The Hindu, November 7, 2003

Illegal detention of Muslims in Gujarat: Amnesty

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI NOV. 6. Police in Ahmedabad are abusing the laws relating to arrest and detention to keep an undisclosed number of Muslim men in jail, according to an Amnesty International report released today.

The report - "India: abuse of the law in Gujarat - Muslims detained illegally in Ahmedabad" - said that since March this year, the Ahmedabad Crime Branch had illegally detained scores of Muslims. Some of these cases were subsequently registered under POTA. There was also evidence of torture of the detainees. "These detainees and their relatives have been terrorised by the police into remaining silent."

There was "damning evidence against Gujarat police contained in court documents", which also provided "evidence of the disregard of the Gujarat High Court for the rights of detainees".

A large number of the arrests were in the context of alleged "conspiracies against the state". These include the burning of the Sabarmati Express and the "ISI conspiracy" that the Ahmedabad police claimed to have uncovered since the killing of the former Gujarat Home Minister, Haren Pandya.

Most of the men had been detained at the Gaekwad Haveli Police Station in Ahmedabad. Between March and May this year, over 300 were detained. Half of them were later registered as arrests under POTA. In some cases, the detainees were allowed to see their families, in others families were only allowed to send food.

The report said that national and international legal safeguards "designed to prevent such situations are being ignored by police, without fear of censure by government authorities or the courts in the State".

The report recounted a "unique" case, of a father and son whose complaint actually went before the High Court.

The wives of both men filed Habeas Corpus petitions (No. 658 and 650 of 2003) in the Gujarat High Court on July 7, stating that their husbands had been arrested by Crime Branch police officers and were being illegally detained. Following this, police permitted them to meet their husbands and then took them to court to "withdraw" their petitions stating that their husbands were in Jammu. However, on July 11, the date originally set for the hearing, they filed affidavits testifying to meeting their husbands in police custody and being intimidated by police.

On July 16, both men were produced in the special POTA court in Ahmedabad.

Police claimed they had been arrested the previous day, with bullets and money in their possession.

The High Court thereafter dismissed the petitions. Amnesty said: "The judge did not take any action to investigate the claims of illegal detention or torture... despite evidence before him".

The court also denied them leave to appeal to the Supreme Court stating that, "in our opinion no substantial question of law of general importance is involved in these petitions which is required to be decided by the Hon'ble Supreme Court".

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India Committee of the Netherlands / Landelijke India Werkgroep - 7 november 2003