Guwahati, September 25: A total of 5,202 militants have been arrested in the last 12 years from various parts of Assam, but only one of them has been convicted so far, according to official records.
Only about half of those arrested have been charge-sheeted so far.
Experts said investigators and the legal system “are at fault”, resulting in an inordinate delay at multiple stages of the justice delivery system.
The Assam Police arrested 5,202 cadres of ULFA and other extremist groups, comprising people from the Bodo, Garo, Rabha, Karbi, Adivasi, and Muslim communities, from 2011 to September 4 this year, the official documents stated.
A total of 2,606 persons have been charge-sheeted in connection with the cases to date and “most of the cases are under trial and one person has been convicted”, it said.
The conviction of the lone militant took place in the Lakhimpur district in 2012. No other militant has been convicted since then.
Of the arrested people, the highest 2,392 number was from militant groups formed by Bodo people, followed by 1,468 from ULFA and 582 from Karbi groups.
Police also arrested 346 people from Adivasi groups, followed by 178 from Garo, 155 from Muslim, and 81 from Rabha communities.
Gauhati High Court Advocate Santanu Borthakur told PTI that the delay in the conviction of an accused takes place at multiple stages and it is also done “deliberately at times”.
“Until we know the dates of arrest and the filing of the charge sheet, it is difficult to know where exactly the delay is taking place. At times, the investigators delay the probe purposively because many militants get political patronage and eventually become political personalities, ” he added.
When the charge sheet is filed after a prolonged period, witnesses cannot be found on several occasions for giving evidence in court. Some witnesses do not appear even if they get notice after a long time, Borthakur said.
“There is a delay in our criminal justice system. Many a time, the witnesses turn hostile and cannot be found,” he said.
Another Gauhati High Court Advocate Rakhee Sirauthia Chowdhury said that the fault lies with both the police and the legal system.
“The investigators do not probe the cases and keep it lying for years. On the other hand, a trial goes on for a long time due to various reasons, ” she added.
Chowdhury said that in the case of militants, the investigation often loses focus because several people start questioning the violation of human rights of the accused.
“That he or she is a criminal, killed many people, and waged war against the nation — these facts get diluted under the cover of allegations of human rights violation in police custody. And this leads to delay in investigation,” she added.
Senior Advocate Angshuman Bora told PTI that in most cases involving militants, the witnesses do not come to the court to record their testimony.
“In a particular case where three or four militants are involved and only one is present and rest are absconders, then also it gets delayed,” he added.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on September 12 said that a total of 1,561 youth from Assam joined extremist organisations since the BJP-led government took charge in 2016.
During the same period, 7,935 militants have returned to the mainstream, he had said in the Assam Assembly. (PTI)