Meena Menon

These were filed after Mumbai riots

16 cases that involve heinous crimes will be tried in the sessions courts

There are over 180 accused involved, cases of which 19 are policemen

MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court on Tuesday nominated four courts to conduct a speedy trial of 32 serious riot cases which have been pending since about 14 years. These cases were registered after the 1992-93 riots in Mumbai which claimed nearly a thousand lives.

The decision has come just as various Muslim organisations are planning a morcha on October 25 to protest against the “inaction of the State government” on the riot cases. Of the 32 cases short listed, 16 that involve heinous crimes would be tried in the sessions courts, official sources said. The most serious one is the case involving the former joint commissioner of police, R.D. Tyagi, and 17 other policemen who were involved in a firing incident at Suleiman Bakery in south Mumbai in which nine people were killed. Nine persons, including Mr. Tyagi, were discharged in this case. The State is yet to file an appeal against the discharge of the policemen. The rest of the cases involve murder, arson, looting and burning of property, rioting, violation of curfew and rioting with dangerous weapons. There are over 180 accused involved in these 16 cases of which 19 are policemen.

According to a decision taken at the meeting between the Chief Minister and the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court on October 18, two sessions judges and two metropolitan magistrates will deal with the riot cases. At the government’s request, the High Court has nominated the four courts on a temporary basis till regular appointments in the newly created posts are made. Till then, these courts will function as special courts and deal preferentially with the riot cases. Six public prosecutors have also been appointed for these cases. They are R.S. Kanojia, Sheela Jamdar, N.K. Kasture, Mohan Sawant, D.K. Joshi and J.R. Solanki.

The State government will file an affidavit in the Supreme Court, which is hearing several cases related to the riots, on October 30. In August, in response to demands from voluntary groups, the government set up a high level committee to study the pending riot cases in the courts and recommend the serious ones for a speedy trial. State Home Secretary Chitkala Zutshi headed the committee which included Rakesh Maria, joint commissioner of police (crime) and senior law and judiciary department officials. The committee scrutinised about 240 pending cases and short listed 32 cases which were of a very serious nature and which involved heinous crimes. Mr. Maria said a letter was also written to the law department to expedite all cases pending in various courts.

Till October 22 the police rearrested 20 absconding accused in 11 cases which were in a dormant file. These cases were registered during the riots, and got stuck as the accused could not be traced. Ms. Zutshi said the committee held six meetings since it was formed and made good progress in identifying the serious cases which needed to be transferred for an expeditious trial. The cases will be distributed among the four courts soon. She has also written to Union Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta demanding enhanced compensation for the riot victims on the lines of the package given to the victims of the 1984 Sikh riots and the Gujarat carnage.