July 2018 News

Kathua Defence Counsel Appointed AAG; Mehbooba, Omar Flag Concern

18 July 2018
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Arteev Sharma

Jammu: A controversy has erupted over the appointment of Kathua rape-murder case defence counsel Aseem Sawhney as Additional Advocate General (AAG) in the Jammu wing of the High Court, with two former Chief Ministers taking strong exception to the development. Aseem was among the 16 law officers appointed in the Jammu wing of the High Court. An order to this effect was issued from Srinagar by the state law department on Tuesday evening. Earlier in 2016, Aseem was appointed Deputy Advocate General during Governor's Rule but had resigned from the post after a political government, headed by former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, took over the reins of the state on April 4, 2016. On Tuesday, the state law department appointed four Senior AAGs, three AAGs, four Deputy Advocate Generals and five government advocates for the Jammu wing of the High Court. Aseem is the son of senior Jammu-based lawyer AK Sawhney, the main defence counsel of the accused in the Kathua rape-murder case. Former Chief Ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah have objected to Aseem's appointment. Mehbooba slammed the decision while urging Governor NN Vohra to intervene in the matter. 'Ironic that a day after celebrating World Day for International Justice, the defence counsel in the horrific Kathua rape and murder case has been appointed as Additional Advocate General,' Mehbooba said on Twitter. In another tweet, she said, 'Rewarding those who defend alleged murderers and rapists is abhorrent and a shocking violation of the spirit of justice. Such a move will only serve to encourage the rape culture rampant in our society. Expect the @jandkgovernor to intervene'. Mehbooba's bête noire Omar Abdullah also condemned the appointment. 'The decision is both inexplicable and worrisome but if the victim's lawyer is not unduly concerned by this development, the rest of us should just let her get on with the job of ensuring justice for the young victim,' Omar tweeted. Meanwhile, Aseem Sawhney has termed the 'Kashmir-based campaign' against his appointment as 'unjustified and unfortunate'. Taking a dig at Mehbooba Mufti, Aseem wrote on Twitter, 'Am I a lawyer or an accused? Be nice to me, I may be your lawyer one day, as the saying goes'. 'By this logic, none should defend Kasab, Afzal, Dawood, Salman, Sanjay Dutt or any other accused,' he added. An eight-year-old girl had gone missing at Rasana in Kathua district on January 10 and her body was recovered by the police after a week. The Supreme Court shifted the trial of the case to Pathankot from Kathua. Four policemen have been terminated by the state government for their alleged involvement in the case. Aseem Sawhney has termed the 'Kashmir-based campaign' against his appointment as Additional Advocate General (AAG) in the Jammu wing of the High Court 'unjustified and unfortunate'. 'Don't mix-up an accused and a lawyer. Do lawyers in Kashmir stop fighting cases for militants? Though I was one of the defence lawyers representing the accused in the Kathua case, I have not appeared in court for the case since July 2 due to work in the J&K High Court. My father is handling the Kathua case,' Aseem said.