You might not have heard much about Shahid Azmi until in 2013 a Bollywood movie on his life- “Shahid” was released. For the movie the actor, Rajkumar Rao even got a National Award for the Best Actor.
The Lawyer’s life story is so much inspiring as he did most of his studies while imprisoned in Jail. At age 14, he was arrested during the 1992 Bombay Riots. He went to Pakistan Administered Kashmir into a militant training camp but returned.
Shahid Azmi was arrested again under TADA, serving seven years in Delhi’s Tihar Jail, on charges of plotting against the state, though he was acquitted later. He started studies while in jail and went on to become criminal defence lawyer in Mumbai in 2003, defending cases for those accused of terrorism.
Unfortunately, He was shot dead by four assailants in his office in Kurla, Mumbai on 11 February 2010 at the age of 32.
In a short career of just 7 years, he secured 17 acquittals in the court.
If you ever feel that life has not been fair to you, do recall the story of Mr. Azmi and continue your fight.
He was born in the year 1977. Shahid Azmi spent his childhood in a slum in Govandi, Shivajinagar with origins in Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh. He was third amongst five brothers. His father died when he was a child. When Azmi was 16, he faced violence from a mob during the 1992 communal clashes. Disheartened by the way Muslims were targeted in Mumbai during post-Babri Masjid riots, Azmi left for Kashmir and there he joined a separatist organization. However, he parted his ways from Kashmiri separatist and returned back to Mumbai.
In 1994 after Azmi returned his home he was arrested by Delhi police for allegedly ‘conspiring’ to kill India’s top politician. He was tortured by Delhi Police Special Cell in Lodhi Road and was forced to confess. The confession resulted in five years of imprisonment for no crime.
While serving his trial at Tihar jail Azmi completed his twelfth standard as well as his Bachelor of Arts.
In 2001 Azmi was released from Tihar jail after which he enrolled himself for journalism and later he completed his law degree from KC College. He then resigned from his sub-editors job and joined as a defence lawyer for Majeed Memon where he was working as an intern and paid a stipend of Rs 2,000 per month.
He was a living example of what barrister Roy Black, an American criminal defence lawyer, meant when he said “By showing me injustice, he taught me to love justice. By teaching me what pain and humiliation were all about, he awakened my heart to mercy. Through these hardships I learned hard lessons. Fight against prejudice, battle the oppressors, support the underdog.”
In 2008, Azmi came into limelight after he files a petition in the High Court alleging that Swati Sathe, jail superintendent had tortured 7/11 Mumbai blasts accused. The court ordered an inquiry into the matter and the allegations made by accused was found true.In October 2006, Azmi went to a local court where he was seeking police protection for himself but the court rejected his plea.
In his brief career of seven years, Shahid Azmi secured 17 acquittals in high-profile cases including several terror accused cases.
One of the major cases Azmi fought was that of Faheem Ansari, a 26/11 terror accused arrested by the Mumbai Crime Branch. Faheem was arrested for providing logical support to 26/11 terror accused. However, when Azmi fought for Faheem, the case was blown out of proportion. Few days after Azmi’s death Faheem was acquitted by the Special Mumbai Court and later by the Supreme Court.
As most of Shahid’s clients were low profile accused who were falsely arrested on terror charges, he never charged a penny for them not even for fighting a high-profile case of Faheem.
Shahid Azmi was killed on 11 February 2010 in his office at Taxi Men colony in Kurla, when four gunmen entered his office and shot two bullets, point blank and fled. Though he was taken to Rajawadi Hospital in Ghatkopar, he was soon declared dead.
What has happened to Shahid’s murder case? Have the killers been brought to justice? “It’s moving on at a snail’s pace. Charges are yet to be framed even after five years,” says Khalid. However, in this period, his assailants, alleged members of ‘nationalist’ underworld don Bharat Nepali gang, have been successful in securing relief in different forms. While one of the accused, Vinod Vichare, was able to secure bail in July 2012, Gangster Santosh Shetty, another accused in the case, was discharged by the Bombay High Court in October 2014.
Not only that, in January 2011, the special Maharashtra Control Of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA) court dropped the MCOCA charges against four people accused in the case, buying the defence’s argument that “the police failed to prove the underworld links as well as the pecuniary gain in killing Azmi”. Here, one is reminded of Shahid’s petition in the Supreme Court challenging MCOCA and its selective use against Muslim youth accused of terrorism. How true was he when he said that MCOCA would be used to target Muslim youth.
Moreover, there have also been attempts to sabotage the evidence, and the sole eyewitness has been threatened to make him turn hostile. Notably, in mid-April 2011, there was an alleged plan to kill Khalid Azmi by some of the associates of these underworld gangs. Three people were arrested in this connection with guns in the court premises. According to Khalid, when the three accused were arrested, only three important persons were present in the court and he was one of them.
As strange as it may sound, but the fact of the matter remains that Shahid was in love with justice, he lived and died for justice, but his own family members are still waiting for justice. “Par Beta, Allah ke ghar mein der hai, andher nahi, yahan nahi to wahan to mere bete ke qatilon ko saza zaroor milegi (In the Lord’s house, there may be delay, but justice is finally accomplished. The killers of my son would get their due punishment)” said Shahid’s mother Rehana.
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