A district judge hears 50 cases in a day: prosecutor Sartaj Ali Khan

Story by  ATV | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 26-06-2024
Sartaj Ali Khan, Public Prosecutor, Bihar’s Gaya Civil Court in his  library
Sartaj Ali Khan, Public Prosecutor, Bihar’s Gaya Civil Court in his library


Seraj Anwar/Patna

Sartaj Ali Khan, Public Prosecutor in Bihar’s Gaya Civil Court is the first Muslim in the post-independence India to occupy this post.

Sartaj Ali Khan hails from a family of landlords and yet grandfather Mohammad Amir Ali Khan was a judge in the 18th century. His mother’s ancestors were the Royal family of Pargana Sherghati, a state spanning from Japla to Padma in today’s Jharkhand.

Advocate Sartaj Ali Khan is a name to reckon with in legal skills, knowledge of Islam, and literary, political, and social thoughts. Often when he enters the Gaya Civil Court, people stand up in his honour.

In the decade of the nineties when central Bihar was hit by the left-wing Naxal violence, he offered his services as a lawyer to the Naxalites and their opponents – the state or the victims of violence.

Sartaj Ali Khan was the lawyer of Nawab of Delha. He also defended the accused in the infamous Bakridi massacre and Teendiha murder case. Both these cases made national headlines in the newspapers.

Sartaj Ali Khan with Police officer

Sartaj Ali Khan's grandfather Mohammad Amir Ali Khan was a judge in Sasaram 50 years before India gained independence and he retired from the Siwan Court in 1893. His uncles Ehtesham Ali Khan and Akram Ali Khan were barristers from London.

His family included five barristers to boast of. His father Taqaddus Ali Khan was a landlord. He wished that his son Sartaj would become a famous lawyer. The paternal side of the family had many barristers and judges, which made Sartaj Ali Khan interested in the legal profession. He started his profession as a court clerk.

Sartaj Ali Khan has been in the profession for 54 years. He received his early education from Aams Middle School, Sherghati, and graduated from SP Jain College Sasaram in 1969. After graduation, he joined the Patna Law College and later Bar in Gaya Civil Court.

He started practicing law under Syed Sarfuddin Ahmed. Late Bihar government minister Shakeel Ahmed Khan was his batchmate. Azad Khan, Masood Ahmed Khan, etc. were also his batchmates.

Sartaj Ali Khan says that among the seniors, Syed Shafiq ur Rehman was a top advocate in the Gaya Civil Court. Khalil ur Rehman and Abdul Khaliq Ata ur Rehman were other well-known legal luminaries of that time.

Sartaj Ali Khan has been posted as a Public prosecutor for the last eight years. Public Prosecutor (PP) is an advocate appointed by the state who fights cases against suspected criminals on behalf of the state in criminal trials.

Sartaj Ali Khan with some members of his family

Sartaj Ali Khan is a criminal lawyer and some 40 to 42 Assistant public prosecutors work under him. He is responsible for handling serious cases for the State and guiding and supervising the work of APPs.

Speaking with Awaz-the Voice Khan said that at least 50 cases are heard daily in the court of the District Judge. His daily routine starts with Fajr Namaaz in the morning. He wakes up at four and after prayers and morning routine, he studies the cases he is supposed to take care in the court for the day and leaves for work at 10 am.

His son Tariq Ali Khan is also a criminal lawyer at the Gaya Civil Court. Sartaj Ali Khan's granddaughter Fatima Ali is going to take over the legal legacy in the fifth generation. Fatima is all set to join the legal profession after passing out from NMIMS Kriti Mehta School of Law this year. She is interested in corporate rather than criminal law.

In the nineties, central Bihar, especially the Gaya district, was burning with the violence unleashed by the Naxals and the counter-violence of the security forces. On 12 February 1992, in Bara village of Tikari block of the district, the CPI Maoist Naxalite organization murdered 35 caste people by slitting their throats. The police arrested those suspected to be involved in this gruesome massacre and they were put to trial in a court of law.

The court sentenced many to death. Sartaj Ali Khan was the lawyer of the accused. Recalling that case, he says that most of the 17 accused who faced trial were poor people and only 5 were discharged.

Study time for PP Sartaj Ali Khan

Charges were framed against the remaining 12. The trial was conducted and four more were found not involved while four were sentenced to life imprisonment and four to death. The case went on for a very long time. Those sentenced to life imprisonment knocked on the doors of the Supreme Court.

Sartaj Ali Khan was the counsel of the eight persons who were found guilty. In the apex court, four more accused were not found guilty and released The remaining four who were sentenced to death were lodged in the Gaya jail and the court converted their death sentence to life imprisonment.

This was a major and challenging case of Sartaj Ali Khan's legal career. Another infamous case he represented the accused was the Bakri Dih massacre. This time he pleaded the case against the Naxalites and got all of them punished. In Bakri Dih in Dumria of Gaya district, the Naxalites had killed five Muslims.

even people were killed in Teen Dih and again the accused hired Sartaj Ali Khan as their lawyer. With his pleading in the court, all the accused were released.

That way Sartaj Ali Khan pleaded cases on behalf of the Naxalites and also against them.

He remembers his first high-profile case as a lawyer. It was almost at the beginning of his career that he was approached by the Nawab of Delha. In 1972, the son of the Nawab Anjar Hasnain's brother-in-law was accused of firing a bullet that hit a servant. The Nawab filed a case against his brother-in-law's son Abdul Hameed.

Sartaj Ali Khan and others felicitating the Judge

Sartaj Ali says that this was his first case. At that time, Mr Sonarka was the judge.

An adage says a person can be many things. Sartaj Ali Khan is the epitome of that. Very few people know that Sartaj writes poetry. At the time of his wife Shahina Begum's demise in 2019, he wrote a lot of Ghazals and Nazams for six months and short stories.

Apart from legal books and journals, Sartaj Khan owns a small library and despite his busy schedule, he finds time to read. "I cannot stay without reading," says Khan who considers his library as a treasure trove of rare books.

Sartaj Ali Khan has written at least 100 articles for prominent Urdu, Hindi, and English newspapers and magazines.

He told Awaz-The Voice that though he attends functions of social organizations and political forums he is not a member of any party. "I always support the proletariat," he says.

He says that the mind is troubled by the falling human values ​​and moral degradation in society. The reason for moral degradation, he feels, is the decline in education. "Honesty is a matter of values, which has now become worldly. Today people call the wealth earned through dishonesty as wealth earned through money," he said.

Khan says that those entrusted with the affairs of the nation are using the institutions for their caste and family. "Family relations have declined. People no longer meet each other and they live in isolation."

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Sartaj Ali Khan gets disturbed seeing the current state of the Urdu language. He says that the new generation is distancing from Urdu and therefore a lot of work has to be done to get them interested."