Parliament House attack case

Afzal Guru & Davinder Singh: The missing link

Print edition : February 14, 2020

Afzal Guru, who was convicted in the Parliament House attack case. In a letter he wrote to his lawyer, he claimed that he had been made to accept the crime under duress. Photo: AFP

The question of why and how Davinder Singh escaped the radar when Afzal Guru, the convict in the Parliament House attack case, mentioned him as the person who made him accept the crime under duress remains unanswered.

On October 21, 2004, Mohammad Afzal Guru, the convict in the 2001 Parliament House attack case who was hanged to death on February 9, 2013, in New Delhi’s Tihar jail, wrote a letter to his lawyer, Sushil Kumar, senior advocate in the Supreme Court. The attack on Parliament House, in which five terrorists and nine persons, including five Delhi police personnel, lost their lives on December 13, 2001, led to the trial and conviction of Afzal Guru, who was alleged to have provided logistical help to the terrorists in Delhi. He was apprehended in Srinagar and brought to Delhi within a few days of the attack. The trial court, the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court confirmed his death sentence one after the other.

In the letter which Afzal Guru wrote to his lawyer, he claimed that he had been made to accept the crime under duress. He claimed that the Designated Court (the trial court) had sentenced him to death on the basis of the police version of the case and under the influence of the mass media. More important, the story of how Afzal Guru came under the influence of the then Deputy Superintendent of Police, Davinder Singh (whom he misspells as Dravinder Singh), which he narrates in his letter, is very credible.

Afzal Guru said that he was introduced to a Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Ashaq Hussain of Budgam, through his relative Altaf Hussain, who also acted as a link between Afzal Guru and Davinder Singh. Afzal Guru said in his letter that Altaf took him to Davinder Singh, who asked him to do a “small” job for him which involved taking a man to Delhi and helping him get a rented accommodation. He said in the letter that he had no option but to help that man, whom he did not know earlier and whom he suspected to be a non-Kashmiri. The letter said: “I took him to Delhi. One day, he told me that he want [sic] to purchase a car. Thus I went with him to Karol Bagh. He purchased the car. Then in Delhi he used to meet different persons, and both of us he, Mohammad and me used to get the different phone calls from Dravinder Singh.”

Afzal Guru claimed in his letter that when he was apprehended at Srinagar bus stand following the attack on Parliament House, Tariq (who was another former surrendered militant like Afzal Guru who was allegedly harassed by the police) was there with the Special Task Force (STF). Afzal Guru said that the designated court had not given him a chance to tell the “real story” and hoped that the Supreme Court would consider his helplessness and the “reality through which he had passed”. He alleged that the STF had made him a scapegoat in this criminal act, which was designed and directed by the STF, and others whom he did not know. “Special Police is definitely the part of this game because every time they forced me to remain silent. I hope my forced silence will be heard and justice will prevail. I once again pay heart-felt thanks to your good self for defending my case. May truth prevail,” he concludes the letter.

In 2006, Davinder Singh gave an interview to a journalist Parvaiz Bukhari. The interview was never published in the magazine that commissioned it but was later published in the book, The Hanging of Afzal Guru and the Strange Case of the Attack on the Indian Parliament, with an introduction by Arundhati Roy. In this interview, Davinder Singh confesses that he interrogated and tortured Afzal Guru in his camp at Humhama (Budgam district) for several days, and that he never recorded Afzal Guru’s arrest. “His (Afzal’s) description of torture at my camp is true. That was the procedure those days and we did pour petrol in his arse and gave him electric shocks. But I could not break him...,” he says in the interview.

Davinder Singh also denied that he knew Mohammad, the terrorist involved in the Parliament House attack, or captured him, and claimed that he would not have released him had he captured him. “Afzal wants clemency and he wants to gain sympathy of Kashmiri public and government of India by giving his story,” he said in that interview.

Davinder Singh also denied Afzal Guru’s claim that he had been in touch with him and Mohammad when they were in Delhi. He asked: “Afzal was sent to Pattan from my camp in September 2000 and I was transferred out from Humhama SOG [Special Operations Group] camp to CIK (Counter Intelligence Kashmir) Hari Niwas in February 2001. When I was in Humhama SOG camp, there was no STD dialling facility there. I have not even visited that camp after my transfer. If I called Afzal from there, who will authenticate it?”

In this interview, Davinder Singh was categorical that the letter which Afzal Guru purportedly wrote to his lawyer was not in his handwriting, though it bore his signature. “I know because he was teaching somebody’s children when I had seen his handwriting. That is all fabricated,” was his response.

The question of why and how Davinder Singh escaped the radar when he was named by Afzal Guru remains unanswered. In his letter, Afzal Guru referred to how Davinder Singh tortured him as part of a larger conspiracy to bribe police officers. Justice S.N. Dhingra, the trial court judge who convicted and sentenced Afzal Guru to death, was quoted by the media as saying that the revelation about Davinder Singh would not have made “any difference to Afzal’s case” as he was convicted on the basis of evidence. Justice Dhingra was quoted by Hindustan Times as saying: “There are many black sheep in the police, those who just help themselves. This doesn’t make any difference to Afzal’s case, as that is now done with. At that time, they focussed on terrorists, and if this would have come out, it would have distracted all.”

Davinder Singh’s 2006 interview appears to have given a clean chit to Afzal Guru. Davinder Singh told his interviewer thus: “His (Afzal Guru’s) description of torture at my camp is true. I had a reputation for torture, interrogation and breaking suspects. If anybody came out of my interrogation clean, nobody would ever touch him again. He would be considered clean for good by the whole department.” But the fact remains that Davinder Singh did admit that he could not break Afzal Guru and that he sent him back, after his torture wounds healed. If so, why did the investigation into Afzal Guru’s role in the Parliament House attack not consider the plausible role Davinder Singh allegedly played in the conspiracy? There are no answers. If Davinder Singh’s boast in that interview was correct, Afzal Guru could well have been an innocent, as there are no answers to why he could not break Afzal Guru when he was in his custody.

Convention against Torture

Afzal Guru’s letter alleging that one of Davinder Singh’s “torture inspectors”, Shanti Singh, “electrified him naked for three hours, and made him drink water while giving electric shocks through telephone instrument” needs to be investigated even at this stage as India is a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Law Commission has observed that India faced problems in extradition of criminals from foreign countries because the Convention prevents extradition to a country where there is the danger of torture. India is yet to ratify the Convention, despite signing it on October 14, 1997. The Law Commission has recommended stringent punishment for individuals who commit torture.

According to the draft Prevention of Torture Bill, 2017, which is yet to be enacted, punishment for torture includes imprisonment up to 10 years and fine. In case torture leads to death, the punishment includes death or life imprisonment in addition to fine. At international forums India has consistently and unequivocally condemned and deprecated custodial torture and has signed the U.N. Convention. But the Centre’s reluctance to ratify the U.N. Convention stems from the fact that it envisages comprehensive and standalone legislation, which India lacks at present. The existing law against torture falls short on several accounts, both procedurally and substantively, with the U.N. Convention and thus there is an urgent need for an all-embracing, standalone enactment based on the U.N. Convention. Articles 51 (c) and 253 of the Constitution underscore the “constitutional imperative” of aligning domestic laws with international law and obligations.

In S. Nambi Narayanan v Siby Mathews and others, the Supreme Court awarded a compensation of Rs.50 lakh to the former scientist Nambi Narayanan against whom criminal proceedings were initiated on the basis of a sham prosecution story and who was subjected to harassment and torture by the police. On September 5, 2019, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, comprising the then Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna, held in Dr. Ashwani Kumar v Union of India that it had the jurisdiction to deal with individual cases of alleged custodial torture and pass appropriate orders and directions in accordance with law, even while declining the petitioner’s plea to direct Parliament to enact suitable standalone comprehensive legislation based on the U.N. Convention, on the grounds that the doctrine of separation of powers would restrict the court from doing so.

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