Religion no basis to punish people, says SC

Evokes My name is Khan but Im not a terrorist lament

Empathising with the “My name is Khan but I am not a terrorist” lament, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said law cannot be abused to harass any person owning to his religion and acquitted 11 people, held guilty of terrorism in Gujarat.

“District Superintendent of Police and Inspector General of Police and all others entrusted with the task of operating the law must not do anything which allows its misuse and abuse and ensure that no innocent person has the feeling of sufferance only because 'My name is Khan, but I am not a terrorist'," said the apex court in a judgement.

A bench of justices H L Dattu and C K Prasad made the observation while acquitting 11 persons convicted for allegedly planning to create communal violence during the Lord Jaganath Puri Yatra at Ahmedabad in Gujarat in 1994.

The bench acquitted the 11 allowing their appeals against an anti-terror court judgement, which had convinced them on terror charges and had sentenced them to five years in jail each under the now-repealed Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act and various other provisions of the IPC. While allowing their appeals, the bench also extended the benefit of its judgements to other convicts who had not been able to come in appeal before it.

 It also dismissed the cross appeals filed by the state seeking enhancement of the punishment to the convicts.The apex court quashed their conviction on the ground that the state did not follow the mandatory requirement of Section 20-A (1) of TADA which stipulated prior permission from the District Superintendent of Police before registration of the FIR."Invocation of TADA without following the safeguards resulting into acquittal gives an opportunity to many and also to the enemies of the country to propagate that it has been misused and abused," Justice Prasad writing the judgement said.

The apex court also appreciated the police anxiety to fight terrorism and prevent loss of human lives, but said the safeguards in law should be scrupulously followed to ensure no individual liberty is jeopardised.

“We appreciate the anxiety of the police officers entrusted with the task of preventing terrorism and the difficulty faced by them. Terrorism is a crime far serious in nature, more graver in impact and highly dangerous in consequence. It can put the nation in shock, create fear and panic and disrupt communal peace and harmony,” the bench said.

“However, while resorting to TADA, the safeguards provided therein must scrupulously be followed. In the country of Mahatma, means are more important than the end.”

The prosecution case dated back to June 1994, when the Gujarat police had arrested Ashrafkhan alias Babu Munnekhan Pathan for allegedly hatching the conspiracy to trigger communal riots by targeting members of the Hindu community during the Lord Jaganath Rath Yatra. The designated TADA court, by order dated 31st of January, 2002 had convicted 11 accused persons under the TADA and other provisions of the IPC and Arms Act.  

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