Baru*, a resident of a small village in West Bengal, travelled to Delhi in 2005 with the hope of earning enough money to provide sustenance to his family back home. A trained tailor, Baru thought that opportunities would abound in the capital, and started his journey onwards. But when he reached New Delhi Railway station he was picked up by the Delhi Police’ s Special Cell (a Unit of Delhi Police that looks into Cases Pertaining to Terrorism), who took him to their office for questioning. The questioning, which should take a few hours, lasted four long months. In these months, Baru not only became an in-house help of the Special Cell, but was also subjected to torture repeatedly. After four months, the police formally arrested him under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 and booked him under various sections. They claimed that he was a member of Jaish-e-Mohammad, a banned terrorist outfit, and has been a focus of surveillance for a while, as his name was revealed through the data procured from a mobile which was supposedly found with a slain militant.
After his arrest, he was sent to judicial custody to await the conclusion of his trial. He had no idea why he ended up in Tihar, or how his family was faring back in West Bengal. As is typically the case, the trial progressed at a slow pace and only reached its conclusion in 2009, when he was promptly convicted for being a member of J-e-M, though other charges were dropped during the course of trial due to lack of evidence.
Baru’s fate was basically decided on the basis of an identity card that could have been printed by anyone with a basic knowledge of computers. Further, no one could vouch for its authenticity, as it supposedly belonged to a banned terrorist outfit. The identity card, which proclaimed Baru as not only a member of Jaish-e-Mohammad but also as an Area Commander, was supposedly recovered after he made a similar statement to the police. However, no independent witnesses were present during the recovery of the identity card. Under the Law of Evidence (part of the Indian Evidence Act), no statement made to the police can be given importance unless accompanied with some sort of recovery. Further, the recovery must be done in front of independent witnesses in order for it to be admissible as evidence. Despite this loophole, the recovery was the basis of the Prosecution’s evidence, on which Baru was convicted and sentenced to seven years of rigorous imprisonment (which includes mandatory labor) and a fine of 1000 rupees.
Although Baru had almost finished his time of seven years in jail, he still wanted to continue with an appeal before the High Court of Delhi to prove his innocence. When IBJ Fellow Ajay Verma, Advocate, took the case, he pointed out the numerous discrepancies with the prosecution’s investigation. Though Baru was acquitted after Six and a half years of Unnecessarys Detention, throughout all these years no one from his family could see him in prison due to poverty. When he returned to his village after his release from prison, he found his house was completely damaged and his family’s whereabouts were not known. According to Mr. Ajay Verma, when Baru called him from his village he was crying and said,“Sir, my everything has shattered and whereabouts of my family is unknown.” Thus, a prolonged trial in Indian court not only causes irreparable loss to the Innocent man but also affects his family.
*Name has been changed