Civil rights groups here have raised the issue of wrongful confinement of Lucknow resident Shahbaz Ahmad, who after spending over 12 years in jail, was acquitted in eight cases related to the Jaipur bomb blasts of 2008, but was rearrested in a ninth case in the same matter. The Rajasthan High Court had released Mr. Ahmad on bail last week.
The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has demanded payment of ₹1 crore as compensation to Mr. Ahmad, 48, for the loss of 12 years of his life and strict action against the police officers who had falsely implicated him in a “concocted case”. PUCL said Mr. Ahmad and his family had undergone an ordeal.
“These years cannot be returned to Mr. Ahmad, but those who conspired to implicate him should get punishment under the criminal law and face disciplinary action,” PUCL-Rajasthan president Kavita Srivastava said here on Monday.
Rearrested in 2019
The Anti-Terrorism Squad of Rajasthan police had rearrested Mr. Ahmad in December 2019 shortly after he was acquitted by a special court in the 2008 serial blasts cases. The arrest was made in connection with a bomb strapped to a bicycle parked in a market, which was defused by the police personnel before it could explode on May 13, 2008.
Eight other ammonium nitrate-based bombs, packed with metal splinters, went off at different locations within a 2-km radius in the densely populated Walled City here, killing 71 persons and leaving about 200 injured.
The trial in eight cases resulted in the conviction of four persons from Uttar Pradesh, but the case pertaining to the planting of unexploded bomb was not tried with the rest of the blast matters. The four convicted persons were awarded death penalty, while Mr. Ahmad was acquitted.
Mr. Ahmad, a resident of Lucknow who was the first one to be arrested three months after the blasts, was charged with sending an email which claimed responsibility for the blasts on behalf of the Indian Mujahideen, but the court did not find evidence beyond doubt to connect him with the crime.
ATS had claimed to have cracked the Jaipur blasts case after arresting Mr. Ahmad from his computer and career consultancy centre in Aminabad locality of Lucknow. He was referred to as the mastermind of serial blasts in Jaipur and elsewhere till the controversial Batla House encounter took place in Delhi on September 19, 2008, and some alleged IM operatives were arrested in Mumbai and Pune.
Granting bail to Mr. Ahmad, Justice Pankaj Bhandari at the High Court’s Jaipur Bench expressed surprise at the fact that he was not arrested in the ninth case when he was “languishing” in jail. “I am using the term ‘languishing in jail’ because [the] petitioner remained in custody for 12 years and was ultimately found not guilty in all cases,” the Judge observed in his three-page order.