Mumbai police will kill me, Zahira tells court

Special Correspondent

She insists being handed over to the Gujarat police

Zahira seems to be `under terrible pressure,' says judgeHe points out how Zahira first did not want to go to Gujarat

MUMBAI: Zahira Sheikh on Thursday told the special court at Mazgaon that she feared being killed by the Mumbai police. As soon as she was produced in court, Zahira told Additional Sessions Judge Abhay Thipsay that she wished to go to Vadodara. She also said that the police were starving her and not allowing her to perform namaz in the lockup.

Initially Zahira had demanded to be detained in Mumbai, as she was scared of going to Gujarat. Amazed at this turnaround, Mr. Thipsay then wanted to know who was meeting her in the lockup. The police in charge of her security at the Bhoiwada police lockup said that only her younger brother Nasibullah had met her. Mr. Thipsay said that complaints in the lockup could be sorted out and ordered the police to extend the best possible facilities to her. He said that she was allowed to have home food and there should be no problem about performing namaz.

Custody till March 20

The judge ordered that she should be kept in lockup till March 20. That is the day she and her family will reply to show cause notices and explain why they gave false evidence under oath in the Best Bakery re-trial, which was conducted at the special court.

He also pointed out that Zahira's lawyer, Atul Mistry, had made an application on March 13 that she be detained till March 24. Mr. Mistry and D.K. Garg had come to court on Monday after the proceedings were over. That day in court Zahira had said that she had no contact with Mr. Mistry. However, later Mr. Mistry filed an application on her behalf. Mr. Thipsay pointed out that Mr. Garg and Mr. Mistry should not have been allowed to meet Zahira directly. These people appeared without her consent, he said.

The judge noted that the Gujarat police had not received any directions from the Supreme Court to take her into custody and neither was any member of the Gujarat police present in court. On Monday, Mr. Thipsay said he would ask the Supreme Court for instructions on how the sentence of one year imposed by it on Zahira for contempt of court was to be executed. This court had not received any instructions from the Supreme Court so far.

Breaks down

Zahira often broke down in court and kept repeating that "they treat me like an animal and these people will kill me." At one point, she said, "I will die, kill me here itself." She claimed a policewoman had yelled at her and that she had not asked for any extra food. Only the first day was all right but after that it was bad, she said. She insisted that she did not wish to stay here and that she be handed over to the Gujarat police. Mr. Thipsay kept asking her why she thought Gujarat was a better place, to which she said nothing.

Mr. Thipsay said the situation was very serious and it was not possible for the court to talk to her and find out what was happening. He said that first she had said she did not want to go to Gujarat and now she had changed her stand. It appeared this stand had been taken after seeing the conditions at the Bhoiwada lockup. The possibility that she was tutored in the meantime cannot be ruled out, he said.

The judge said the whole thing was not proper and Zahira seems to be "under terrible pressure." He asked her why she had surrendered, to which she replied that she was forcibly brought to this court by her relative, Sanaullah.

He said that Zahira did not seem to understand the gravity of the situation. He also said it was laughable that she thought the Mumbai police will kill her. He asked her if she wanted a lawyer, to which she refused to say anything. He said that it was better if he could appoint an amicus curiae who can appear for her.

Mr. Thipsay questioned Nasibullah and asked him why Zahira was changing her stand so often. He told him to get her food from home, but Nasibullah replied that it was difficult.

Allegations denied

Mr. Thipsay also questioned the senior inspector of police and a woman police constable about Zahira's allegations. The police denied them and said that she could not be given special treatment as she was in the lockup with other prisoners. They said she demanded chicken and refused to eat the jail food.