Hashimpura Conviction: Clinching Evidence was Diary With Names of Policemen on Riot Duty

Successive governments had withheld this diary – leading to an acquittal from a lower court in 2015 – but on the Delhi high court’s direction, the original was brought on record.

New Delhi: A general diary, which had the names of all the 19 persons who had gone out on a truck for riot duty, ahead of the Hashimpura massacre in 1987, in which at least 40 Muslims were killed, has proved to be the clinching piece of evidence which led to the Delhi high court overturning the sessions court order and ordering the conviction of 16 Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel of Uttar Pradesh from the crime. Three of the accused had died during the course of the trial. Incidentally, successive state governments had, in order to shield the personnel, withheld this crucial piece of evidence from the courts.

The trial court had acknowledged that victims were abducted by PAC men

Talking to The Wire, senior advocate Vrinda Grover who had fought the case for the Hashimpura victims from 2002 to 2004 and thereafter represented the National Human Rights Commission in the Delhi high court, said: “In this case, the NHRC had intervened and it had asked for various documents. It was all along our case that the state was shielding the PAC, so many of the crucial documents, which are incriminating, have not been placed before the court. The trial court had acquitted them on the ground that there is nothing to say that these particular PAC people had killed the victims.”

In March 2015, the sessions court had stated that it had been “duly proved and established” that “about 40-45” persons belonging to Mohalla Hashimpura were “abducted in a yellow colour PAC truck” belonging to the 41st battalion of PAC. It had also noted that PAC officials were involved in the abduction and they had subsequently “shot at and thrown” into waters of Gang Nahar, Murad Nagar and Hindon river, Ghaziabad. However, the court had held that “it has not been proved beyond reasonable doubts” that the accused are the PAC officials who had carried out the abductions and killings.

General diary named the PAC men who had gone in the truck

Grover said the most crucial piece of evidence was the general diary. “There was one particular document, which was a general diary in the case – which recorded the movement of personnel going in and out of a police station – and this daily diary entry the state had suppressed in the case.”

Stating that there was clearly complicity between the state and the accused, Grover said, “through its application before the high court, the NHRC had started asking for various documents and finally through the orders of the court the CB-CID, which was the investigating agency of Uttar Pradesh, was forced to place before the court the original general diary documents which named the 19 PAC policemen who had got into the truck and gone on riot duty.”

Also read: Hashimpura: Justice Denied 30 Years and Counting

Once diary surfaced, fresh evidence was recorded in trial court, formed basis of conviction in HC

“Once the original document surfaced,” she said “fresh evidence was recorded in the trial court. The High Court directed that this evidence now be placed on record. Again the evidence was recorded in the trial court. It was then placed on record, brought back before the high court and on the basis of that it convicted them.”

A bench of Justices S. Muralidhar and I.S. Mehta had on February 20 this year stated: “The court has perused the trial court record and it has seen that the document… filed by the State of Uttar Pradesh forms part of trial court record. The said document is at page 5,743 of the trial court record. For reasons that are not clear that document has not been exhibited in the trial court and not adverted to by any of the prosecution witnesses or even by the sole defence witness examined.”

The lawyer, who has been associated with this case for nearly 17 years now, said “it is a case where for so many years the perpetrators were shielded and protected by the state, repeatedly and regardless of which political party came to power in Uttar Pradesh. They were all shielding the PAC accused.”

However, she said, with the help of this diary, the court was able to establish the precise names involved in the crime. Noting that out of the 19 original accused, three had died and 16 have been convicted, she said the prosecution had also made use of the log of the truck to secure a conviction. “We had the number of the truck in which the PAC staff had left but the part of the puzzle which was not available in the evidence was who was in the truck. For conviction we needed the exact names. That particular general diary entry came out after the trial court order and during the course of the proceeding in the high court.”

State submitted diary on directions of high court

Till the time of the trial court judgment, the state had not shown the original general diary. It was only on the directions of the high court that the state was compelled to place the original diary on record, she added.

Following the High Court’s directions, in March this year this diary was submitted before the trial court by a 78-year-old witness Ranbir Singh Bishnoi. Deposing before an additional sessions judge, he had submitted: “At the time of filing chargesheet, I had examined all the documents and filed them along with the charge sheet. Photocopies of GD dated May 22, 1987, running into six pages of C Post Police Line, Meerut were filed along with the charge sheet. The originals of the same are now submitted before the court and exhibited.”

Reading out from the documents, he had also asserted that “it is incorrect to suggest that the documents are not original documents.”

What the general diary revealed

“According to the GD No.6, on May 22, 1987, at 7:50 am, police force was sent to Outpost Pilokhadi, P.S. Lisadi Gate, Meerut, UP. PC (platoon commander) Surender Pal Singh… went to outpost Pilokhadi. At that time they were having 17 rifles, 850 rounds, one revolver with 30 rounds and they had gone there in the truck bearing registration No. URU-1493 and the driver of said truck was Ct (constable) Mokham Singh,” Bishnoi had stated while giving the details.

He had also noted their return to the police line a little over an hour later saying: “As per the GD No.15… at about 9:00 pm, the aforesaid PAC team came back to police line Meerut from OP Pilokhadi. As per the record… the aforesaid officials were not assigned any other duty on May 22, 1987, after they came back from O.P. Pilokhadi to police line… It is incorrect to suggest that I have produced a made up record.”

This more or less corroborates the survivor accounts. One of the survivors, Zulfiqar Nasir, had spoken about how the killings had taken place on the truck and near the canal at around 9 pm.