Andhra to challenge court order on compensation to Muslim youth

Hyderabad, Sep 17 (IANS) Andhra Pradesh government will challenge the high court order which set aside the compensation paid to Muslim youth wrongly arrested in 2007 Mecca Masjid bomb blasts case.

The government will file a review petition in the high court and if necessary, will approach the Supreme Court, Senior Congress leader and former state minister Mohammed Ali Shabbir told IANS.

Shabbir, a member of legislative council, spoke to Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, chief secretary, advocate general and other top officials after the high court Monday set aside a government order for compensation to the youth.

On a public interest litigation, a division bench of the high court headed by Chief Justice Kalyan Jyothi Sengupta struck down the government order and directed it to recover the money already paid. It ruled that mere acquittal or discharge from a criminal case can't be basis for payment of such compensation.

The state government in January last year had paid Rs.3 lakh each to 20 people and Rs.20,000 each to 50 people. This was the first time in the country that the government paid compensation to people wrongly arrested and tortured on charges of terrorism.

All of them were picked up by police after May 18, 2007 blast at the historic Mecca Masjid, which claimed nine lives.

A fact-finding panel of the state minority commission found that police kept the youth in illegal confinement and tortured them.

All the youth were later acquitted by the court and subsequent investigations by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) revealed that right-wing Hindu groups were involved in the blast.

Acting on the recommendation of the National Minorities Commission, the state government decided to pay the compensation to Muslim youth. Many of the youth were handed over the cheques by Minorities Welfare Minister Mohammad Ahamadullah at a function held Jan 6 last year.

"The government has not done anything illegal. It tried to heal the wounds of the youngsters. In fact, compensation should be paid in all such cases across the country irrespective of the religion the victims come from," said Shabbir.

He did not agree that the government failed to strongly defend its move. "This is nothing new in a democracy. The court verdict doesn't mean the government has failed. It still has the options of moving a review petition or approaching the Supreme Court," he said.

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