Shahbaz Ahmad (48) was kept in police custody long after he was acquitted in various cases related to the Jaipur Blasts of 2008. There has been a clear denial of the sacrosanct Right to Life and Personal Liberty as granted by our constitution, leading to its ridicule. The Rajasthan High Court was shocked on recently learning the same.
The court further noted that he has been arrested again in a case relating to the Jaipur blasts although he was already acquitted in around 8 similar cases. Shahbaz, a native of Lucknow, has been under the police custody since 2008, keeping him away from a family of three children and a wife.
His judgement of acquittal in those 8 cases relating to the Jaipur Blasts was given by a Special Court in Jaipur, on December 18, 2019. The court went on to say that there was a “total failure” on part of the prosecution to prove the allegations against him. It sentenced the other four accused to death on proof of guilt. The Jaipur Blasts had led to the loss of 71 innocent lives and injured about 200 people.
The prosecution just had a sole allegation raised against Ahmad, that he had sent an email to some news channels on behalf of Indian Mujahideen pertaining to the said incident. This allegation was dismissed by the court instantaneously as no email could be proved to have been sent by him.
He was acquitted by the court on December 18, 2019. However, this was followed by his arrest again exactly a week later on December 25, 2019 by the Rajasthan Police. The police filed an FIR which was registered in 2008 with connection to the blasts. Without even filing the chargesheet, this FIR had been kept dormant all this while. Later, the chargesheet was submitted along with the FIR in June, 2020.
On the ground of “double jeopardy” under Section 71, IPC; Section 300, CrPC, and Article 20(2) of the constitution, Ahmad filed an application in the Trial Court. While the status of the application was pending, he resorted to Section 439, CrPC to seek regular bail. It was rejected by the Sessions Court ensued by an approach to the High Court.
High Court expresses Utter Disbelief
The Rajasthan High Court expressed utter disbelief at the fact that Ahmad had not been arrested for 12 years and was kept in custody for the entire time period in the following words:
“It is indeed surprising that when the petitioner was languishing in jail (I am using the term "languishing" because petitioner remained in custody for twelve years and ultimately found not guilty in all these cases) as to why the petitioner was not arrested in this case when he remained in custody for twelve years", as observed by a single bench of Justice Pankaj Bhandari while granting him bail in the case.
It has been recorded in the bail order that the Additional Advocate General was explicitly clueless when questioned on non-arrest of Ahmad in the FIR for as long as 12 years:
“Learned Additional Advocate General was not in a position to apprise the Court as to why petitioner has been arrested in the present F.I.R. when he was held not guilty in eight similar FIRs.”
Advocates Mujahid Ahmed and Nishant Vyas, Ahmad’s counsel, put forth the argument that the arrest was backed by no legitimate reason apartments from just trying to prolong his custody. The High Court expressed:
“Considering the contentions put forth by counsel for the petitioner and taking note of the fact that the present FIR is akin to the eight F.I.Rs. in which the petitioner has been found not guilty, I deem it proper to allow the bail application.”
The bail was approved by the HC on furnishing a personal bond of Rupees One Lakh along with two sureties of Rs 50,000 each. After a long journey of proofs and dismissals, Ahmad could finally reunite with his family.
Intervention by Supreme Court
Another FIR was registered against Ahmad in 2019. It alleged that Ahmad had assaulted some police officers in order to restrain a search. On the contrary, he claimed to be the victim of the Police torture. The Supreme Court intervened in the matter.
As the Rajasthan High Court denied him a bail on January 27, 2020, he approached the Supreme Court. The SC took note of the distinctive facts of the case emphasising that the petitioner had suffered 11 injuries in the Police custody, thereby granting him a bail.
Along with this, the Apex Court also went on to direct the State Government to hold a fact-finding inquiry by appointing a Senior IAS Officer as of the State Cadre, so that Ahmad’s complaint of torture in custody could be looked into, followed by taking appropriate actions against the guilty officials.
The Supreme Court has time and again reiterated the significance of Liberty as fundamental to life. However, in the practical day-to-day life, cases like Ahmad’s could show a side otherwise of the state and legal machinery of our nation.