www.sacw.net | March 10, 2005
Geelani's Guilt: Presumed or Being Fabricated?
by Mukul Dube
Ordinarily, a man who is shot and seriously injured by an unknown
assailant is seen by law enforcement agencies as a victim. These
agencies treat him, and those who are close to him, with sympathy.
Many have said, however, that Syed Abdul Rehman Geelani, who was shot
while parking his car near his lawyer Nandita Haksar's house, has
been treated not like a victim but like a suspect or even a proven
offender. This is, they argue, because the Special Cell, having
turned Geelani's acquittal by the High Court into an issue of
prestige, is hell bent on having him declared a criminal by the
Supreme Court so that he may be hanged.
Beginning with Geelani's arrest just after the attack on
Parliament, the police have seemed too impatient to wait for the law
to take its course. In effect, they passed judgment at that time; and
their actions later were aimed at supporting their judgment. Perhaps
I should speak in the present tense.
When it acquitted Geelani, the Delhi High Court said that case
documents had been forged by the police, starting with the arrest
memo itself. This is a strong indication that Geelani had been framed.
For reasons which may never be explained, though, the High Court took
no action against the police for these illegal acts.
The attitude of the police was communal throughout the trial of
Geelani and the others accused in the case. It was also something
more. Geelani has said that he was beaten and tortured, despite which
he refused to sign the "confession" which had been prepared for
him. The trial court's judgment, which is available for public
scrutiny, is loaded with presumptions about Muslims, Kashmiris and
terrorists. This too was not acted upon by the High Court. Had
Geelani been presumed guilty? Or was he to be shown as guilty through
the presentation of a series of fictions as facts? Of course, to a
man who is to be hanged, the difference has no meaning.
The police also whipped up and maintained a high level of hysteria by
using the press, which played along. This has been standard practice
in everything to do with terrorists, whether real or merely so
labelled. Indeed, that none of those called terrorists was ever
captured alive, and that all made a habit of carrying masses of
incriminating evidence, has left no room for the press or anyone else
to ask questions. There are less charitable explanations too.
What of the other side? When those who wanted justice for Geelani and
punitive action against the police tried to make the facts public by
putting up posters, they were prevented from doing that. In the Delhi
University area, for example, the police did not permit them to put
up publicity material. Its face would have been blackened, after all,
and the rod is more effective than reasoned argument based on facts.
The police lived up to its reputation for spreading disinformation
after Geelani was shot. The first claim was that there had been a
delay in reporting the shooting. The reality is that when Nandita
Haksar, having driven Geelani straight to hospital, told the doctors
that he had been wounded by a gun-shot or gun-shots, she was directed
to the police there. This is standard procedure in medico-legal
cases. It is also a fact that the name and address in the records of
the police are those of Nandita Haksar. In sum, there was no delay.
The police also implied that there was something sinister about the
fact that the Geelani's clothes were taken away by his family,
from whom they then had to be "recovered". My understanding is
that the normal and necessary procedure in medico-legal cases is to
remove and seal the victim's clothes. Why Geelani's clothes
were given to his family is not known: but it is known that no one,
not even the police, has said that his family snatched the clothes and
Geelani's computer and other things were "seized" from his
home and sent to different places for examination. I am unable to
comprehend how such objects can be called case property unless these
two possibilities are considered: first, that Geelani is not a victim
but a suspect; and second, that the aim was not examination but
A senior police functionary was reported in the press as having said
that the assailant's picture could not be prepared because Geelani
did not give an accurate description. There was a distinct
implication that Geelani had hampered police work. Had he deliberately
made himself incapable of clearly seeing a man's face in the dark
in the space of just a few seconds? Should he have gone about wearing
night vision equipment, possibly fitted with a camera?
Other actions of the police also cannot be understood. In a hospital,
doctors have the last word. Yet it was the police who prevented
Geelani's wife from seeing him in the night after he was shot.
When they themselves were permitted to visit him, they questioned him
again and again. Apparently their repeated questioning had little to
do with the shooting: instead, it was about such matters as a recent
trip to Mumbai. If they are working to a plan, they are casting a
wide net indeed.
Was the area of the shooting cordoned off before many people had
walked all over it? How were the five recovered shells handled? Was
any search made for the two bullets (assuming that five had been
fired) which were not in Geelani's body? Why did it take so long
to resolve the discrepancy of five shells and three bullets? A person
with one or more obvious injuries is routinely examined for other
injuries less obvious. Were the two grazes not seen earlier? Or were
they seen but not reported? Or are they an arithmetically convenient
An examination of empty shells can only identify the weapon or
weapons from which they were fired: assuming that there are records of
the indentations left by the firing pin or pins involved. An empty
shell can tell us only the calibre of the bullet fired from it: but
there may be thousands of other weapons which fire bullets of the
same calibre. There is thus absolutely no reason to believe that the
bullets which hit Geelani came from the shells found at the site of
the shooting. It is a simple matter to shoot someone with Gun A and
plant at the spot empties from Gun B.
As firing pins leave identifiable marks on shells, so gun barrels
leave identifiable marks on bullets fired through them. The bullets
which hit Geelani are still inside Geelani. According to reports in
the press, the doctors say that taking them out can involve risk. The
police, on the other hand, say that Geelani refuses to allow them to
be taken out.
Given the numerous perforations in Geelani's intestines and the
resultant copious bleeding (seven university students donated blood
for him), in all likelihood the surgeons' over-riding aim will
have been to save his life. The bullets may not have been seen or even
searched for. Often if embedded bullets do no harm, they are left in
place. In certain circumstances - if, for example, a bullet is close
to a haematoma - then disturbing it could be dangerous.
But whose decision is it? There are two sides to the matter: the
medical side and that related to criminal investigation. An
examination of a bullet is the only certain way of identifying the
weapon from which it was fired: assuming, of course, that records are
available of the marks left on bullets by the barrel of that weapon.
I do not know what the law says on the question of extracting bullets
for examination, nor what forensic or general medicine says: but I do
know that the press has not reported the police as having said
anything about it.
Who shot Geelani? Was it just another unshaven man who, either as a
hobby or out of habit, fires bullets at those who visit their
lawyers? Was the shooting a random occurrence or one based on the
knowledge that Geelani was to visit his lawyer or that he was
approaching her house? Who could have had such knowledge? Someone who
tapped one or both telephones, perhaps, or an organised force which
routinely monitored the movements of Geelani and his lawyer?
It happens that I have known Geelani's lawyer for almost thirty-
five years. Being a little older, I habitually call her a silly girl
and similar names; but I know that she is nothing of the sort. If she
tells me that strange people loiter outside her house, seeming to do
nothing in particular, I believe her. If she tells me that other
motor vehicles drive rashly close to her car on the roads, apparently
deliberately, I believe her.
Circumstantial. All circumstantial. But then I do not sentence people
to death by hanging: nor do I shoot people in dark places. That is, I
do not uphold the majesty of the law and I do not demean it. Evidence
which has not been tampered with or fabricated is enough.
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