Court Refuses to Allow 2008 Ahmedabad Blast Accused to Contact Families During Pandemic

Other prisoners in Gujarat's Sabarmati central jail and Madhya Pradesh’s Bhopal central jail are being allowed to use telephones and video conferencing.

New Delhi: A special court in Gujarat hearing the 2008 serial blast case has refused to direct the state jail authorities, as well as those in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, to allow the accused persons to keep in touch with their families either through telephone calls or video conferencing.

Between April and June, as many as 9,329 inmates, lodged in Gujarat’s Sabarmati central jail and Madhya Pradesh’s Bhopal central jail, have been permitted to keep in touch with their families through virtual means as jail authorities have barred their families from visiting the premises as a precaution against the COVID-19 pandemic. However, such a provision has not been extended to those lodged in these jails as suspects in the 2008 case.

Presently, more than 75 persons are facing trial in the case.

As per news reports from Ahmedabad, designated judge A.R. Patel, hearing two petitions filed by the suspects in the case, gave the ruling on July 11 on the basis of submissions made by the jail authorities of the two states. The authorities cited orders passed by both the state governments to not allow jail inmates of certain categories to avail the facility, following which the court said it therefore won’t be able to pass any orders in favour of the petitioners’ prayers.

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On July 4, Justice Patel had, however, ordered the Ahmedabad civil hospital authorities to allow an accused in the case who have been found COVID-19 positive to speak to his family members through the video screen hung outside the COVID-19 ward for families to keep in touch with patients.

Mohammad Falahi contracted the virus in Sabarmati central jail in the last week of May and was admitted to the civil hospital on June 1. On getting to know about it, his brother Mohammad Amir travelled to Ahmedabad from Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh and requested the court to allow him to speak to Falahi and get his health reports from the hospital authorities.

As many as 21 blasts had taken place in Ahmedabad on July 28, 2008, killing 56 people and injuring over 200 others. On June 17, an accused in the case was released on regular bail after he agreed to be a witness for the prosecution.

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Aside from another accused – Naved K. Kadri – now on temporary bail as he is suffering from schizophrenia, this accused, whose name has not been shared with the media due to a court order, was the first to get regular bail in the case.

The accused, who has turned an approver, was reportedly one of the first persons to be arrested in the case and had spent over 12 years at the Sabarmati jail.

Note: An earlier version of this story erroneously referred to Mohammad Amir as a co-accused in the case who had also contracted COVID-19. The error is regretted.