September 17, 2019
Human rights lawyer Bilal Kagzi says attempts are being made to silence him for exposing the police’s rampant abuse of the rule of law.
When one speaks to Bilal Kagzi, a Surat-based human rights lawyer, it quickly becomes clear that he is an ardent practitioner of the law. In the profession for the last 12 years, Kagzi refers to several sections of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and case laws to illustrate the procedure the police is required to follow when registering an FIR and initiating investigations and arrests.
According to Kagzi, the police in the area has been abusing the rule of law rampantly, leading to sufferings of poor and marginalised. He claims that those who stand up for the victims are also being intimidated and harassed to keep them quiet. He himself has been facing intimidation for taking up cases against police officials, and attempts are being made to silence him.
At present, the advocate is representing several who have complained against officials at the Kosamba police station over the alleged misuse of power and corruption in an assault case involving a right to information activist. Kagzi has in the past represented members of marginalised communities and regularly supports victims of atrocities and those who have struggled while seeking justice under the SC/ST Atrocities Act.
In another case, he is representing a woman at the Police Complaints Authority regarding the implication of her son in a false case. He is also representing another client at the Gujarat State Human Rights Commission over illegal detention and custodial torture by the police.
The most recent incident of his false implication in a case occurred a month ago. Incidentally, he was not even present at the place and time of the incident.
On the morning of August 12, Kagzi was spending time with his family after having returned from morning namaz. It was the occasion of Eid-ul-Adha. He was home till 8:40 am, after which he went to visit his aunt who lives nearby. Later that day, he came to know about a scuffle in his colony triggered by an accident between two vehicles. It was well-known that the parties involved had a past feud, because of which the present incident escalated.
When that afternoon Kagzi contacted a policeman regarding a case he was working on, he was shocked to learn that he was going to be named in an FIR related to this incident. For the next several hours, he tried gathering information about the incident and the police action on the same. At around 9:30 pm – the FIR in the case was registered at 8:30 pm, 12 hours after the incident occurred – he visited Kosamba police station to inquire about the case but was told that there were orders not to reveal names of the accused and the charges filed.
“An FIR is a public document and various court rulings have adjudged that a copy has to be given to the accused, so I asked one of my junior lawyers to visit the police station and collect the FIR,” he said.
An FIR – being a public document – is also supposed to be uploaded online within 24 hours of filing. But this particular one was uploaded much later. As per the document, Kagzi is ‘accused no. 3,’ charged under various sections of the IPC, including attempt to murder.
This, however, is not the first time Kagzi has faced intimidation for performing his duties as a lawyer. Last year, he was threatened by a local goon with death threats, but police paid no attention to his pleas.