Realising serious lapses in the process of hearing, a division bench of Andhra Pradesh high court has recalled its order against payment of compensation to Muslim youth of Hyderabad who were illegally detained, tortured and booked by the city police in the aftermath of blast in Mecca Masjid more than six years ago.
The division bench, comprising of Chief Justice Kalyan Jyothi Sengupta and Justice C K Bhanu, had passed the orders on September 16 asking the state government to recover the money paid as compensation to these youth. The court had passed the orders on a writ petition filed by a Bharatiya Janata Party leader Venkatesh Goud challenging the legality of the state government’s orders.
Three days later, the division bench declared the order ineffective as it realisd that the orders were passed without hearing the affected parties -- the youth who were given the compensation.
In a bold and rare gesture, Chief Justice Kiran Kumar Reddy said that as per a Supreme Court judgment an order can be declared ineffective if during the course of hearing new facts come to notice, and matter can be heard further.
He said, “After dictation (of the order) during correction we have noticed that there were serious lapses while hearing the matter and delivering the order”. It includes not hearing the beneficiaries of the compensation by making them parties.
The bench asked the registry of the court to issue notices to the affected parties to argue their case before the court and set the next hearing of the case after 15 days.
The HC took the decision close on the heels of spate of criticism over the manner in which the first order was passed without hearing the affected parties and impleading the state government and the National Commission for Minorities, which had recommended the payment of compensation to the youth.
Venkatesh Goud had challenged the state government orders of December 2011 paying compensation of Rs 70 lakh to 70 Muslim youth of Hyderabad who were illegally detained and tortured in the aftermath of the blasts in Mecca Masjid in 2007.
The bench had said that the government did not have the legal jurisdiction or power to pay compensation to the people merely on the ground that they were acquitted or discharged by the court.
The affected youth argued that they were never an accused in Mecca Masjid blast case as was falsely made out in the writ petition and they were not acquitted in that case.
“We were illegally detained and tortured by the police to force us to confess our involvement in the Mecca Masjid blast case. When they failed in this attempt the police booked us in another case (198/2007) alleging that we were involved conspiracy and possessed Jihadi literature. But even in that case the court acquitted us”, said Dr Ibrahim Junaid, one of the 26 youth who were booked by the police.
Soon after the blast in Mecca Masjid on May 18, 2007 the Hyderabad city police said it suspected the involvement of Muslim groups in the blast and rounded up more than a hundred youth. However, the subsequent investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the National Investigation Agency revealed the involvement of Hindu extremist elements in the incident.
Following the massive outcry against the victimisation of Muslim youth, and putting a stigma of terror on them, the National Minorities Commission recommended the state government to come forward to help the victims by paying suitable compensation and issuing a character certificate. The commission had also recommended action against the guilty police officials responsible for victimising the youth and recovering the compensation amount from their salaries.
However, the state government did not take any action against police officials on the ground that it will demoralise the force.
In December 2007, the state government passed the orders to pay a compensation of Rs 3 lakh each to 20 youth and Rs 20,000 each to 50 affected youth.
In addition to this another suit of 20 affected youth demanding compensation from the government was pending before the city civil court in Hyderabad.
Image: Security personnel use sniffer dogs to inspect the site of blast at Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid.
Photograph: Krishnendu Halder/Reuters