Mohammad Aamir Khan, a resident of the Old Delhi area of India’s capital made his way to a chemist to buy medicine for a kidney stone problem. The deserted streets did not bother Mr Khan, then 18, since he had lived in the neighbourhood all his life and knew that there were likely to be very few people around at that time of the day.
He did not pay much attention to a white jeep that had been snaking its way up the road, following him at a distance, Mr Khan recalled. Then he found himself being roughly pushed into the vehicle, and taken to a small room, where he said he was tortured and made to sign blank papers. It was only when he was brought to a court a week later did he realize that he was in police custody.
Mr Khan was charged in 19 cases, for crimes including murder, terrorism and waging war against the nation. He was accused of masterminding 17 low-intensity bomb blasts that occurred in Delhi and neighbouring states between December 1996 and December 1997.
But he was eventually acquitted in 17 cases, with two convictions pending appeal. When he was released last year, Mr Khan had spent 14 years in jails in Delhi and nearby states as the trials worked their way through India’s criminal justice system.
“The prosecution has miserably failed to adduce any evidence to connect the accused-appellant with the charges framed, much less prove them,” a Delhi High Court judgment said in overturning his conviction in one of the cases.
“I was just a normal teenage boy from a middle-class family,” Mr Khan said. “To pick someone up just like that and torture them changes the course of their life.”
As the recent bombings in Hyderabad have renewed scrutiny of India’s intelligence agencies and the way they work with local police to investigate and prevent terrorism, Mr Khan’s case illustrates some of their failures.
The trials, however, took 14 years to get resolved, during which time Mr Khan lost his father and due to the shock, his mother suffered a brain haemorrhage.
After prolonged illness and being bedridden, she died in 2015, said Mr Khan.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) took up his case suo motu based on media reports in 2014 and for the next four years, it relentlessly fought for compensation for his wrongful confinement.
A call from the police
Mr Khan finally got a call from the Delhi Police asking him to visit DCP (North) office to come and complete the formalities required before the compensation could be released to his account. After the formalities, Rs. 5 lakh was credited to my account on April 7, said Mr Khan.
When asked for comment on the compensation granted to Mr Khan, the Delhi Police declined to respond.
A police officer, however, said that this is not the first time that compensation has been granted to someone like Mr Khan.
We follow orders of the NHRC and the court in regards to monetary compensation for any victim, said the officer.
‘Many like me’
“I am thankful for the judicial system, the NHRC and the Delhi Police for the compensation amount that I have received, but I demand a rehabilitation policy for people like me. Society should change it’s perceptive and treat us like any other normal person. Like me, there are many people who want to live a simple and respectful life,” added Mr Khan, who works for an NGO that campaigns for a secular, peaceful and humane world.
The NHRC, in its notes, said that the chronicle of allegations made against the victim piled up over the years without any substance. The material on record reflects the excesses committed by the concerned police authorities and also how he suffered incarceration silently, stated the commission.
Mr Khan’s conduct in prison was found very satisfactory and praiseworthy by the Jailer of District Jail, Ghaziabad. All the newspaper reports were unanimous over the human rights violation of the victim and the commission cannot afford to differ with the wisdom displayed by the courts and the media, it added.