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Afzal Guru secretive execution

Posted on February 13, 2013 by Akashma Online News

Source: Greater Kashmir

Lawyer who secured death sentence for Afzal disapproves secret hanging

It is a human rights violation, family ought to have been first informed: Prosecutor Gopal Subramanium


Indian police bring Afzal Guru to court in Delhi in 2002. Photograph: Aman Sharma/AP the government of India secretly hanged Afzal Guru, prime accused in the attack on parliament in December 2001, and interred his body in Delhi’s Tihar jail where he had been in solitary confinement for 12 years. Guru’s wife and son were not informed.

New Delhi, Feb 13: The very lawyer instrumental in securing th death sentence for Afzal Guru disapproves of the secretive manner in which he has been executed without being given an opportunity to meet his family.
Gopal Subramanium, who was the special public prosecutor in the Parliament attack case in the Delhi high court and the Supreme Court, said the government’s failure to inform the family and let them see Guru before his execution was a “serious omission in the administration of human rights”.
In a written response to questions sent to him by a Delhi-based newspaper, the former solicitor general said that in “a civilized society” he expected the rule of law and transparency to be followed till the execution of the death penalty.
“There can hardly be any doubt that the family ought to have been first informed and prepared, and should have been given a special opportunity to meet Guru before he was hanged,” he added.

When the trial was under way, I was conscious that this was a case with international ramifications. The way in which Kasab would be dealt with, I knew, would be a benchmark. Our institutions and our performance as a country would be subject to international scrutiny. People do expect to see how the Indian judicial system works. That’s why I wanted to make sure that our benchmarks were completely international. Gopal Subramanium conversations with the New York Times, August 29, 2012

Subramanium pointed out that the government’s stratagem to deliver a fait accompli on the family violated its own model prison manual which stipulated that a prisoner sentenced to death was entitled to, among other things, meet his relatives, friends and legal advisors once a week or more often, if need be.
As for the government’s claim to have adopted secrecy for security reasons, Gopal Subramanium said: “Even if there was likely to be any kind of uproar or sentiment, it would have to be dealt with at a different level. By no means can this be a ground to keep Guru’s family in the dark.”
Asked if the denial of an opportunity to challenge the President’s decision on Guru’s mercy petition amounted to a dilution of due process, Subramanium confirmed that he was entitled to legal remedies even at that advanced stage, as had happened in other cases. “After sitting on his mercy petition for almost eight years, the government should not have suddenly executed Guru without letting him explore his legal options.”

Afzal Guru was not Ajmal Kasab, he was an Indian citizen and his mercy plea would have been a welcome gesture to those who disapprove of such a punishment. But a state that keeps things deliberately smoky even when it involves its own citizens like Afzal Guru it does so at its own peril. The government is sowing the seed of own discomfitures in future. There has been numerous cases where Muslim youths were wrongly picked up, sent to confinement and was letter released after around 10-15 years being absolved of all charges. No compensation has been given in such cases by the government agency. Those who suffered at the wrong hands of law enforcing agencies had to compromise with the best lost years of their lives. Dr. M Waseem Raja, Asst. Professor of History at the Aligarh Muslim University 

He added that it was not necessary though that “any particular length of time be made available to a prisoner to challenge the rejection of his mercy petition”.
None of the legal deficiencies in Guru’s execution however detracted from the merits of his conviction and the death penalty imposed on him, according to Subramanium. He denied the allegation made human rights activists that Guru had not received a fair trial in the absence of legal representation of his choice.

Courtesy of the Press Information Bureau Solicitor General of India Gopal Subramanium, left, with deputy chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia at a meeting in New Delhi in this Nov. 5, 2009 photo.

He said since such an allegation had been made before it, “the Supreme Court took pains to conduct an evaluation and was satisfied that he was not deprived of legal assistance during the trial”. Although Guru had raised an objection to a junior lawyer appointed as amicus to defend him, the trial court recorded that Neeraj Bansal did have sufficient experience in dealing with terror cases. Subramanium pointed out that the counsel originally appointed by the trial court for Guru had switched to defending another accused in the same case and that other lawyers sought by him were not willing to appear for him.
As for Guru’s counter charge that as a surrendered militant he had got involved in the Parliament attack on the instructions of security forces in Kashmir, Subramanium said that this claim was not taken seriously as he had come up with it only towards the end of the trial. “Guru made no such suggestions in the course of cross examination to any of the prosecution witnesses and in particular to the officers of the Jammu and Kashmir police who had come to depose before the Court,” he said. “If Guru had seriously believed in this charge, he would have brought this to the attention of the trial court at an earlier stage and even sought a further investigation.”
Why did the Supreme Court have to invoke “the collective conscience of society” to justify the hanging of a conspirator? Subramanium said that given the gravity of the crime, it was just the apex court’s way of conveying that “the offence did not admit of any other possible punishment as appropriate”.
But then, as a member of the Verma Commission, Subramanium recently took a liberal position against having death penalty in cases where rape was followed by murder. So does he in retrospect regret asking for death for somebody like Guru who was not present at the scene of crime and had not himself killed anybody? Subramanium said that the offence of waging war against the country was “on a somewhat different footing” as compared to a sexual crime, however horrendous. “While it is true that he was not an overt shooter, Guru was a central figure in the conspiracy because he provided all the logistical support for the attack.”

Hanging of Afzal Guru has definitely put the Home Minister’s rant of ‘saffron terror training camps’ on back burner and endeared him to the right wingers, RSS, VHP, etc. who are elated now. A sheer vote bank politics of Congress whether it was Rajiv Gandhi’s opening of the lock of Babari Mosque, whether Narsimha Rao’s failing duty in protecting the mosque, whether soft on Bal Thakrey and others, all you find suggestive of the vote bank politics of the government. They are best in ‘vote bank politics’ rather than running the country.

Defending an accused (rightly or wrongly on the terror charges) like Afzal Guru would not go well with our establishment but definitely it is a case of an Indian citizen for whom a life term would have been the best as we are dealing with Kashmir problems, where there are ample proof of mishandling of various many cases of rapes, encounters, massacres, which we are also accountable to after all Kashmiris also have ‘conscience’.

Read more on Afzal GuruAfzal

Guru: ‘Conscious’ travesty of justice – Hanging of Afzal Guru brought the debate again to the fore whether all went well in the end in dispensation of justice to him or not? One wonders in this case whether ultimately the capital punishment was unavoidable or not after all the case involved is an Indian Citizen? Unfortunately the cases these days are decided on ‘conscience’ and ‘astha’ of the majority. Minorities are left with no ‘conscience.’ Muslims or Kashmiris are devoid of any, as it appears in case of our government. Such dispensation of justice may have many takers — right-wingers, nationalists and pragmatists who may even cite what the US did in Guantanamo Bay to justify the Indian state’s new-found bloodthirsty ways.

In Conversation With: Prosecutor Gopal Subramanium – India’s highest court on Wednesday upheld the death penalty for Ajmal Kasab, the sole survivor among a group of militants who attacked Mumbai in 2008. Mr. Kasab, a Pakistani, confessed to the attacks and asked to be hanged while in custody. He later retracted his confession, saying he was framed by the police. Judges said the conspiracy behind the attack was “vicious,” the trauma and loss of life caused by the attacks made them the “the rarest of the rare” since the birth of India and the attackers attempt to pass off as Indian Muslims was “ominous and distressing.”


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