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Confusion over compensation for wrongly accused Muslims

Court overrules its own decision to claw back money paid over Hyderabad bombings

Shawn Sebastian, Hyderabad

September 20, 2013

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Legal confusion surrounds a large sum of compensation that was paid to 70 Muslim men for their wrongful arrest and detention, after a bomb blast six years ago.

The High Court of Andhra Pradesh ordered the state on Tuesday to recover the compensation, totaling US$140,000. But yesterday, the same court reversed its own order. This effectively means that the men will not have to repay their compensation.

The men were arrested in connection with a twin bomb blast that left 14 dead and 118 injured in Hyderabad, the state capital, in 2007. Subsequent investigations indicated that the bomb blasts were linked to right wing Hindu organizations. A report by the State Minorities Commission also asserted that the men were tortured while in custody. 

Acting upon a statement from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) that their detention had violated basic rights, the state government paid compensation of 300,000 rupees (US$6,000) each to 20 of the men and 20,000 rupees (US$400) to the other 50. It was the first instance of government compensation for people wrongly detained and mistreated on charges of terrorism.

The latest order has caused divided reactions. While it has been described by some as an attempt to appease the Muslim community, who were angered by the court ruling earlier in the week, human rights activists have justified the payments and welcomed the reversal. 

“The detention was unlawful and they were tortured by the police,” said rights activist S G M Quadri.

He said this "was a serious matter" since it targeted a religious minority and it was the state's responsibility to grant compensation in such cases.

“The compensation was awarded not because they were acquitted but because it was established that their detention was illegal and they were tortured in custody,” lawyer Shafeeq Rahman said in support. 

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