Cases registered 12 years ago — before SIMI was even banned — on flimsy charges and an investigation that has been rapped for loopholes left Munir Deshmukh a wanted man for years and have kept him in jail for the past 21 months. Once the SIMI national secretary, Deshmukh retired from the organisation in February 2001, seven months before it was banned.
OCTOBER 22, 2000
It was 11 months before the first ban on SIMI in September 2001 that Deshmukh had the first FIRs filed against him in two police stations in Bhopal the same day. Both FIRs related to exactly the same “incriminating” evidence — a SIMI poster.
The Taliyya police station registered an FIR that said a poster with “Students Islamic Movement of India (West) MP” written in English on it had been found pasted near Kulsum Bi’s mosque, near Budhwara, Bhopal. No individual was named. Subsequently, police alleged that posters similar to the one pasted near the mosque had been seized from Deshmukh and five other accused: Sorab Ahmed, Maulana Arsad, Abdul Razzaq, Mohd Alim and Kashlid Naim.
The seizure memo stated that on October 25, three days after the FIR, police seized five posters and 10 pamphlets from “under the bed of Munir Deshmukh” at his house, A-47, Shahpur, Habibganj, Bhopal.
The poster had “Pasbode na bano, sulah ki darkhwasth na karo, tum hi Ghalib rahoge, Navede Sehar conference 10, 11, 12 November 2000 Mukam Wadi e sehar, Dragaah Maidan ke Pas, Khajra, Indore”, also written in English. The pamphlet had “Indore Chalo, Indore Chalo in bold letters”, said the FIR.
The writing the police found incriminating is actually from Verse 35 of Surah Mohammad of the Quran. The conference was primarily a religious congregation. In fact, the poster had the address and phone number of the organisers on it.
The chargesheet was filed five years later, on July 13, 2005, against the six accused under various sections of the IPC and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
The second FIR against Deshmukh was registered at the Shahjahanabad police station in Bhopal. Deshmukh was again charged along with the same five other accused for a similar SIMI poster, this time near Murgi Wali Masjid in Shahjahanabad.
The police claimed to have raided Deshmukh’s house on October 23, 2000, which was two days before the raid on his house in the earlier case. The seizure memo stated the police recovered 14 posters with the Quranic verse “pasbode na bano…”, 20 pamphlets that had “Students Islamic Movement of India, MP” and “Indore chalo” written on them, and a June 2000 edition of Tehreek magazine.
The chargesheet against the six was filed on December 6 that year for “promoting communal disharmony and committing acts detrimental to national integration”.
It was never explained how the same set of posters seized on October 23, 2010, from Deskhmukh’s house turned up again at his residence two days later. And not just at his house but at those of the five other accused too.
SEPTEMBER 27, 2001
The day SIMI was banned, a third FIR was registered against Deshmukh, at the Habibganj police station in Bhopal under the UAPA. Inspector Girish Bore stated that he was tipped off about “SIMI activist” Munir Deshmukh “running activities from his residence”. A team raided Deshmukh’s house in the presence of two witnesses, Akhilesh Jain and Naval Singh, but didn’t find him. The FIR said that he had absconded “with the document and the campaigning material”. The chargesheet was filed on December 24, 2002. Apart from the UAPA, Deshmukh was booked under IPC sections 153 B (committing acts detrimental to national integration) and 295 A (outraging the feelings of a religious group).
According to advocate Sajid Ali of Bhopal, yet another FIR was filed in Habibgunj in 2001 against Deshmukh under the Prevention of Corruption Act, accusing him of having assets disproportionate to his sources of income. He said judge R P S Chouhan acquitted Deshmukh in that case earlier this week.
DECEMBER 11, 2010
In December 2010 — 10 years after the police first filed an FIR against him and nine years after they said he was absconding — Deshmukh was arrested. After his arrest, Deshmukh, who had been living in Hyderabad where he ran an IT firm, had another case slapped against him in Andhra Pradesh, this time for impersonation, for having documents stating his name as “Munir Ahmad”.
THE CASES IN COURT
* In the first case registered at Taliyya police station, first class judicial magistrate Rama Jayant Mittal acquitted Deshmukh and the other accused on July 10 this year.
* In the second identical poster case, first class judicial magistrate Varsha Sharma sentenced Deshmukh and the others to three years of rigorous imprisonment on August 3, 2011, for creating “unpleasantness between Hindus and Muslim community’’ after eight years of trial.
During the trial, one of the witnesses said he “does not recognise the accused”, a second witness said the police made him sign documents but didn’t know whether the documents were “blank or filled up” and a third witness said he didn’t know anything about the incident.. An appeal has been filed against the judgment.
* Ruling in the third case on October 22, 2011, R P Sonkar, additional CJM and special judge, Bhopal, threw out the charges under the UAPA but convicted Deshmukh and the others under Sections 153 B and 295 A of the IPC, holding them “guilty of committing acts detrimental to national integration and outraging the feelings of a religious group”. They have gone into appeal against this order too.
Judge Sonkar’s court held that there were evident gaps in the version of the prosecution – the original seizure memo and case diary had gone missing/were “misplaced” and most of the evidence that was filed before the judge was in the form of illegible photocopies. The prosecution had claimed that the written statements of key witnesses had been enclosed in the missing case diary. One of the witnesses, incidentally, turned hostile during the trial and denied the prosecution’s version.
The order noted that the officer who granted sanction for prosecution in the case under the UAPA, Alok Ranjan, MP’s secretary (home), had said during cross-examination that “he was not aware when he granted the sanction” and that “at the time of granting the sanction he had no knowledge about statements of which witnesses were enclosed”.
The judge also remarked that Ranjan was junior in rank to that prescribed under the UAPA for clearing prosecution. Deshmukh was charged under Sections 10 & 13 of the UAPA, which needed sanction from the Centre.
Deshmukh’s Bhopal-based lawyer Parvez Alam accuses the government and courts of ignoring rules.“According to sections 45 and 42 of the UAPA, the state government does not have the power to issue the sanction. Then again according to section 45 of the UAPA, the court cannot take cognisance of charges without the sanction of appropriate authorities. The home secretary is giving sanction for prosecution under all sections when he can do so only under sections 7 and 8. The courts accepted that,” Alam said.
He said police are missing deadlines for filing chargesheets; on occasions they took five years. “In a case under section 153A and B of IPC (promoting communal disharmony and acts detrimental to national integration), if the chargesheet is filed after three years, the court cannot take cognisance.”
About the loss of the case files, he said the court had asked the DGP to register a case within six months against those involved in misplacing the original file but police didn’t do anything.
Deshmukh had four case in Indore and one in Ujjain against him, Alam said, adding he got bail in the Ujjain one last week