New Delhi: In February 2010, Hameer-ui-uddin was arrested for his alleged involvement in the 1993 serial bomb blasts in Rajdhani Express trains in Rajasthan. Over a decade later, trial is yet to begin in his case.
The special CBI court in Ajmer, where Hameer’s case has been pending for the past ten years, has not even heard arguments on charges in the case, which is the first stage of a criminal trial.
On 27 March 2019, nine years after his arrest, Hameer’s bail plea — on the grounds of inordinate delay — was also rejected by the court. He then challenged this order before the Supreme Court, which sought a report from the special court on why charges are yet to be framed in the case.
In response to the top court’s direction on 18 August, the Ajmer court submitted that the case against Hameer could not proceed because the original records were not in its possession when he first appeared in March 2010.
The papers had been with the Supreme Court, which had been hearing an appeal by 15 co-accused in the blast case, noted the court’s report, which was accessed by ThePrint. There was also no public prosecutor to conduct the trial till 2019.
Post this submission, a top court bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud directed the special judge to expedite Hameer’s hearing, setting an upper limit of two months to pass orders on framing of charges.
The bail application for the now 46-year-old, meanwhile, is pending and will be heard by the bench again this December.
‘Absconding’ Hameer arrested in 2010
On the intervening night of 5 and 6 December 1993, serial blasts took place in six Rajdhani Express trains, killing two and injuring 22 people.
Five separate FIRs were registered against 23 persons and the CBI claimed that while one accused died, six, including Hameer and Syed Abdul Karim alias Tunda, absconded.
Hameer was formally arrested on 2 February 2010 from his residence in Lucknow by the Uttar Pradesh Police, more than 16 years after the bomb blasts took place.
Meanwhile, 15 others were arrested before him and a trial court in February 2004 sentenced them to life. The conviction was later upheld by the Supreme Court on 11 May 2016.
However, since Hameer was arrested only in February 2010, his custody was transferred to the CBI later and a supplementary charge sheet was filed against him on 9 September 2010. More than 160 persons have been named as witnesses in the charge sheet.
His family has disputed the CBI’s claim that Hameer had been absconding since the blasts.
“When the police first visited the family in the aftermath of the bomb blast, they gave an assurance he would not be arrested since there was no evidence. It was for this reason that he was mentioned in column number two of the first charge sheet filed in the case, which means the accused (was) not sent up for trial,” his lawyer Farukh Rashid told ThePrint.
Hameer’s sister, Aisha, said her brother had left India for a job in the Middle East when the police team visited their house in January 1994, following the blasts. He returned a year-and-a-half later and went to Mumbai.
“Around 1999 he came back to Lucknow and since then was either living with my parents or with me,” she told ThePrint.
No files for 6 years, no public prosecutor for 9 years
In his report to the Supreme Court, special judge Sandeep Sharma said the original file of the case had been sent to the top court on 1 June 2004 when it was hearing the appeal filed by the 15 co-accused against the February 2004 trial court order.
Since the appeals were decided on 11 May 2016, the CBI court received the files back only on 14 July 2016. Therefore, the court could not hear the matter for six years due to the absence of records.
After this, further delay in the trial’s commencement was attributed to the lack of a public prosecutor to argue on the CBI’s behalf.
According to the report, “Inspite of various letters to the concerned authorities, no special public prosecutor was notified by the central government from 9 November, 2010 to 5 August, 2019.”
On 5 August 2019, Bhawani Singh Rohilla was appointed as public prosecutor but the case was adjourned multiple times between 11 December 2019 and 20 March 2020.
Special judge Sharma claimed this was because Hameer’s co-accused, Tunda, was not produced from the jail in Ghaziabad, where he resided, and the special prosecutor also sought time to prepare for the case.
No hearing of the case was held in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the report suggested.
Delays in 2021
In 2021, the matter was further adjourned seven times because either Tunda or his lawyer had been absent.
A subsequent transfer of the judge who had been hearing the matter further delayed proceedings and the case was not heard for the next four dates.
According to the CBI court report, Hameer also did not have a lawyer to represent him in the trial court. His family, it said, was informed twice about hiring an advocate but there was no response from their end.
However, Aisha said the family is unaware of any such letter. “Also, my father is uneducated and, therefore, even if he had received such a letter, he would have had no clue how to proceed or go about with the legal formalities,” she said.
It was only when she intervened in the matter and connected with her brother in 2017 that things moved ahead.
According to advocate Rashid, Hameer has spent more than half the maximum period for which an undertrial prisoner can be detained in a life sentence conviction.
“He now deserves bail, considering the trial in the original case took close to a decade to end,” he said, referring to the 2004 order.
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