With the verdict on the sensational Akbaruddin Owaisi hate speech cases set to be pronounced in a few hours on the afternoon of Wednesday, April 13, the Nampally Criminal Court complex is bustling. An animated crowd – comprising scores of supporters of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) legislator Akbaruddin Owaisi, media personnel and an increased police presence – has gathered at the court complex, eagerly awaiting the verdict in the cases from more than nine years ago. Curious about the outcome of the sensational cases, several advocates have also gathered outside the special sessions court for MPs/MLAs at Nampally in Hyderabad.
As the scheduled time for the verdict nears, a crowd begins to swell just outside the courtroom on the third floor of the Nampally court. Police personnel are asking people to leave the area outside the special court. Junior Owaisi is yet to arrive, but three AIMIM MLAs Ahmed Bin Abdullah Balala, Jaffar Hussain Meraj, Kausar Mohiuddin, and MLC Mirza Riyaz-Ul-Hassan Effendi are already seated in the courtroom. As Akbaruddin’s counsel Abdul Azeem and his associates arrive, all those who are seated stand up to greet the senior counsel. One of the close aides of the Owaisi brothers could be overheard saying, “Allah ke karam se aaj achha nateeja aainga, Inshallah” (By the grace of Allah, the outcome today will be favourable).
Around 15 minutes before the scheduled verdict, wearing a cream-coloured sherwani, Akbaruddin reaches the court. He is surrounded by armed bodyguards, beside the local police who have been deployed to control the crowd outside the courtroom. Unlike his elder brother, Akbaruddin is always flanked by armed security personnel, specifically after the attack on him by assailants in 2011. Maintaining a calm demeanour, the Chandrayangutta legislator greets other AIMIM members gathered outside the special court’s door with a smile on his face. His elder brother, AIMIM chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi, has not accompanied him to court. According to an aide, senior Owaisi is away in Jaipur for some party-related endeavours. Seated on a bench outside the court, Akbaruddin is speaking to MLA Ahmed Balala. The chatting, smiling junior Owaisi appears composed and unperturbed.
When the case is called, only a few people are allowed inside the court. As Akbaruddin, the legislators and others walk in, the judge begins to read out the verdict. The proceedings are not visible to the reporters, who are not allowed inside the courtroom. However, a counsel member who witnessed the proceedings tells TNM that Akbaruddin expressed gratitude to the judge after the verdict was pronounced. Soon, he is seen walking out in the same manner in which he had gone in, calm and unfazed.
Outside, his supporters are visibly ecstatic. As reporters scramble for information about the verdict, Owaisi is seen having a word with his counsel before leaving. After much suspense, the court has acquitted Akbaruddin of all charges in both the cases registered against him, in Nirmal and Nizamabad, over alleged hate speeches made in December 2012. The Nirmal case pertains to Akbaruddin’s now infamous comment about "removing the police for 15 minutes off the streets''. The Special Sessions Judge for Trial of Criminal Cases relating to MPs and MLAs said the court had found no evidence to categorise Akbaruddin’s remarks as hate speech.
As the security personnel escort Akbaruddin towards his vehicle, his lawyers share details of the verdict with the media. Advocate MA Azeem, who represented Akbaruddin, says that the prosecution examined 33 witnesses in the Nirmal case, and 41 in the Nizamabad one. In the Nizamabad case, the investigation had been handed over to the CID (Crime Investigation Department) police. “One of the cases was registered by the Nirmal police, who completed the investigation as well. The second was initially being investigated by the Nizamabad police, before being handed over to the CID police. … Today, the honourable judge pronounced the judgment and acquitted the accused from all charges in both the cases,” the advocate says.
On December 8, 2012, Akbaruddin had addressed a massive rally in Nizamabad, for which he was accused of using inflammatory and derogatory language against a community. A few days later on December 22, he made another speech in Nirmal town, where he had allegedly made a comment about "removing the police from the streets for 15 minutes", insinuating that this would cause violence to erupt between Hindus and Muslims. Akbaruddin was arrested in January 2013 on charges of hate speech, and had to spend over a month in prison before being granted conditional bail. He had been booked under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections including 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 153A (promoting enmity between two groups on the basis of religion).
Responding to the verdict, Asaduddin Owaisi tweeted, “Alhamdulilah Akbaruddin Owaisi has been acquitted by MP/MLA Special Court in two criminal cases against him for alleged hate speeches. Grateful to all for their prayers & support. Special thanks to Advocate Abdul Azeem sb & senior lawyers who provided their valuable assistance.”