Shawwal / Dhu'l-Qa'dah 1423 H
Volume 16-01 No : 193
Camps \ Workshops
The 1993 Bombay blast case was high profile, with many advocates making lots of money. Farhana Shah has the distinction of being the only woman lawyer who represented the maximum number of accused, most for free.
The seven-year-old Bombay blast case has its share of personalities, some of whom were forced into the spotlight, some into ignominy. Farhana Shah is a name familiar to every journalist covering the blasts trial. Appearing since 1993, she has developed cordial relationships with most of her clients, and even journalists covering the trial.
Farhana Shah has the distinction of being the only woman lawyer in the 1993 serial blasts case. And, that is not her only achievement. She represents the maximum number of accused - 80, including Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt - and has been attending the court on a daily basis. Such has been her consistency in pursuing the case, that the TADA court asked her to be amicus curae or friend of the court.
Farhana was associated with the trial from day one, when as a fresh law graduate, she assisted leading criminal lawyer Majeed Memon. From there, the last seven years have been a “learning, enriching experience.” Now a mother of two children, quiz her on any aspect of the case and she will reel off the statistics, the finer law points and even the names of the accused. The Bombay blast case was high profile, with many advocates making lots of money. But Farhana was amongst the few, who represented the maximum number of accused, most for free. “This case is a mission for me. If money were the sole criteria, I would have never taken the brief of those accused who did not have enough money even to buy stamp paper. Many of them cannot even afford the charge of travelling to court. Only three or four have paid me for the services,” she said. “I have taken their brief only because I have seen accused families undergoing hell and suffering mental trauma. Innocent wives and children of the accused are facing socio and economic depredation.”
The most appealing aspect of Farhana is that despite earning fame and laurels from friends and peer alike, she is as humble and simple as she was as a fresher. She is not only professionally competent, but also able to maintain a perfect harmony between responsibilities of being a wife, mother of two and a committed advocate for clients.
Dr A.H Shah, Farhana’s husband says he is lucky to have Farhana as his wife. “She is my inspiration, and a role model for others who want to achieve their professional goal and also want to lead a normal family life”, he said. Farhana’s achievements deserve all the more attention because of her family background. Hailing from a poor family, she had to work extra hard to complete her education. She paid for her own fees by working in a private firm and simultaneously completing her graduation and then LLM. The commitment of Farhana can be gauged from the fact that she had hardly completed a few weeks after delivery of her first child, that she rushed to the court to file bail applications for her accused. “I had to attend the court as most of my clients were totally dependant on me as they cannot afford the services of the lawyers to represent their case. Though I was physically not fit, but observing my client’s faith in me, I made sure not to miss any hearing as otherwise their agony would had prolonged”, she said.
Farhana gives credit to her understanding and cooperative husband and in-laws for her success. “I always find him accommodating and motivating. Without his cooperation and my in-laws support, I would have never achieved success and be where I am today,” she confesses. Farhana has achieved name and fame, but the road to success has been tough with many hurdles. Criticism from peers for taking up the cause of those accused of being anti-national, phone tapping and constant monitoring of her movements by the intelligence agencies did not deter her spirit. “I had to face lots of hardship as I was comparatively junior to other high-profile advocates representing few of the accused and moreover, I had no experience nor reputation to ward off the investigative agencies who were constantly keeping eye on my movements”, she said. With the trial ending, where does she intend to go from here? What if the verdict goes against her clients? “I’d be disheartened to some extent, since I’ve been interacting with them for so long. But the law of the land must prevail,’’ she says. Asked whether she was looking forward to going back to her practice at the High Court, she says, “yes, absolutely, all my friends keep telling me that they are waiting for me, they keep asking me to join them.’’ But, her first love remains research - she intends to complete her Ph.D on white-collar criminals, which she had to leave halfway, when the trial began. Having been involved in the trial from the word go, she has assisted most of the defence counsels: from Harsh Ponda, Nitin Pradhan, Adhik Shirodkar.
Though saddened at the close of the trial, she is happy that the misery of the accused and their families is finally over. “Most of the accused are not hardened criminals. The actual culprits have got away. It is only the victims of circumstances who suffered.” she said.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that whoever removes a worldly grief from a believer, Allah will remove from him one of his grief on the day of judgement. As Muslims we need to be generous towards each other.