The recent escape of three Pakistan nationals awaiting deportation for months has opened the proverbial Pandora’s Box for the agencies concerned revealing several loopholes in the system at various levels.
The three were arrested along with five other Pakistan nationals in October 2000. The police had then said they were Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agents and involved in the Old Delhi railway station blast in January 2000 and twin blasts near the Red Fort in June that year besides another explosion at Turkman Gate in August 1998.
The police also linked the accused to two explosions in Jammu. The then Police Commissioner had claimed that the entire narco-terrorism plan of the ISI had been exposed with the arrests as both explosives and heroin were seized from the Pakistani agents.
Among the three fugitive Pakistani nationals, Abdul Razzaq was booked under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act and the Foreigners Act. Rafaquat Ali and Mohammed Sadiq were booked under the Indian Penal Code (including waging war against the country), Explosive Substances Act, Arms Act and Foreigners Act.
However, the charge of waging war against the country was eventually dropped against two of them, who were convicted under the Explosive Substances Act and Foreigners Act. Razzaq was convicted under Section 14 of the Foreigners Act.
While an explanation has been sought from the police on the sensational escape, in another development a Delhi court on Friday acquitted four men who had been arrested for allegedly being part of a conspiracy to target the Indian Military Academy at Dehra Dun in 2005. However, two others were held guilty of possessing explosives.
On Thursday, another trial court let off two men accused of waging war against the country and other crimes for want of evidence. They were arrested in 2008 at the purported instance of Mohammad Iqbal, an alleged Harkat-Ul-Jehad-e-Islami militant. However, according to the police, they are prime accused in a case registered in Uttar Pradesh.
These developments nonetheless suggest either a lapse on the part of the police in applying provisions in consonance with the offence or their failure in gathering enough evidence to prove their case in the court -- or certain shortcomings in the law itself.
“Eventually the police are blamed for these acquittals. However, there are flaws in the old laws that require attention. The provisions wait for a crime to take place rather than pressing for pre-emptive action. If someone gets convicted for possessing a huge consignment of explosives like RDX or assault rifles, what else can his motive be other than waging war against the country?” asks a senior police officer.
However, he adds that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2008, has addressed several concerns on this count. The officer argues that it is very difficult to gather concrete evidence in terrorism-related cases and eyewitnesses are hard to come by.
“Hence logical conclusions need to be drawn to ascertain the real motive behind acts like carrying large amounts of lethal explosives. Secondly, like in the United States, special courts granting pre-arrest detentions should be set up to avoid any incidence of torture under illegal detention or avoidable arrest and prolonged stay in jail without any charges,” the officer suggests.