What A Shame, No Evidence In 10 Of 11 Cases: CJI

  A bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud ordered for release of Gulzar Ahmad Wani from November 1, 2017 on bail if the prosecution failed to record evidence of material witnesses in the Sabarmati Express train blast case lodged against him Uttar Pradesh's Barabanki district.

Gulzar Ahmed Wani of Srinagar has been in jail for nearly 16 years since his arrest in July 2001 on charges of involvement in a series of terror attacks. He has since been acquitted in 10 of the 11cases brought against him by UP and Delhi police. His co-accused have been granted bail in the remaining one too, but Wani continues to be behind bars as prosecution in Uttar Pradesh has not finished examining even half of the 96 witnesses.Wani’s plight due to the snail pace of trial drew outrage from the top court on Tuesday .“What a shame! He has been acquitted in 10 out of 11serious cases slapped on him. No cred ible evidence has been found against him by the trial court in all these cases. The problem with police is that they keep persons in jail and do not produce evidence against them in court,“ said a bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud.

In the last case where Wani is being tried, the bench took the unprecedented step of granting him bail with effect from a future date. “If the prosecution does not complete examination of witnesses by October 31, Wani will be released on bail on November 1, 2017 on the terms and conditions to be imposed by the trial court,“ it ordered. Only one case–Sabarmati Express train blast of 2000–is pending against him but his co-accused have been granted bail, argued Wani’s counsel Mohd Irshad Hanif.

Wani was acquitted in the 10th case–the Agra blast case of 2000–in April last year.

CJI Khehar said: “What you say may be correct. But explain why does a person require half-a-dozen aliases?
You have six of them.“

In the cause list of the Supreme Court, Wani is also shown as Irshad, Ashraf and Abdul Hamid.

Advocate Hanif explained: “He was a bright student at Aligarh Muslim University and was pursuing PhD course in Arabic after completing his postgraduation when he was arrested. All these aliases have been given to him by police.“

Wani’s plight made the CJI-headed bench turn the spotlight on UP police counsel P N Misra, who said Wani had not been in jail for the last 16 years for the Sabarmati Express blast case but for other cases.

The bench said: “In this case (Sabarmati Express blast), in 2015, the prosecu tion had examined six of the 96 witnesses, by September last year you had examined 20 witnesses, and till now you have completed examination of 29 witnesses. The Supreme Court had requested the trial court in September last year to complete trial in six months. The problem is you keep him in jail and yet don’t produce evidence in court.“

When Hanif reiterated that Wani, who was 28 years old at the time of his arrest and now turned 44, should be granted bail as the co-accused in the case had got relief, the bench ordered: “We consider it just and proper that one last opportunity be given to the prosecution to examine material witnesses by October 31, 2017. Whether or not the examination is complete, Wani shall be released on bail on November 1, 2017, on such grounds as may be considered appropriate by the trial court.“

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