Sinister cell: how Delhi police created fake terroristsICD/CATCH NEWS


SUHAS MUNSHI@suhasmunshi

It was supposed to fight terror, instead the Delhi police‘s Special Cell started creating fake terrorists. It must now answer to the law.

On 18 September, the NIA declared the cell’s informer Sabir Khan Pathan a fugitive and announced a cash reward of Rs 2 lakh for him.

The agency is investigating the arrest of Liaquat Shah, a surrendered militant from Kashmir, for terrorism. It has accused nine senior officers of the cell of framing Shah and asked the home ministry to launch an inquiry against them.

The officers had allegedly used Pathan to plant explosives which were later shown to have been recovered from Shah.

The special cell might have quite a bit of explaining to do when Shah’s case is next heard by a Delhi court in early November. It’s about time too, given how many high-profile cases of “foiled terrorist attacks” have fallen flat.

The Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association has compiled a list of 24 such cases in a recently released book, Framed, Damned, Acquitted: Dossiers Of A Very  Special  Cell’.

It’s not even the first such list. In 2012, the JTSA had detailed several “terror cases” allegedly cooked up by the special cell.

The report had caused a furore, forcing the police to come out with a rebuttal: the cases brought by the special cell had a conviction rate of 68%. This claim wasn’t true as an RTI request later revealed the conviction rate to be less than 30%.

Here, we list five cases from the JTSA’s new book, a copy of which was provided exclusively to Catch.

The cases are bound by two common threads. One, all the victims claim to have been picked up illegally and tortured for confessions. Two, the special cell has provided bizarre explanations when questioned about the sequence of events or evidence.


Parvez Ahmad Radoo

The case

In late September 2006, the Special Cell received information that Parvez Ahmad Radoo alias Raju, a Jaish-e-Mohammad operative from Sopore in Kashmir was coming to Delhi’s Azadpur Mandi to deliver a consignment of explosives. They laid a trap and arrested him.

They recovered a cardboard box stuffed with 3 kilos of a brown, granulated, oil-based explosive, a timer, an electric detonator and Rs 10 lakh hawala money.

Raju’s arrest thwarted a major terror network run by Mohammed Sheikh, a JeM commander who was supposed to supervise the transfer of explosives.

In October, the police raided certain locations in Pune to bust the hawala racket that had routed the money to Raju.

They couldn’t find Raju’s associate, however, because his shop was closed for Basant Panchmi.

The flaws

The police couldn’t furnish a single piece of evidence linking Raju with the JeM.

Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma, who had led the arrest, was left out of the list of witnesses. The court found “something wrong in this”.

The police gave contradictory statements about the nature of the evidence recovered. Also, the wire supposedly recovered from Raju was never found while the timer turned out to be a pencil detonator.

Basant Panchmi is never in October. The festival usually falls in January or February.

The outcome

After spending seven years in jail, Parvez, a post graduate in zoology who had even got a character certificate from the J&K government, was acquitted of all terrorism charges.


Mohammed Iqbal & Mushtaq Ahmad Kalloo

The case

The duo were arrested from Kaudia Pul in Delhi while trying to hand over explosives to their associates.

Both were JeM operatives and had come to Delhi from Deoband by train.

Rs 5 lakh hawala money was recovered from them as well as 2 kilos of explosives.

The flaws

Their association with the JeM was never proved.

Iqbal proved in court that the money found on him was payment for a gas agency in Delhi; it was a business transaction.

The witnesses who had supposedly watched the arrest admitted in court that they had never even seen the accused.

Inspector Sharma, who led the probe, was not made a witness.

The Delhi High Court couldn’t understand why, if police knew the two men were carrying explosives, they did not arrest them before they boarded a packed train.

Why weren’t they arrested as soon as they got off the train and instead allowed to travel to Kaudiya Pul with 2 kilos of high-grade explosives?

The court refused to accept the “falsity and improbability of the prosecution story”.

The outcome

The high court acquitted both the Kashmiri men.


Mohamed Wani & Luthfur Rahman

The case

Sher Khan, the commander of Harkat-ul-Jehad-i-Islami, or HUJI, had sent Wani and Rahman to collect money and material to carry out attacks in India.

Wani was arrested from Adarsh Nagar bus stop in January 2007 and Rs 4.5 lakh was found on him.

Rahman was arrested from Nizamuddin Dargah with 1.61 kilos of high-grade PETN explosive, two non-electric detonators, a timing device and four pencil cells.

The flaws

The seizure memo recorded the explosive as brown in colour, the forensic report said it was off-white. The sample produced in court was yellowish.

Asked to produce the PETN explosive, the police said it had mysteriously gone up in flames. “Surprisingly,” the court noted, the “bag in which it is stated that the PETN was kept did not enkindle completely and had a strong smell of acid fumes”.

The court couldn’t help but wonder: “why was there no explosion, how was the fire controlled, why was the smell of strong acid palpable in spite of the fire?”

The police couldn’t explain how the seized hawala money was acquired and from whom.

PETN explosive seized by the special cell mysteriously burnt up, but the bag it was in didn’t

The outcome

Both the accused were ordered to be released.


Mohammed Hassan, Shafaqat Iqbal & Shabbir Ahmed

The case

The men had been directed by Lashkar-e-Tayyeba’s operational chief Ammar to carry out fidayeen attacks in the capital during the 150th anniversary celebrations of the First War of Independence.

The police laid a trap and arrested them in April 2007 from Dilli Haat.

They recovered RDX, electronic detonators, timers, grenades and Rs 25,000 in cash.

All three admitted to interrogators that they were active members of the LeT and were out to attack Delhi.

The flaws

The court dismissed the testimonies of public witnesses as unreliable.

It expressed surprise that officers at the Sarojini Nagar police station, a short distance from Dilli Haat, did not know about the 8-hour-long operation by the special cell.

The police personnel posted outside Dilli Haat did not notice any unusual events throughout the day.

Despite knowing the militants were armed with grenades and RDX, the sleuths did not call a bomb disposal squad or even wear bulletproof jackets. “Why such a casual approach was adopted by members of the raiding party is not clear,” the court said.

The only evidence of their association with the LeT was their own disclosure statements.

The outcome

The court acquitted all three men.


Javed Ahmad Tantrey & Ashiq Ali Butt

The case

The two Hizb-ul-Mujahideen operatives had come all the way from Jammu in a white Santro car to attack Delhi on or before 15 August 2009.

The police apprehended all three and recovered two AK-47 rifles, two pairs of loaded magazines and two live hand grenades from them. They thus foiled a major terrorist plot.

When the police went to arrest Javed Ahmad Tantrey & Ashiq Ali Butt, TV crews were already there

The flaws

The judge questioned the special cell’s authority to probe the case. After the NIA was set up following the 2008 Mumbai attack, a police officer who gets inputs about terrorist activity has to inform the state, which in turn will warn the Centre. The centre will decide whether to bring the NIA or not.

The judge noted that this protocol was not followed in this case.

The police could not prove that the two men were operatives of the Hizb.

One of the witnesses, a police officer, could not explain how a computerized copy of his statement was produced even though he hadn’t been to the special cell office before deposing in the court.

The court noted that TV crews had reached the spot to record the arrest even before the police did.

The court found the narration of the sequence of events so unconvincing, it said “the possibility of implicating the accused in the said case cannot be ruled out”.

The outcome

Both the accused were acquitted.