Posted: 26 May 2012 at 12:37pm
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NEW DELHI: On Thursday, a metropolitan magistrate convicted
Shamsuddin Fakruddin of theft, making it the happiest day of his life.
As his lawyer explained to him that the court had just declared him
guilty, Shamsuddin's boyish face broke into a smile. He was finally
For 12 months now, Shamsuddin (19) has been lodged in Tihar Jail despite
the fact that his alleged crime, that of stealing Rs 200, would usually
carry a sentence of three months' imprisonment. After being denied bail
once, he was granted bail three months ago, but did not have the Rs
10,000 in property needed for a bail bond.
Shamsuddin changed his initial not-guilty plea to a guilty plea when he
learnt that his father had passed away two days ago. "I'll say I am
guilty. I just want to get out. I just want to go home to my village,"
he whispered to his lawyer.
After migrating to Delhi four years ago from his village in Uttar
Pradesh's Bahraich district on the border with Nepal, Shamsuddin sold
vegetables at a street corner near Okhla mandi. On August 5 last year,
Shamsuddin was picked up by the Amar Colony police on charges of taking a
wallet containing Rs 200 and an ATM card from the pocket of a
Shamsuddin maintains that he did not commit any theft, and that the
wallet in his pocket was his own. He was arrested and charged under
sections 379 (theft) and 411 (dishonestly keeping stolen property) of
the IPC, and sent to Tihar Jail for judicial custody. Boy jailed for a
yr for .
Despite his alleged crime typically carrying a sentence of three months,
Shamsuddin was first denied bail on February 26, 2011, because of the
"seriousness" of his crime. He had by then already completed six months
in judicial custody.
Then two months later, he was granted bail by metropolitan magistrate
Mona Tardi Kerketta, provided he furnished a bail bond of Rs 10,000 and
that someone could stand surety for him.
By this time, lawyers of the Human Rights Law Network, an NGO that
fights human rights cases and represents the poor pro bono, had met
Shamsuddin in Tihar Jail, and started representing him. However,
Shamsuddin's family could not be located, and he did not have property
or savings that he could show as collateral against the Rs 10,000 bail
bond. So, he was forced to remain in judicial custody.
On Thursday morning, police officers brought Shamsuddin to the
magistrate's court. Just over five feet tall, he wore a cream-coloured
shirt and black trousers and looked holloweyed, casting nervous glances
at his lawyer. He had hurt his leg, he said, and asked if he could sit
as he awaited his turn, a request that was turned down. Half an hour
after he was produced in court, metropolitan magistrate Kerketta heard
Shamsuddin's lawyer's plea. They had decided to plead guilty as the
surest way of getting released.
The magistrate convicted Shamsuddin and ordered his release. He did not
understand what had just happened until it was explained to him by his
lawyer. "She is releasing you," his lawyer said. Shamsuddin was taken
back to Tihar Jail by the policeman who had brought him there.
After a copy of the order reaches jail authorities, Shamsuddin will be
released. "Tell him not to do something like this again," the policeman
told Shamsuddin's lawyer as they waited for the lift. "But I didn't do
anything in the first place," Shamsuddin said to no one in particular.
Unfortunately, Shamsuddin's case is not rare. HRLN is currently handling
17 other cases of petty theft where the accused is between 18-22 years
old and has been in judicial custody for over six months.
In most of the cases, bail has been granted but the accused remains in
custody either because he is unable to show property or savings for the
bail bond, or because the police have not been able to verify his
correct address for his release on a personal bond.
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