A Criminal lawyer, Abdul Gaffar is defending 50 cases related to Delhi riots of February, 2020 and almost half of them for free.
“What fees can I expect from them? I’m trying to do what I believe is right even though I may have no control over the outcome,” he said.
The 40 year old lawyer himself is a victim of riots which happened in 2013 in Muzaffarnagar, western Uttar Pradesh. His maternal uncle was killed during the riots. Although his family was protected by the village sarpanch who was a Hindu.
HuffPost India quoted Gaffar as saying that if the death of his maternal uncle stays with him till today, so do the actions of the Hindu village chief who saved his family from the mob. If most of his clients are Muslim, half the junior lawyers working with him are Hindu.
For Gaffar, the investigation by Delhi police in the riots marks a line in the sand.
“The role of the investigating agency is limited to collecting and producing evidence before the court,” Gaffar said. “For the first time, I’m seeing the investigating agency giving its own hypothesis, giving a personal opinion, making assumptions, and trying to set a narrative,” he added.
According to Gaffar, the chargesheets suggest the police was leading with an anti-Muslim narrative that linked the February riots to the preceding months of largely peaceful protests by those opposed the controversial CAA.
The February riots in Delhi leads to 53 deaths and over 200 injured.During the violence he met a Muslim man whose brother was killed in the riots. This man told him that a hospital was asking for a bribe to release his brother’s body.He arranged for the money as the victim’s shop was vandalised and he had nothing to even survive on.
The COVID-19 pandemic too has had a great impact in his work life as well as in his personal life.
Online hearings have meant lawyers need to type out their own submissions instead of relying on the stenographers in court, work over the Internet was difficult and hard to understand.
Gaffar feels online hearings are to blame for errors that he has noticed in the court recording of his submissions.
“If a judicial officer makes a mistake and I contest and highlight it too much, I have to appear tomorrow as well, and the day after that. I need to maintain my image a little bit as well. Image is also important, right?” he said
“On the personal front, I’ve just come out of depression,” said Gaffar, while speaking about long hours working from home.
When the online bail hearings for the riot cases started in April, he locked himself in one room.
“I think there is a limit to which you can work and not beyond it,” he said. “Now, I’m feeling better.”