Compensate acquitted innocents: Justice AP Shah

“It is shameful that India does not have any such provision,” said Justice Shah, adding that the cost may be recovered from the officers responsible for the wrongful arrests and prosecution

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Justice AP Shah

One of the biggest pitfalls of arresting a person on malicious and wrongful intent in terror cases is that while innocents get behind the bars, the real culprits go scot-free which can be very dangerous for the society, observed Justice AP Shah, former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, while releasing the first Peoples’ Tribunal report on acquitted innocents.

“We need to improve the efficiency of our investigating agencies to ensure that such pitfalls that have ruined and are still ruining hundreds of lives are removed. The trial in such cases takes seven to eight years or more to complete, and by the time the accused is released, his or her life is in a shambles,” said Justice Shah, citing the case of Nisaruddin, who was acquitted by the Supreme Court in 2016 after spending 23 years in prison.

The tribunal, first of its kind, heard depositions from nine acquitted innocents over a period of two months who were picked up by the police in terror cases but later exonerated by the courts for want of evidence but in the process had to suffer the humiliation and social stigma of being a terror accused.

One of the acquitted victims who spent 14 years in jail, Mohammed Aamir Khan, termed the report as a milestone but found it lacking in spelling out what could be done to save the terror accused within the four walls of prison.

“I was acquitted after 14 years. Our jails are no better than Abu Ghraib where accused like me go through the worst kind of torture and are always at the mercy of police and other convicts. Many get killed like what happened in Bhopal jailbreak case,” said Aamir.

Giving its recommendations to save, compensate and rehabilitate exonerated accused of terror cases, the tribunal observed that the government should grant compensation to the exonerees for violating their right to life and liberty and the torture they underwent under Article 21 of the Constitution.

“It is shameful that India does not have any such provision,” said Justice Shah, adding that the cost may be recovered from the officers responsible for the wrongful arrests and prosecution.

The tribunal recommends greater accountability and transparency of investigating agency for which they should be subjected to initiation of departmental enquiry against the officers concerned and the erring officers must be suspended with immediate effect pending enquiry. “If found that the criminal prosecution against the acquitted persons was malafide and amounts to offences under IPC Sections 194, 196 and 211, the officers named by the exonerees should be prosecuted,” the report said.

The report recommended enactment of law to compensate for miscarriage of justice, pass the prevention of torture bill that is pending in the parliament for four years, shifting the burden of proof in offenses related to custodial violence and torture by bringing amendment in section 114B (1) of the Indian Evidence Act as proposed by the Tenth Law Commission.


The tribunal explicitly recommended repealing Section 18 of MCOCA thus calling for an end to the admissibility of confessions as evidence and bringing all undergoing trials in repealed and lapsed TADA and POTA under ordinary law.

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