By Shawn Sebastian
On 19th September, the High Court of Andhra Pradesh withdrew its earlier order of canceling the compensation the state government had paid to 70 Muslim youth for their wrongful arrest and detention in connection with the twin bomb blast that left 14 dead and 118 injured in the state capital of Hyderabad in 2007.
Acting upon the observation of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) that it was a clear violation of basic rights, the state government had compensated the youngsters after their acquittal in 2011. Subsequent investigation had established the role of some right-wing Hindu organizations in the blast.
The court in its earlier order had asked the government for the recovery of money already paid, observing that mere acquittal or discharge from a criminal case can’t be the basis for such compensation.
In its latest order, the court observed serious lapses in its earlier order and gave time for the beneficiaries to argue their case. The order has raised the larger issue of the legitimacy of compensating people wrongly arrested and detained on terror cases, a practice that is not followed in the country.
While human rights activists justified the payment of compensation, others deprecated it as an attempt to appease a community.
Following the arrest of many Muslim youth by the police in connection with the 2007 blasts, there was a public outcry demanding justice for the innocent and stringent action against police officers at fault.
“The detention was unlawful and they were tortured by the police,” human rights activist S G M Quadri said. Stating this as a serious matter in which a community was targeted, he said it was the responsibility of the state to grant compensation in such cases.
Arguing that such instances are clear violation of fundamental rights, he said that the civil society has a role to play and should react against such unlawful police aggression.
“The compensation was awarded not because they were acquitted but because it was established that their detention was illegal and they were tortured in custody,” lawyer Shafeeq Rahman observed. He said the court took the right decision by withdrawing its earlier order as it was delivered without taking the views of aggrieved parties.
The State government that was accused of not putting up a strong fight in the court had come to its defense earlier. Mohammed Ali Shabbar, a senior member of the ruling Congress party and a Minister for Minorities at the time of the mass arrest, had earlier urged the Chief Minister to approach the Supreme Court.
Reacting to the court order, State Minorities Commission chairman Abid Rasool Khan said compensation is justified as it was awarded on the basis of instructions from the NHRC.