NEW DELHI: There are five pillars of Islam, and one of them is Zakat. According to the scriptures, every able-bodied Muslim must donate nearly 2.5 per cent of the income annually as Zakat. This amount is used to help the poor. The Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH) is an organisation that offers such aid and help to the needy. Over the last decade, the JUH has helped innocent Muslims fight legal battles through its legal aid cell.
Set up by JUH president Maulana Arshad Madani in 2007, the legal cell has aided 192 acquittals across the country. “In India, almost every day you can hear about an incident where the innocent have been picked up and locked up in jail on various charges. Their families spend their life’s savings and even have to sell their assets, homes in the legal battle to prove the innocence of their kin,” shared Madani.
The first three cases that the legal cell took up were the 7/11 Mumbai train blasts, the 2006 Malegaon blasts and the Aurangabad Arms haul case in September 2007. “I believe that if a person is guilty and there is irrefutable evidence to prove that guilt, then the law should take its course. Doesn’t matter if the accused is a Muslim or not, he should be punished. However, the person deserves a free and fair trial,” he added.
As the month of Ramzan moves forward, Muslims make a beeline to donate Zakat. “The Jamiat does not tender any ad or appeal for donations and funds. The nature of the cases that we provide legal aid for runs into crores of rupees. The people come forward on their own accord and donate to the organisation. Every donation is not necessarily Zakat. People donate according to their will and even their earning capacity,” Madani said.
About Rs 30-35 lakh is donated as Zakat during Ramzan. In 2015 alone, the Jamiat spent nearly Rs 2 crore on legal aid for the defence of 410 Muslims in 52 terror-related cases. According to Gulzar Azmi, secretary of the legal aid cell, most of the cases are first investigated by its legal team. “When our legal panel is convinced that the accused is innocent and has no criminal background, we provide legal aid to the accused.”
Author Abdur Rahman had mentioned the legal cell’s contribution in his book, Denial and Deprivation: Indian Muslims after the Sachar Committee and Rangnath Mishra Committee Reports.
Though several innocent Muslims have walked free after spending years behind bars, not many come forward seeking compensation from the state or a probe against the police officers who falsely implicated them. “If an innocent person lodges a complaint of atrocity against an officer and seeks our legal aid, we shall consider it,” Madani said.