It’s a major faux pas by the Andhra Pradesh Police. Sixteen Muslims arrested a few weeks after the terror attack on Mecca Masjid on May 19, 2007 were acquitted of all the charges following a nearly two-year legal battle.

Despite social ostracization, public humiliation and mental agony, the victims had waged a legal battle with the State and had proved their innocence. Even the government was forced to admit that police had gone wrong and gave monetary compensation - Rs. 3 lakh to each of the 16 persons and Rs. 20,000 each to nearly 50 others - to those cleared of the charges. (The compensation amount has now been set aside by the High Court). While it is nearly two years since compensation was disbursed to the victims, no action has been initiated till now against the police officers responsible for registering and charge-sheeting them in ‘false’ cases.

“The main demand of the acquitted persons is punishment to police officers who tortured the innocent for days together by detaining them illegally,” says Lateef Khan of Civil Liberties Monitoring Committee-India. In fact, some officers associated with the investigation continued to get promotions and were assigned key posts in the law and order division.

A special investigation team comprising Hyderabad Police Commissionerate officials had made the arrests and probed the cases. Usually, without prima facie evidence, no police officer issues an FIR, and more so in terror-related cases. Even when the government admitted to the innocence of those arrested, not a single line of official explanation was given by the police department.

More interestingly, no police officer wants to speak or discuss the case. Some, who don’t want to be quoted, try to take shield under legal technicalities, maintaining that the youngsters were not “arrested” but held for criminal conspiracy cases registered separately. And, the fact remains that even that conspiracy and other charges were struck off by the court for lack of evidence!

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