A Grave Error


After staying in news for more than a decade, the medical college drop-out Afzal Guru was finally hanged. Once interred in grave within the Tihar premises, a lot of reportage emerged about unfairness of the trial. Some of the stories that appeared in the aftermath were rare exclusives that could not come to fore before Guru’s execution.

The hanging came within many months after a number of youth were set free by different courts after the prosecution failed to prove what they had accused them of. Some of them had spent as many as 14 years behind bars and were eventually proved innocent during the trial. At the same time, there were many life sentences in last two years than ever before.

Skipping the debate over the system of trails involving Kashmiri youth, much larger question is the lack of adequate systems in place that could intervene in preventing tragedies created by under-representation of the accused during trials.

Detentions, interrogations and arrests are a norm for the last more than 20 years. While within the state, the local lawyer fraternity has been actively pleading the cases, it has not been possible in cases which were registered outside J&K. In many cases, the accused claimed they could not find attorneys who could plead for them. While in certain cases, lawyers from respective bars were not interested in pleading particular cases, there are instances in which the accused could not afford the lawyers of their choice.

Courts of law presume an accused innocent as long as they are not proved guilty. But in cases where there is nobody to plead for the accused, the prosecution is the only source of the information to the courts. Given the massive coverage revealing the entire chronology of what happened in the Parliament Attack case, it is apparent that if Guru would have got a good pleader in the trial court, he might have evaded hangman’s noose.

Locals bar has been routinely visiting the detainees within and outside J&K for the last more than 20 years. Sometimes they would go voluntarily and sometimes they would be sent by the courts. By and large, they always had a fair assessment of the state of trails involving the detainees from Kashmir.

While it is impossible for the local lawyers to shuttle between Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Western UP and Delhi to defend the Kashmiri citizens, it is quite possible that some societal initiative takes shape that could take care of this aspect of the crisis. Families of the accused, especially outside J&K, sometimes lack resources even to travel and if at all they manage it, they find no shelter. One of the statements that Guru’s erstwhile counsels issued recently suggested that they arranged for his wife and mother’s shelter in 2006 when they came to file mercy petition before the President.

If somebody has committed a crime, let him pay for it. And let the systems be in place that will help them get adequate defence.


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