How strange is this? Abdul Karim Tunda was part of an Indian dossier to Pakistan and his name figured as the 20 most wanted terrorists. When he was arrested and taken by the Delhi police there were some 33 odd cases slapped against him.
The Delhi police went ahead and slapped charges under the explosive substances act against him. Prior to this there were charges under TADA too slapped against him.
He was termed a lot of things- Lashkar-e-Taiba's encyclopaedia, the best bomb maker, the one who could prepare 50 bombs in no time etc.
Now coming back to the point. If the police claimed that they had a very strong against him then why did it fall like nine pins? On Saturday Tunda was discharged from the last of the four cases against him filed by the Delhi police on the ground that the investigators had failed to bring on record any evidence.
An embarrassing case for the police
Tunda who is wanted in 33 different terror related cases was arrested in August 2013. Charges under TADA for cases which had occurred between 1994 and 1998 had been slapped against him. The Delhi Police had also charged him under the Explosives Substances Act (ESA).
The problem for the Delhi Police was the manner in which the explosives were recovered. The police had claimed to have recovered a large cache of explosives which they were never able to substantiate and this led to the discharge.
The Delhi Police had been repeatedly asked by the court in the past about the slapping of TADA charges against Tunda. In a hearing that took place in 2014 the court had disapproved the slapping of TADA charges.
The Delhi Police had claimed that they had recovered 150 kilograms of explosives on January 17 1994 and had even arrested five persons in this regard. It was during the investigation that the name of Tunda had cropped up which led them to filing charges under the TADA, a provision that existed at that time.
Were the investigators over-enthusiastic?
It has been seen in several cases that the police are extremely over-enthusiastic when it comes to probing terror cases. Many believe that in terror cases a conviction could be sought on public perception.
When the court heard the Tunda case last year it had completely disapproved the manner in which the Delhi Police had probed the matter. There is no proper investigation the court had held. The court had even directed the prosecutor to file his written submissions.
Last year the court had also held that it would not prolong the proceedings anymore. Charges under stringent Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) may not be framed against Tunda.
However, there is a prima facie case under the Explosive Substance Act against Tunda, the court had held.
Several officers have seen to be taking a short cut route to substantiate their claims before the court. They rely very heavily on either narco analysis or confessional statements which never stand the test of judicial scrutiny.
Even in the case against Tunda the prosecution had relied heavily on the confessional statements and claimed that there was a major conspiracy to strike terror at the instructions of Tunda.
However several judgments have clearly stated that a confessional statement can never be considered as solid evidence as most of the time they are extracted or given under duress.
The police argument
Spare a thought for the police It may not be entirely right to blame the police in such cases. These cases are extremely difficult to crack.
Ensuring the conviction of a foot soldier is very easy when compared to that of a master mind. People like Tunda have been away from India for over two decades now. Such persons are never in the spot of action when an incident occurs.
They never communicate over phone which leaves the police with very little material. The communications are very often direct with the conspirators and in several cases we have seen that the mastermind is not even directly in touch with the foot solider.
In such cases it is very difficult to bring forward direct evidence and satisfy the court. There is a lot of reliance on circumstantial evidence which is very difficult to substantiate.
An officer says that the task is no doubt herculean and there are stringent provisions under the law which are required to tackle such cases. However the problem is that in many cases stringent provisions such as TADA or POTA are misused which has led to them scrapped.