More than six years after the Hyderabad Mecca Masjid blast and local police falsely implicating dozens of local Muslim youngsters, the case continues to haunt both the minority community as well as the Andhra Pradesh government.
After the latest embarrassment of the Andhra Pradesh high court striking down the government’s orders of paying compensation to the youth who were framed in the blast, when it was allegedly carried out by some Hindu terrorists, the government was planning to approach the Supreme Court for a stay.
A division bench of AP high court comprising of Chief Justice Kalyan Jyothi Sengupta and Justice K C Bhanu set aside the orders of the government passed in December 2011, paying compensation of Rs 70 lakh to 70 Muslim youth.
Acting on a writ petition filed by BJP leader and advocate Venkatesh Goud, the court said that the government had no jurisdiction and authority to issue such an order. The court directed the government to recover the money already disbursed to the victims and also stop payment to the remaining recipients.
It may be recalled that acting on the recommendation of the National Minorities Commission, the state government had issued an order on December 7, 2011, awarding a compensation of Rs 70 lakh to 70 Muslim youth of Hyderabad.
While Rs 3 lakh each was paid to 20 youth, another 50 youth were compensated for being falsely booked in connection with the blast.
Subsequent investigation by the CBI revealed the alleged involvement of some right wing Hindu organisations. Some of the accused including Devender Gupta, Lokesh Sharma, Aseemanand and Samuddar Choudhary continue to be in judicial custody in connection with the blast that left 14 people dead.
While the cheques were disbursed to all the beneficiaries at the hands of the minister for minority welfare Syed Ahmadullah at an official function, four youth including Mohammed Rayees were not handed over the cheque due to some technical reasons.
Coming down heavily on the state government for paying the compensation, the bench said that instead of helping the poor on the street the government was paying compensation without any basis of law. The government cannot award compensation merely on the ground of their acquittal or discharge from the case. The government should maintain restraint, the court said.
The high court order has left both the Muslims and the state government upset.
According to the sources, the government is considering filing an appeal in the Supreme Court to get a stay order.
Reacting to the court order, State Minorities Commission Chairman Abid Rasool Khan said that the state may approach the Supreme Court against the high court orders. “The state government had paid compensation to the youth following a direction from the National Commission for Minorities.”
He said the police had detained or arrested the youth amid widespread allegations of torture and wrongful confinement. Senior state Congress leader and member of legislative council Mohammed Ali Shabbir, who was minister for minority welfare at the time of the mass arrests of Muslims in Hyderabad, came out against the high court orders and said that the state government will appeal in the Supreme Court. “I will talk to the chief minister on the issue and urge the government to challenge it in the Supreme Court,” he said.
Noted criminal lawyer Shafeequr Rahman Mohajir, who was also in the forefront in the legal battle for the victims of police harassment, described the HC orders as a ‘sad judgement’. He said that the writ petition filed by the leader of a political party against the compensation was not maintainable and misconceived as the boys affected were not arrayed. He wondered why the state government did not file an application to implead these boys and why the court did not direct them to be made parties when they were the persons affected. The orders were passed without hearing the other side, he said.
Mohajir said that as the compensation was paid on the commendation of the National Commission for Minorities, it should have also been made a party to the PIL or the commission should have been informed to implead itself.
“The compensation was not awarded merely because they were acquitted but because it was established that they were illegally detained, kept in illegal custody, were tortured and their rights were violated,” he said.
Image: Policemen stand guard at the site of a bomb blast at Mecca Masjid
Photographs: Krishnendu Halder/Reuters