शनिवार, 11 जुलाई 2009

AIIMS delays Delhi Encounter Autopsy Report

By Mohd Reyaz
Persistent efforts of civil rights activist, Afroz Alam Sahil, appear to have paid dividend in Delhi’s Batla House encounter case. Following directives of the Central Information Commission, the appellate authority of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has asked the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of Jai Prakash Narayan Apex Trauma Centre (JPNATC) to issue Afroz the autopsy reports of deceased in the encounter.
Afroz had sought information under Right to Information Act (RTI) Act. But, he was repeatedly denied, after which he had approached the Information Commission. Afroz is not happy though. “AIIMS was directed to furnish information by June 10. But, letter to the JPNAPTC was written after 20 days. Till date, I have not received any report,” he said. Incidentally, Afroz is a student of Jamia Millia Islamia, a central university in Delhi.
Information commissioner, Anupama Dixit, after hearing response from AIIMS authority on June 9 was not satisfied with the argument that ‘disclosure of information at this stage would impede the process of investigation’. It upheld the argument put forward by the appellant that ‘the post-mortem reports are now irrevocable’.
The commission, however, allowed the CPIO to apply Section 10 (1) of the RTI Act (2005) to sever those parts of the reports which are exempted from disclosure. This has been done keeping in view the confidentiality of names of the doctors involved, as the case is still pending in the court.
Accordingly, Dr YK Gupta, appellate authority of AIIMS, wrote a letter to the CPIO of JPNATC, Prof MC Misra on June 29, a copy of which is available with this reporter. In the letter, Gupta has directed the CPIO to ‘comply with the orders issued by the Central Information Commission’.
Batla House is a colony in the vicinity of Jamia University, comprising predominantly of Muslims. After serial blasts in Delhi on September 13, 2008 Batla House locality was on the radar of investigation agencies. Within a week, on September 19 two alleged Indian Mujahideen terrorists were killed in an armed police operation in now famous house number L-18 of the colony. Inspector MC Sharma succumbed to injuries in the hospital later that day. In days that followed some more alleged conspirators were arrested. Contradictory statements of the police and refusal of the government to order a judicial inquiry have raised doubts on the authenticity of the encounter.
A report released by Jamia Teachers Solidarity Group (JTSG) has brought to notice many loopholes in the operation and an alleged cover-up later.
Prosecution has consistently denied providing any detail to the defense or making them public, citing clause 8 (1) (h) of the RTI Act that gives the privilege of not supplying information if ‘disclosure may impede the process of investigation’.
Eminent lawyer, Prashant Bhushan, who is also the counsel of one of the accused, Zia ur Rehman, had filed a similar petition to the Delhi Police for copies of FIR and autopsy reports. He, too, was denied. Like Afroz, he had also approached the Information Commission.
The bench comprising Chief Information Commissioner, Wajahat Habibullah, and Information Commissioner, Shailesh Gandhi heard the police version on March 9, 2009. Not convinced, it had asked the public information officer of Delhi Police to provide copies of documents to the defense within 10 days, after applying severability clause.
Delhi High Court had, however, stayed the order. Prashant Bhushan is bitter as he pointed out that it is against the National Human Rights Commission’s guidelines. “It shows that they are trying to hide something,” he told when contacted. He further added, “It’s very difficult for me and other counsels to proceed without exactly knowing what happened on the day.”
Meanwhile, another turn of events in Dehradun, the capital of north Indian state of Uttarakhand, has given a new twist to the case. Last week an MBA student Ranbir Singh was allegedly killed by the state police. After huge uproar the government has agreed for inquiry. JTSG has issued a statement alleging double standards on part of the government and political parties. While everyone in unison supported family's demand for inquiry in the Dehradun case, chief minister of Delhi, Sheila Dixit had said on record that such an investigation would demoralize the police. JTSG reiterated on its demand for judicial inquiry.
The next hearing in the Batla House case has been fixed for July 20.

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