Muhsina, a mother of three, boarded her flight to Kerala on Monday, after a haunting month in Lucknow district jail, Uttar Pradesh, with her mother-in-law Naseema and her seven-year-old child Athif.
Though she rues about not meeting her husband, Anshad Badruddin, jailed in Uttar Pradesh since February under draconian charges, this return means she will be reuniting with her two-year-old daughter.
Muhsina and Naseema were among the three women who were sent to jail on 27 September for allegedly using fake RT-PCR certificates while visiting their kins in jail. With no immediate family around, Athif was also sent to prison.
65 year-old Haleema, who was visiting her son, Firoz Khan, Badruddin’s co-accused is the third woman.
Anshad Badruddin and Firoz Khan, members of the Popular Front of India, were arrested in February for allegedly planning multiple blasts in UP. PFI refutes this allegation and claims they were sent to North India to strengthen the organisation.
“Alhamdulillah,” says Azhar Badruddin, Anshad’s brother. “It has been hard on everyone. Having many members of the family in jail for illegally is extremely distressing”.
News about the incarceration of two elderly ailing women and a mother along with a child created an outrage in Kerala.
The bail order by Additional Sessions Judge observes that “some unknown persons have cheated the applicants / accused by issuing RTPCR Report for their pecuniary gains”.
The judge pulled up the police for arresting two ailing elderly women, calling the arrest “illegal”.
Anshad, lodged in a high-security cell, was informed about the arrest of his wife, mother and child. In response, Badruddin said “It is how things are in Uttar Pradesh,” informs Azhar.
Along with three, Khan’s wife Saujath and her three children were part of the group that went to Lucknow on 23 September expecting to meet the prisoners.
“I am happy for the first time in a month,” Saujath told Maktoob following the news of her mother-in-law Haleema’s release. “I had no choice but to leave her behind in misery and flee with the children”.
Saujath, after a traumatic experience, returned to Kerala in September with her children to make sure she was not the “next”.
“I was hollow inside. I have not heard from her since the arrest. None among the family have”. Saujath had to collect the information about Haleema through Anshad’s family due to restrictions on using phones in the UP jail.
Timeline of case
Muhsina and others boarded the flight to Lucknow on 23 September expecting to meet their jailed kins outside the court during the next day during the hearing. But police produced them through video conferencing.
On the following working day, September 25, the group arrived at the jail with supporting documents, including RT-PCR certificates, mandatory for visitors due to the pandemic.
Advocate KC Naseer, who accompanied the women and children to UP, claims that police offered to set up the meeting outside the jail, but the family declined, doubting foul play.
Later, jail staff called the police and handed the family due to “suspicion” about the validity of the test certificate. Although police let them go back to the hotel that evening after local lawyers intervened, the families were detained hours later from the hotel.
“They terrorised the children and asked the hotel to turn off the CCTV cameras,” Naseer told Maktoob, earlier in September. Following the detention, three women among them were arrested.
In September, Naseer refuted the allegations made by police. “How can only three out of 10 certificates become fake,” asked the Kerala based Lawyer.
Maktoob couldn’t independently verify the validity of the RT-PCR certificate. According to the bail order, the test was taken from Spice Health Lab.
On 29 September, The bail application was moved to the Principal Sessions Court.
“Only on 14 October, police submitted the case diary in which some additional charges, one of them non-bailable, were included,” says Shihabudhin C A, who worked with local lawyers for legal assistance.
“Although the court gave bail in the initial plea the same day. We had to take another bail for the added non-bailable offence”.
Another application was moved in the Chief Judicial Magistrate and the second bail was granted on 20 October.
Delay in bail proceedings
Two sureties and a bond of 50,000 are the conditions of the bail. Unlike other states, the accused are only released after a “three-tier verification” of sureties. Six sureties for the three women and property documents worth 50,000 as a bond for each were submitted following the bail order.
“There was verification in the local police station and another by revenue officer for proper documents. It took ten days,” says Shihabudhin.
On 31st October, evening, they walked out of Lucknow jail and flew back to Kerala on Monday morning. Back home, two-year-old Danwa Mariyam waits for her mother.
According to the First Information Report, accessed by Maktoob, five sections of the Indian Penal Code, including sections 419 (punishment for cheating by personation), cheating, forgery, forgery for purpose of cheating and using a forged document or electronic record as genuine were charged against them.
FIR 464/2021 was registered in a complaint made by the jailer Ajay Kumar to Gosaiganj police.
Jail staff sought to verify the RTPCR reports’ veracity with the laboratory and suspected them to be fake.
The FIR said, “Under these circumstances, a conspiracy or possibility of an incident cannot be ruled out in the attempt to meet the men on the basis of fake RTPCR reports.”
In retaliation, the families ask how can only three of the 10 certificates submitted become “fake”.
“This is a political vendetta by UP police. After illegally arresting two PFI members they went after the family who has the right to visit them,” accuse PFI leader CA Rauf.