Apex Court Snubs J&K Bar Association
Mohd. Sadiq

10 September 2006

The Supreme Court's directive on 4 September 2006 to transfer the J& K sex racket case to Chandigarh on the plea that the accused faced threat to life and they were not getting any local lawyers to plead their cases because of the boycott call by the J&K Bar Association (JKBA) has proved that the JKBA was infringing on the right of defence of the accused as provided under Indian laws.

Trial Shifted
With no lawyer in Srinagar willing to defend the 14 accused persons, including two former Ministers and some senior police officers and bureaucrats, in the Srinagar sex scandal, the Supreme Court criticised the JKBA for making 'vague' and 'irresponsible' allegations. The Supreme Court also shifted the trial to Chandigarh 'in the interest of justice'. In their observations, the presiding Supreme Court judges said that "On examination of facts and circumstances, we are of the view that the investigations have been completed and chargesheets filed. It would be in the interest of justice to transfer these cases for trial and other proceedings from the court of Principal Sessions Judge, Srinagar, to District and Sessions Judge, Chandigarh.". The bench comprised of Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal and Justice C K Thakker said. Those whose trial have been shifted are BSF DIG K C Padhi, former State Minister and Congress leader Ghulam Ahmad Mir, former Additional Advocate General Anil Sethi, Deputy SP Mohammad Ashraf Mir, independent MLA and former Minister Raman Mattoo, suspended Principal Secretary (Planning) Iqbal Khandey and hotel owner Riyaz Ahmed Kawa. The case of Sabeena, the alleged kingpin of the racket, her husband Abdul Hamid Shabir Langoo, Shabir Ahmed Laway alias Shabir Kala, Mehrajuddin Malik, Masood Ahmed, Mohd Yusuf Mir and Abdul Hamid Bullah will also be tried at Chandigarh. The Court, however, clarified that the order to shift the trial of the 14 persons would not come in a way of the ongoing investigation into the case and monitoring of it by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.

The court observed that howsoever serious the charges might be against the accused, an accused has the right for free and fair trial as it is an accepted principle of law that ' Justice should not only be done but seen to be done'. The Supreme court also took strong objection to the separatists' stance taken by the JKBA. The Court's observations were appreciated by people across the country including in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The apex court also rejected the allegations of the JKBA against the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) that it was shielding some influential persons alleged to be involved in the racket. The JKBA also claims that some top officials and agencies were not giving its investigation officers the requisite permission to go ahead with their arrest after pursuing the case diary. The JKBA, which had filed a PIL in the high court, was berated by the apex court for filling a counter affidavit making irresponsible accusations against the CBI. Contrary to this, advocate Maulvi Eijaz of the same court needs to be appreciated who, despite harassment and threats, came out openly to defend the accused and honoured the procedure established for the defence of the victims. The apex court also observed that the JKBA was responsible for blatant violation of the procedure established by law for trial of their clients. The JKBA denied assistance of lawyers to their clients to plead their cases in their defence. The JKBA's behaviour in the sex racket case clearly indicated that it was acting as a lawbreaker rather than performing its duty of protecting the law of the land.

Vested Interests
The Kashmir sex racket is a case involving innocent Kashmiri girls who were exploited and assaulted by the militants during the peak of militancy aided and abetted by Pakistan. Parents of the victims had tried to protect their girls though at that time JKBA president Abdul Qayoom and his bar association were nowhere to be seen, as that was not in his agenda. The fact that the JKBA and separatist elements are seeking to exploit the sex racket to defame India exposes their pro-Pakistan agenda. Analysts say that those who are now indulging in protests were themselves responsible for coercing Kashmiri women into militancy and immoral acts. Several questions emerge from the ongoing sex racket controversy. Why the protests have been timed at this moment? Where were these so-called champions of Human rights violation when an innocent Kashmiri girl was raped and killed by the militants? Observers say that the JKBA and separatists outfits would have been appreciated if they had launched similar protests against militants who have ruthlessly assaulted women in the Valley which in fact forced a number of Kashmiri families to leave in order to safeguard the honour of their womenfolk.

The malafide intentions of the JKBA leaders could be judged by the malicious propaganda launched in the recent past against Indian jails. These protests were timed with the United Nations Commission for Human Rights meet at Geneva with the ulterior motive to prove alleged excesses and violations of human rights in India. Coming down heavily on the JKBA, the Supreme Court had observed in its ruling that it was only in India that the bar association members could stand in the Court despite their anti-India stance. The JKBA, well-known for its anti-national stance, had earlier boycotted the Presidential address of the golden Jubilee celebrations of the High Court of J&K given by President A P J Abdul Kalam. Being a lawyer, Qayoom's boycott of President Kalam's speech clearly exposes his hidden agenda and vested interests. Moreover, Qayoom reportedly provoked others to boycott the president's speech and prevented other lawyers from taking up the case of the accused in the sex racket case, which is totally against ethics and set procedures of law. The JKBA has also resorted to violence as recent incidents of stone-pelting by its activists indicate. Therefore, it would be advisable for Mian Qayoom and his anti-India coterie to concentrate for the development of Kashmir and provide legal aid to needy people rather than indulging in blame game and falling into Pakistani ISI's trap of blaming the Indian government for all the problems in Jammu and Kashmir.