Shahid Azmi murder: 9 years on, only 1 witness has deposed

Speakers at Azmi memorial lecture say lawyers must ensure justice is done

Published - February 12, 2019 01:29 am IST - Mumbai

Retired High Court Justice S.S. Parkar at the Shahid Azmi Memorial Lecture on Monday.

Retired High Court Justice S.S. Parkar at the Shahid Azmi Memorial Lecture on Monday.

Nine years after advocate Shahid Azmi was shot dead for staunchly representing the accused in their trials, the first witness has deposed in his murder trial, which started in December 2018.

Devendra Jagtap, Pintu Dagale, Vinod Vichare and Hasmukh Solanki were arrested soon after Azmi was killed in his office at Kurla on February 11, 2010, but charges were framed against them in August 2018. They have all been charged with Sections 302 (murder), 120B (criminal conspiracy), 452 (house trespass after preparation for hurt, assault) and Section 3 (licence for acquisition and possession of firearms and ammunition), 25 (punishment for certain offences) and 27 (punishment for using arms, etc) of the Arms Act.

Public prosecutor Vaibhav Bagade told The Hindu , “The trial started in December 2018 before Judge U.M. Padwad. The complainant and eyewitness have been examined and we are awaiting cross examination.”

He said there has been a delay because Mr. Solanki and Mr. Jagtap have moved the Supreme Court after the Bombay High Court rejected their bail applications. He said the trial will resume on February 25.

Ironically, at an event organised in the late lawyer’s memory, speakers spoke of ways to expedite justice. On Thursday, the Innocence Network, an affiliation of organisations dedicated to providing pro bono legal services to accused, organised the 2nd Shahid Azmi Memorial Lecture. At the event, retired Justice S.S. Parkar of the Bombay High Court said, “By organising this lecture, the emotion of fighting for justice is kept alive.” He said Advocate Azmi wanted to free and fight for those falsely implicated. “The judiciary will not be able to deliver unless lawyers ensure justice takes place,” he said.

The administration of justice, he said, is based on two wheels: lawyers and judges, but investigating agencies too play an important role. There have been cases where investigating agencies have botched up, first taking someone into custody, only to arrest someone else later.

When stringent laws are applied, the accused have to record their confessional statement before a magistrate but then too, there have been cases where the investigating agencies have coerced them. “This day every year since nine years reminds us that, ‘justice delayed is justice denied,’” he said.

Advocate Shahid Nadeem of Jamait Ulema that provides legal aid to many accused wrongly framed in terror cases spoke about State terrorism and the misuse of Terrorist And Disruptive Activities, Prevention Of Terrorism Act and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

Adil Azmi, Shahid’s younger brother said, “It all started when Shahid was at the Patiala House Court when he decided that there needs to be a group taking care of Muslims too and convinced the Jamait to do so. He would often tell me, ‘I will always try and help the Muslims.”

Azmi had made a database of those arrested under Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act and other draconian laws and would reach out to them, his brother recalled.

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