20 years after the communal riots in Mumbai, the families of the victims continue their wait for justice. The recent revelation in front of the Bombay High Court have made it sure that the wait will continue for few more years.
The high court on Friday rejected the writ petition filed by Akhtari Tahir Hasan Wagle, demanding an FIR to be filed against the eight policemen from the Mumbai police who allegedly shot and killed her 16 years old son Shahnawaz and asking investigation in to this case of alleged murder. The reason was startling for her and for husband. The Maharashtra state government told the court that, a similar writ petition demanding 'justice' has already been filed in the supreme court and the joint affidavit already has Wagle's name in it. Ironically, neither Akhtari nor her husband Tahir were aware of any such pending case in supreme court as according to them it was the first time that they had approached any court for justice. But according to the affidavits provided to the high court, justice for their son has been pending in the Supreme Court for last 15 years, since 1998.
In 1998, an NGO named Action Committee for Implementation of Shrikrishna Report had filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court asking court to direct state government to implement Shrikrishna Committee report on Bombay riots. The general secretary of the committee is current Minority Affairs Minister of Maharashtra and Congress MLA from Mumbai Arif Naseem Khan. Subsequently two other writ petitions demanding justice to riot victims were filed by Human Rights Union of Supreme Court Lawyers (542/1998) and All India Jamiat Ulema E Hind (164/1999).
The matter remained without any progress for nine years. Nine years later in 2007, Mr. Khan filed a joint affidavit for all writ petitions in the Supreme Court, following the directions from court. In the affidavit he mentioned Wagle's case as an example of denial of justice to riot victims along with four other cases. None of the family members of Waghle were aware of it. Ever since then the case hasn't moved an inch and has even closed the chances of the victims' family to approach any other court as it happened on Friday.
A division bench of justices AS Oka and AM Bhangale rejected the writ petition on the grounds that the case is already pending in front of the Supreme Court. Wagle's counsel Ejaj Naqvi argued that the present writ petition has been filed by Wagle's mother and she has no knowledge of earlier any affidavit and hence the petition should be admitted. However, the court remained firm with its decision.
"I never asked him (Mr. Khan) to fight case for me in the court. He should have at least informed us when he mentioned my son's name in the affidavit," said Tahir Wagle, Shahnawaz's father, while speaking with The Hindu.
"If we had been informed before then we would not have approached high court. But the writ petition on the Supreme Court is pending from last 15 years and there is no sign of justice to Shahnawaz. The people who approached the Supreme Court should have ensured that hearings take place regularly. It seems that even they have forgotten about the case," said Mr. Naqvi, while speaking with The Hindu.
When contacted, Mr. Khan denied of any charges of negligence from his side. "We filed the affidavit in 2007 to prove home ministry's claims of Action Taken Report (ATR) wrong. The matter is sub-judice and we are providing necessary legal aid for the speedy verdict of the case," he told The Hindu.
Meanwhile, the family of Shahnawaz who had approached the high court with a hope to get justice has no option but to remain quite. "Now we can't even fight our son's case. That's what we are being told. We have no option but to wait," said Mr. Wagle.