New Delhi: Parvez Parwaz, the 65-year-old social activist who had been a co-petitioner in the hate speech case against Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath during the 2007 Gorakhpur communal riots, was sentenced to life imprisonment in a two-year-old rape case on Tuesday.
The district sessions court found primary accused Mahmood alias Jumman Baba and Parwaz guilty of gangraping a woman on June 3, 2018. The complainant, a Muslim vegetable vendor in her 30s, had alleged that both the accused lured her to an isolated place under the pretext of resolving her family problems and raped her. Along with the sentencing, the court also ordered Baba and Parwaz to deposit a fine of Rs 25,000 each, out of which Rs 40,000 will go towards the rehabilitation of the complainant. The details of the judgement are still awaited.
However, Parwaz’s friends told The Wire that he was falsely implicated in the case, allegedly because of his persistence in the hate speech case against Adityanath and four others – BJP MLA from Gorakhpur Radhamohan Das Agarwal, BJP MP Shiv Pratap Shukla, the then-BJP mayor Anju Chaudhary and former BJP MLC Y.D. Singh.
“The case had no merit. Parwaz has had to face multiple charges since 2007 when he lodged a hate speech complaint against the then Gorakhpur MP Adiyanath,” a lawyer friend of Parwaz said on the condition of anonymity.
The rape case itself began in 2018, even as he faced another charge for allegedly doctoring the CD that showed Adityanath delivering the hate speech in 2007, the lawyer said. He added that Parwaz was arrested in 2018, immediately after the rape complaint against him and never got bail, even when a bench of the Allahabad high court had initially ordered a stay on the arrest of the primary accused Jumman Baba.
First investigating officer closed the probe
“The first investigating officer (IO) in the rape case had closed the probe, and expunged the case, after he found no evidence to support the complainant’s allegations. But the case was reopened under a different IO. Parwaz had alleged that the district court’s hearings were biased against him, and had appealed before the Allahabad high court to transfer the case. Even as that transfer application is pending, the district court judge convicted him,” said another lawyer who is in the know of the case but did not want to be named.
“Parwaz thought that the hearings at the district court were deliberately being tilted against him. First, despite many requests, the new IO did not call the old IO who had expunged the case. The spot where the complainant says the rape occurred is not an isolated one, as she claims. Pandeyhatta, everyone knows in Gorakhpur, is a very busy area. Then, the witnesses who had deposed in favour of Parwaz in the previous investigation were not produced in court at all,” the lawyer said, adding that the court discounted the fact that the complainant identified Parwaz as her alleged rapist months after she filed the complaint.
The new IO, inspector Shalini Singh of Mahila Thana Gorakhpur, in September 2018, had confirmed to The Hindu that the rape case against Mahmood and Parwaz had been reopened after the complainant lodged a fresh application. Following this, Parwaz was arrested. The complainant had then said: “He [Muhammad] pointed a revolver to my head and committed the misdeed. There was another person with him [Mr. Parwaz] who raped me.” She had said that she was consulting Jumman Baba, who claims to be an exorcist and works out of a local shrine, to help sort out differences with her estranged husband through “jhaad-phoonk” (exorcism).
Commenting on Tuesday’s judgment, Parwaz’s lawyer Miftahul Islam said that the court sentenced the accused even before the defence submitted its written arguments. He added that they were not allowed time to properly argue, and therefore, will appeal against the decision in the high court soon. However, the prosecution lawyer Yashpal Singh contested Islam’s claims and said, “The court proceedings were held as per the law.” Singh alleged that Islam had deliberately delayed submitting defence arguments in a bid to stall the proceedings.
Parwaz’s legal battle against Adityanath
Parwaz’s conviction assumes significance in the context of the legal battle he had been fighting against BJP’s top leaders, including the CM Adityanath, in the Gorakhpur riots hate speech case. The Wire, reporting on the case in 2017, had spoken to Parwaz. He said that ever since he took on Gorakhpur’s political bigwigs, he had been under a lot of political pressure to withdraw the case.
Parwaz and an Allahabad-based activist Asad Hayat, both of whom were witnesses in the Gorakhpur riot case, had also filed a writ petition at the high court in 2008 after a sessions court dismissed the FIR against Adityanath and others. They had urged the high court to reconsider the hate speech case.
However, the petition dragged on, and in 2017 the court pulled up the BJP-led state government for sitting on the prosecution. In the interim period, the state’s Crime Branch-CID had conducted a probe and asked the then Samajwadi Party-led government to permit prosecution against the five accused persons. The CB-CID contended that the speeches by these leaders aided and abetted the communal riots on the day of Muharram in and around Gorakhpur, and that the violence claimed many lives and led to the destruction of a number of properties owned by Muslims.
However, the Akhilesh Yadav government sat on the request, and by the time the high court pulled up the state government for sitting on the CB-CID request, the state was already being helmed by Adityanath. This led to an interesting situation in which the UP government had to initiate prosecution against its head.
Subsequently, the state’s then chief secretary Rahul Bhatnagar deposed in front of the high court bench to inform that the CID was denied sanction by the home department to prosecute the accused as the “Draft Final Report” submitted by the agency lacked sufficient evidence. The high court, consequently, found no procedural error in the probe and dismissed the plea. The matter was subsequently put on the backburner by the state government.
A gruelling journey
However, Parwaz’s journey had been nothing but gruelling over the last decade. One of the accused in the hate speech case, Y.D. Singh, lodged a police complaint against Parwaz in April 2017. He alleged that Parwaz incited a mob to destroy Hindu-owned shops in Gorakhpur after the hanging of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. He had also accused Parwaz of filing a false FIR against him.
“We are living under constant threat. Both direct and indirect pressure on us by the rank and file of the BJP is increasing. Saddam Hussein was hanged in 2006 and Singh lodged a FIR in 2017. Imagine their brazenenss! We have to fight for justice at all levels. You can imagine the way things are working in UP at present,” Parwaz had then told The Wire. The chief judicial magistrate, later, rejected Singh’s plea.
In 2018, days after Parwaz’s plea was rejected by the high court, a Gorakhpur court ordered the police to register an FIR against him while hearing another 2016 appeal by Singh alleging that the activist produced a doctored video of the hate speech as evidence against Adityanath.
Singh’s appeal was based on the fact that a Delhi forensic laboratory which examined the speech could not ascertain Adityanath’s voice in the video. However, speaking to The Wire, Parwaz’s counsel Syed Farman Naqvi had said that the Delhi lab did not take direct voice samples of Adityanath. “Nobody stopped the lab from doing so. It was a minor loophole in the DFR that became the state government’s defence,” he had said.
He added that Adityanath himself had owned up to the provocative speech shown in the CD in a popular TV show. A point-by-point rebuttal of the allegation that Parwaz submitted a doctored CD as evidence was reported by The Wire earlier. It became evident that a minor loophole in the CB-CID investigation was blown out of proportion by the Adityanath government to save the CM and other BJP leaders from prosecution.
The district court’s decision has now come as a shock to Parwaz’s family. Friends said his family has been used to Parwaz’s “activistic” living but had never imagined that he would be convicted for it. His friends and family firmly believe that the rape case against him is concocted, much like the other cases against him. Even as they said this, they worried about how his family will now have to fight yet another excruciating legal battle when it appeals against the district court’s decision.