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How did the police get to Geelani?

Police say they got to know of Geelani’s role on Dec 17. What made them pick him up two days earlier?

The holes in the prosecution story on the Parliament attack case are too big to be missed. How did the Delhi Police get to SAR Geelani, the first person arrested in the case, in the early hours of December 15, two days after the attack? There was no evidence in the case records to link SAR Geelani to the site of crime till the details of calls records from cellular service provider Airtel arrived on the December 17, 2001, which was cited by police as the clue that enabled them to trace Geelani.

The chargesheet maintains that the police came to know of Geelani’s address from the telephone bill and the State Bank of India credit card, with which the du lecturer paid his phone bill. “Of all the numbers, 98100-81228 was found to be a regular mobile card which stood in the name of SAR Geelani, House No: 535, Mukherjee Nagar, Delhi,” says the chargesheet.

The cellphone numbers the police found on slain terrorists didn’t belong to Geelani or Afzal
The police allegedly recovered slips of paper from the pockets of the slain terrorists, each containing five mobile numbers. None of these numbers belonged to Afzal or Geelani. Further, the police recovered six sim cards and three mobiles from the deceased terrorists. Apart from this, it is alleged that Afzal’s number 98114-89429 was written on all the fake i-cards of ‘Xansa Web City’ recovered from the militants. This fact emboldened the police to zero in on Afzal but the sim card for this number has not been recovered. Further, the fake I-cards that carried Afzal’s number were not sealed. They were just pasted on paper and remained in the investigators’ custody. Prosecution Witness 8, Head Constable Ashwini Kumar posted at the Parliament Street police station, was among the first to arrive at the site of the crime and prepared the seizure memos listing the articles recovered from the site and the bodies. He told the court that as far as he could remember, “the telephone number was not written on the seizure”.

When it was pointed out in court that there was no known way to reach Geelani before the receipt of the Airtel letter, the Delhi High Court gave the benefit of doubt to the prosecution saying this could be a “typographical error”. The court did not “consider it necessary to delve further” into the controversy emanating from this letter since “no question was put to the security manager of Airtel,” the Supreme Court observed. Further, “none of the witnesses pertaining to the fir were cross-examined”.

But if there was a “typographical error” and the Airtel note was written before December 17, it creates another problem. The letter said, “responding to the police request for call records refer to section 3/4/5/21/22 POTO…” The Prevention of Terrorist Activities Ordinance (POTO) was promulgated only on December 19 that year. How could the police apply POTO provisions before the ordinance came into force?

Call records placed before the court were uncertified computer printouts. The calls records show that two calls were made between Shaukat and Afzal, the called and calling numbers were identical, time and location are identical, but the imei number, the handset’s number apart from the phone number, was different. Records show that on December 13, 2001, at 11:19:14am, two calls were simultaneously made from Afzal to Shaukat but from different handsets. The same thing occurred again 11:32:40am. As per the chargesheet, Inspector Mohan Chand mounted surveillance on Geelani’s mobile on December 13, 2001.

On the next day, a call from Srinagar was intercepted on this cell. The sequence of arrests began with Geelani’s arrest at 10am, Afsan at 10.45am, Afzal and Saukat in Srinagar at 11.30am on December 15, 2001. Allegedly, Geelani disclosed information leading to the arrest of the others. But in his disclosure statement, Geelani doesn’t mention any mobile phone. He denied in court that he told the police that any mobile number belonged to Afzal or Shaukat. Coming back to the question: How did the police first reach Geelani? At best this remains an unsolved riddle.

Mihir Srivastava

Oct 28 , 2006
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How did the police get to Geelani?
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