Monday, June 4, 2012

The Kazmi Story Takes A Turn

The Kazmi Story Takes A Turn

                                                   Saeed Naqvi

The strange case of Syed Ahmad Kazmi, Urdu journalist, Doordarshan newsreader, and correspondent in India for the Iranian News Agency may well take a favourable turn after critical remarks last week by the Sessions Judge Surendra Singh Rathee about the manner in which the case has been handled so far. The Judge’s reasoning resembles, almost to the last syllable, P. Chidambaram’s arguments as a lawyer in a case in Chennai. Surely, the Union Home Minister will now stand by what he believed in as a lawyer.

Sessions Judge expressed surprise that the seven applications for extension of judicial custody were never shown to the accused.

In fact at one stage it was found that the application had either been removed from the lower Metropolitan Magistrate’s custody or never given to the court. Just when this travesty of justice was noticed, a court official materialized with the documents.

The Sessions Judge expressed bewilderment how judicial remand or custody had been extended on the basis of “illegible”, scribbled notes. The court order reads:

“The police custody Remand of Syed Mohd. Ahmed Kazmi to the special cell on March 7, 2012 is hand written so poorly that it is almost totally illegible. Not only is the handwriting so poor but even the complete words have not been framed and the order has been over written over the printed text of the application. This practice, the Sessions Court says, “deserves to be deprecated”.

Justice Rathee’s lamentation continues: “Despite sustained efforts, it was not possible for this court to decipher and read the order.”

When Kazmi’s lawyers moved a bail application within a month of his being held, the police case was that one country (by implication Iran) had used the territory of India to commit an act of terrorism on another (Israel). It was realized that the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, under which the Special Cell had arrested Kazmi, would become inoperable once Nations and not individuals were involved.

An amendment was introduced. The earlier stand was described as a “typographical” error. The alteration in the stand was not communicated to the accused which, the Defence says is violative of natural justice. The Defence can also argue that the copies of remand application sought by Kazmi were lost and found so mysteriously that they can no longer be considered “sterilized” documents.

The journey of the “non sterilized” documents in a case so much in the public eye, is worthy of note.

When Kazmi’s defence sought all the police applications for extension of remand, the following order was handed to him. The trial court said: “I am of the considered opinion that the said application and order cannot be supplied to the accused…….”

It was in response to this order that the accused turned up at the Sessions court in appeal. The Sessions judge maintained that “the reader of the court was not even aware of the exact whereabouts of these seven documents.”

“It is only after the court staff realized the seriousness of the situation, they seem to have conducted a sustained search and, after about two hours, the missing remand papers were produced before this court.” The judge has pointed out the flaw because of which “the Revisionist who is in custody since March 6, 2012, was denied the Right to seek copies of those very applications and orders under which he is being kept in detention.”

The state cannot seek refuge behind UAPA, under which it does have extra powers, but none that violates his Rights under article 21 and other supporting articles.

“Non supplying of documents can lead to vitiating the detention itself.”

Members of Parliament who have taken upon themselves to keep the Prime Minister and Home Minister, informed of the Kazmi case would find in Chidambaram a sympathetic legal mind.

In a case before the Madras High Court in the 90s, Chidambaram argued that “routine and mechanical” grant of remand to arrested persons was “repressive and oppressive”.

What view would he take of a case where Remand papers disappear and, under pressure, reappear as if from a magician’s hat. He would rather have the arrested person freed than hold him in a procedurally flawed manner.

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  1. Hypocrisy have been one of the widely used tools in Politics. A politician must take a stand that best suits his/her interest, so even though He once argued that “routine and mechanical” grant of remand to arrested persons was “repressive and oppressive". Anyone who expects him to take the same stand today, still needs to learn a thing or two about Politics. Because otherwise Mr Kazmi would have been a Free Man Today.

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