"Convict him or acquit him," an anguished Supreme Court observed on non-framing of charges on an accused jailed for 11 years over serial blasts in multiple Rajdhani Express and other trains in 1993.
Underlining the right to speedy trial, the top court sought a report from the special Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act court judge in Ajmer explaining why charges have not been framed against Hameer Ui Uddin.
"The Special Judge, Designated Court, Ajmer, Rajasthan is directed to submit a report to this Court within a period of two weeks from the date of receipt of a certified copy of this order...The report shall clarify why charges have not been framed," a bench of justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah said.
In its order passed recently, the bench said that to facilitate the submission of the report expeditiously, the registrar (judicial) will communicate a copy of the order to the judge directly as well as through the Registrar (Judicial) of the High Court of Rajasthan.
During the hearing, advocate Shoeb Alam, appearing for Hameer Ui Uddin said the petitioner has been in custody since 2010 but charges have not been framed and trial is yet to commence.
He said that detaining an accused indefinitely without trial is a gross abuse of rights of an individual under Article 21.
Mr Alam contended that the special TADA court ought to have granted bail to the petitioner as there is no prospect of the conclusion of the trial in the near future.
"The allegations are yet to be proved in trial and there is no justification of pre-trial incarceration for 11 years," he said.
Advocate Vishal Meghwal, appearing for the State, admitted that that charges have not been framed against the accused, but contended he was on the run for nearly 15 years.
The bench then asked why the charges have not been framed when he has been in custody since 2010.
"He is entitled to speedy trial. Convict him or acquit him, we have no problem with that but at least hold the trial. He cannot be kept in custody indefinitely without trial," the bench observed.
Mr Meghwal contended that the main reason for the delay in framing of charges is that one of the co-accused Abdul Karim Tunda is lodged in the Ghaziabad jail.
"Then either you separate the trial or club the trial with his case but at least start the trial," the bench said.
Mr Alam said the Tunda case is not mentioned by the state in its counter-affidavit.
In his plea filed through advocate Farrukh Rasheed, the petitioner has challenged the TADA court of March 27, 2019 rejecting his bail application.
As per the prosecution case, on December 5-6, 1993, serial bomb blasts took place in Rajdhani express trains -- Bombay to New Delhi, New Delhi to Howrah, Howrah to New Delhi -- Surat-Baroda Flying Queen Express and Hyderabad-New Delhi AP Express.
Two passengers lost their lives in the blasts and 22 suffered injuries. Five different cases were registered at respective police stations in Kota, Valsad, Kanpur, Allahabad and Malkaj-Giri.
These cases were later transferred to the CBI and re-registered under TADA at Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Lucknow and Hyderabad. Investigation found that the bomb blasts were outcome of one single conspiracy and hence all cases were clubbed together.
On August 25, 1994, the CBI filed chargesheet against 13 accused, who were arrested, and nine other on the run accused.
Hameer Ui Uddin was shown on the run.
The charge sheet alleged that he was one of the accused who carried bomb devices and explosive substances to Kanpur on December 5, 1993.
Hameer Ui Uddin was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Police and Lucknow Special Task Force on February 2, 2010 and was produced before the Ajmer TADA court on March 8, 2010 which remanded him to judicial custody.
In 2010, an 8000-page charge sheet was filed against him under various provisions of TADA and Explosive Substance Act, Prevention of Damages to Public Property Act and the Indian Railways Act.