprecedented decision to grant him bail at a future date -November 1.

The court said if trial was not completed, Wani would be released on bail on that day . “If the prosecution does not complete examination of witnesses by October 31, Wani will be released on bail on Novem ber 1, 2017 on the terms and conditions to be imposed by the trial court,“ it had ordered.

After his acquittal in the case, Wani does not need benefit of this order. The CJI could not hide his exasperation at the ineptitude shown by UP and Delhi police. “What a shame! He has been acquitted in 10 out of 11 serious cases slapped on him. No credible evidence has been found against him by the trial courts in all these cases,“ he said on April 25.

Looking at Wani’s six aliases, CJI Khehar had asked: “Why does a person require half a dozes aliases? You have six of them.“ Advocate Hanif explained, “He was a bright student at Aligarh Muslim University and was pursuing a PhD course in Arabic after completing his post-graduation when he was arrested. All these aliases have been given to him by police.“

Wani was arrested in July , 2001 by the Delhi Police and on the basis of alleged confessional statements given by him and the other accused under Section 161 of CrPC (inadmissible as evidence in court of law), he was made accused in the serial blasts that rocked several towns and trains in UP on the eve of Independence Day in 2000.