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Thursday, May 5, 2016

BJP MLA’s son fired as PP for being soft to ‘killers’ of Kashmiri trucker

Two BJP-sponsored Govt. advocates were disengaged in September for supporting ban on cow-slaughter and consumption of beef in J&K

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, May 4: Chenani MLA Dina Nath Bhagat’s son, Naresh Kumar Bhagat, is the 5th BJP-sponsored lawyer dismissed as a government advocate by the PDP-led coalition in Jammu and Kashmir. Even as officials quoted only ‘poor performance’ and the order issued by Department of Law and Parliamentary Affairs on May 1st, 2016, did not specify the reasons in detail, well-placed government sources confirmed that advocate Bhagat’s services as Public Prosecutor (PP) in the court of District and Sessions Judge Udhampur were terminated for his being “hand-in-glove” with the assailants of a young Kashmiri trucker, Zahid Rasool Bhat of South Kashmir.

Around 20-year-old student, who occasionally boarded a neighbour’s truck as cleaner from Anantnag to Jammu and Delhi, Zahid had succumbed to injuries in New Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital on October 17, 2015. He, alongwith, driver Shaukat Ahmad, had sustained critical injuries when a group of Udhampur residents, allegedly owing allegiance to radical Hindu outfits, attacked their truck late in the night on October 9 in Shiv Nagar neighbourhood of Udhampur.

In the wake of the separatist-sponsored shutdown and demonstrations in Kashmir valley, Udhampur Police Station filed FIR and launched a crackdown. Of the seventeen persons allegedly involved in the attack, eight were arrested for the fatal attack. They had broken windscreen of the targeted truck and set it on fire when Zahid and Shaukat, alongwith another youth, Rameez, were preparing to sleep on board. Zahid sustained 70% burn injuries and subsequently died on October 17.

Remaining nine persons were booked under Public Safety Act (PSA) by the District Magistrate Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary on a dossier prepared by SSP Udhampur and detained in Jammu’s Kote Bhalwal Jail.

“Rather than pursuing the case in the court, the PP looked hand-in-glove with the accused. He would often carry out political tours with his father. Since the Police went unpresented and the District Court ordered release of an accused as juvenile, SSP observed that the PP was remarkably soft towards the accused. Finally, Government had no option but to terminate the PP’s service”, DC Udhampur Dr Shahid Iqbal told STATE TIMES.

According to DC Udhampur, SSP filed a written complaint which was forwarded to Director General of Police, K Rajendra Kumar, and further to Principal Secretary Home, R.K. Goyal. Both of them were perturbed over Mr Bhagat’s conduct and performance. Principal Secretary Home requested Commissioner-Secretary Law, Mohammad Ashraf Mir, to terminate advocate Bhagat’s service and engage a new PP on merit. Now functioning under PDP’s Abdul Haq Khan, Department of Law on May 1st ordered dismissal of Mr Bhagat and Additional PP of Kathua, Sunil Singh.

During Mehbooba Mufti’s regime, 3rd Additional PP of Jammu, Sarvesh Gupta, was the first government advocate to be fired on April 25 for submitting acquittal of some rape accused persons after expiry of the period of appeal.

In Jammu division, almost all the lawyers picked up by the Mufti government as Additional Advocate General, Deputy Advocate General, Government Advocate, Public Prosecutor or Standing Council, were closely linked to BJP leaders and sponsored by their party. Advocate General, Jehangir Iqbal Ganai (who was later replaced by senior advocate D.C. Raina in Governor’s rule), besides AAGs, DAGs, PPs and Standing Councils picked up from Kashmir Division were favourites of the PDP.

On September 22, 2015, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s government terminated the services of two BJP-linked advocates on account of their failure to represent the State when, on September 9, 2015, a Division Bench of Jammu and Kashmir High Court, comprising Mr Justice Janak Raj Kotwal and Mr Justice Dhiraj Singh Thakur, had directed DGP to strictly enforce a 150-year-old law banning cow-slaughter and consumption of beef in Jammu and Kashmir

Advocate Vishal Sharma, who was accused of dereliction of duty and breach of trust and fired as AAG, happened to be the son of senior advocate and the J&K President of VHP, Leela Karan Sharma. In 2008, Leela Karan Sharma had organised and led Amarnath land agitation in Jammu.

Advocate Parimoksh Seth, also closely linked to BJP, had been petitioner of the PIL seeking blanket ban on cow-slaughter and consumption of beef as per a law introduced by erstwhile Maharaja and adopted by the J&K Government after 1947. Mufti’s Government had appointed him as Deputy Advocate General on BJP’s recommendation without knowing whether or not he had withdrawn his PIL from J&K High Court. He lost his job when he pursued the PIL that ran contrary to PDP’s political interest.

Seth’s influence in BJP could be gauged by the fact that in days of his dismissal, Himachal Pradesh-based BJP MP Anurag Thakur got him engaged as a counsel in the prestigious Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Police officers in Udhampur say that District Court could not enlarge one of the accused, Suneet Singh, on bail as juvenile as, according to the prosecution, he was not a minor. They say that the accused was released only because the PP did not contest it. However, DC Udhampur insisted that the order was not implemented as the Police challenged it in High Court.

Udhampur-based lawyers claimed that District Court enlarged not only Suneet Singh but also another accused, namely Vikas Sharma, on bail. They claimed that both had been released. They said that High Court has, meanwhile, stayed proceedings of the trial court.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

Monday, May 2, 2016

Army to flag issue of crowd attacks at Unified Hqs meeting with Mehbooba

Stone pelting crowds helped 6 militants escape in two operations on April 28

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, April 30: Highly perturbed over escaping of at least 20 militants with the local crowds’ support in different counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir valley in the last four months---six in Kupwara and Anantnag on April 28---Army has decided to prominently highlight the law and order issue in Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s first Unified Headquarters meeting on May 10th.

General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Northern Command Lt Gen D.S. Hooda, besides GOCs of Srinagar-based 15 Corps and Nagrota-based 16 Corps, sources said, would flag the issue of the local crowds’ attacks on the security forces during the counter-insurgency operations at the high level meeting at SKICC. Army has noted with concern that its warnings issued in February this year have not yielded any results.

“As a matter of the fact, such attacks on the troops (engaged in an operation) have increased and intensified in the last three months. Wherever we launch an operation on the basis of specific operation about presence of militants at a hideout, we meet huge resistance from the local population. At least three civilians lost their lives in two operations in Pulwama district alone. It’s a matter of huge concern for Army as we are neither equipped with batons and teargas nor trained to deal with such situations”, a senior Army officer told STATE TIMES.

The officer said that dealing with crowds and demonstrators was essentially the responsibility of the State Police. He claimed that around 20 militants escaped since January this year in different operations when local crowds gathered, attacked security forces with stones, shouted slogans and used public address system of the community mosques to mobilise people and fail our operations.

On specific information, Army, with Police and paramilitary forces, launched two separate operations at Kanthpora in Kupwara and Anantnag town on April 28. Even as one unidentified militant got killed in exchange of fire with the Army in Kupwara, three of his associates, according to sources, managed to escape. Like in several areas of South Kashmir, residents gathered and failed Army’s operation while shouting slogans and pelting stones and brickbats of the troops.

Similarly, three unidentified militants made good their escape after the local residents attacked Army with stones and shouted anti-India, anti-Army, pro-Azadi and pro-Pakistan slogans on the same day. “Troops observed maximum possible restraint as the attack on them came from the population in the Chief Minister’s home constituency.

While as Ms Mufti represents Anantnag constituency in Lok Sabha, his father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who later became Chief Minister, was returned for Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly in Anantnag segment. Ms Mufti is expected to resign her Lok Sabha membership and contest Assembly election from her father’s vacated seat of Anantnag. Mufti passed away on January 7th this year.

For the time being, authorities have decided to impose restrictions under section 144 of Cr PC in the areas of 3 Km radius from the spot of an operation. However, a policy would be framed in the Unified Headquarters meeting that would also be attended by Chief Secretary, Principal Secretary Home, DGP J&K Police, Special DG CRPF, representatives of the Central intelligence agencies and Divisional Commissioners and IGPs of Kashmir and Jammu divisions.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]