NEW DELHI — Twenty-eight years after the Hashimpura massacre, the acquittal of all 16 accused left the kin of the victims and the survivors distraught, while the absolved PAC personnel said it was an end to a long ordeal suffered by them and their families.
The prosecution underscored that though the accused have been acquitted in the case, there was no doubt about the occurrence of the incident in which 42 people from Muslim community were killed in Uttar Pradesh's Meerut district in May 1987.
"The court has given benefit of doubt to the accused regarding their identification and not regarding the incident. The fact that the court referred the case to Delhi Legal Service Authority for rehabilitation of the victims shows that the incident is not in doubt. I will give my report to the government. It is for the government to decide the further course of action as to whether the State wants to file an appeal in the matter," special public prosecutor Satish Tamta said.
The families of the victims, who were present in the court at the time of pronouncement of the judgment, expressed their disappointment over the verdict and termed it "unfortunate" and "denial of justice".
Babuddin, one of the survivors and eyewitnesses to the incident, said he could not recognize the PAC personnel in court as they were wearing helmets.
"We are very sad and disappointed as the justice has been denied to us. I could not identify them before the court as they were wearing helmets and also two decades have passed since the incident. Only because of this one mistake, this verdict is passed against us even though all other evidence were against them.
"I will consult my family and then decide the future course of action in this case," he said. Two other survivors and eye-witnesses — Usman and Mujibur Rehman — also expressed disappointment on the verdict.
The verdict, however, was welcomed by the accused who said they have finally been relieved of the trauma.
"I am satisfied that justice is finally done. We faced the trial for last 28 years. During this period I failed to do anything for my family and children. I was a head constable at the time of the alleged incident and I am going to retire soon and I am still a head constable," 59-year-old Niranjan, one of the persons acquitted on Saturday, said.
Another acquitted accused expressed similar views saying, "We had to face such a long trial. That itself was a punishment despite the fact that I was not even present at the spot at the time of the incident. However, I am happy that the court finally did justice to us."
Advocates Salar M Khan and LD Mual, who appeared for several accused, said none of the eyewitnesses had identified the accused in the court as those involved in the massacre.
According to the prosecution, Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel had come to village Hashimpura in Uttar Pradesh's Meerut district on May 22, 1987, and picked up about 50 Muslims as a congregation of 500 had gathered outside a mosque there.
The victims were shot by the accused personnel and their bodies thrown into a canal, it had said, adding 42 people were declared to have perished in the massacre.
The chargesheet was filed before the chief judicial magistrate (CJM), Ghaziabad, in 1996.
19 people were named as accused and charges for offences of murder, attempt to murder, tampering with evidence and conspiracy were framed against 17 of them by the court here in 2006 after the case was transferred to Delhi on a Supreme Court direction in September 2002.