Wednesday, April 21, 2010

99 custodial death

Srinagar, April 20: High Court Tuesday directed the State to complete within three weeks its investigation into a case involving the custodial killing of Ganderbal villager, Muhammad Sultan Bhat allegedly by the Rashtriya Rifles in 1999. The court also directed the respondents to implement recommendations of the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) made earlier in the case.The writ petition 370/2009 of Khatija Begum versus the State of J&K and others that related to the alleged custodial killing of Muhammad Sultan Bhat son of Muhammad Akbar of Batwani, Ganderbal came up for hearing before Justice Mansoor Mir of the Hugh Court Tuesday.Arguing on behalf of the petitioner, Advocate Mian Qayoom submitted before the court: “In 1999, Muhammad Sultan Bhat who worked as a daily wage worker was picked up by the personnel of Rashtriya Rifles and subsequently killed in the custody. His body was buried in a nearby village.”Qayoom argued: “When the family came to know about his killing, they approached the concerned magistrate for the permission to exhume the body from the village, which was granted subsequently.”He submitted that RR in its FIR lodged with the police had stated that “Bhat was killed in crossfire during a routine patrol in the area when their party was fired at by the militants at a particular spot”.Qayoom said that the petitioner refuted this claim of the army and registered a counter FIR stating that Bhat was first picked up by the RR from his house and later killed in custody.Meanwhile, the concerned SDPO handed over the investigation of the case to Crime Branch, which recorded the statements of both the sides in the two FIRs.Later on the case was closed.Not satisfied and in search of justice, Bhat’s mother Khatija Begum then approached the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) with an application.“Even SHRC in its findings termed the death of Muhammad Sultan Bhat a case of custodial killing by the Rashtriya Rifles and accordingly recommended a job for the nearest kith and kin on compassionate grounds in addition to the ex gratia relief of Rs 1 lakh and registration of FIR against the guilty,” the counsel submitted before the court.“The state instead of acting over the recommendations chose to ignore the SHRC directions. Disillusioned but determined to get justice, Bhat’s mother Khatija Begum then approached the High Court with a writ petition in 2009,” Qayoom said.Responding to the writ petition, the respondents in their reply before the court stated that the case had been reinvestigated and statements of both parties recorded.During reinvestigation, it also came to light that the deceased was a militant but had given up later on.In fact before his custodial killing, Bhat worked as a daily wage worker with NAC, Ganderbal.Making a strong plea for further investigation of the case and punishment to the guilty, Qayoom submitted before the court that “Bhat was in fact picked up by the RR from his house before being killed in custody”.“After hearing both the sides, Justice Mansoor Mir directed the respondents to complete the investigation into the case within three weeks time. The court also directed that the recommendations of SHRC be acted upon,” the counsel for petitioner Khatija Begum, Qayoom told Rising Kashmir.The respondents in this case are State government through Chief Secretary, Director General J&K Police and SHO of the concerned Police Station in Ganderbal district.

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