The J&K High Court Bar Association, Jammu, (Jammu Bar Association) informed the committee constituted by the Bar Council of India that its recent strike was driven by concerns over a deep-rooted conspiracy to cause demographic changes in Jammu province and hurt the sentiments of the State’s minority community, i.e., the Hindus.
It demanded an investigation into the credentials of persons like Talib Hussain, a so-called social worker who, it alleged, was leading the opposition to the CBI probe into the murder of a girl child in Rassana village, Kathua, and communalising the situation in the State.
The Bar Council of India’s representatives visited Rassana village in district Kathua on April 19, 2018, and arrived in Jammu city on April 20. The Jammu Bar Association informed the Bar Council of India (BCI) that the State Government had issued a directive to Forest officials in Jammu in February 14, 2018, to ignore encroachment on State and Forest land by Tribals, and told the Inspector General of Police Jammu, not to provide protection for the eviction of such persons and refrain from implementing Section 188 RPC. The Jammu Bar added that the Tribal Population mostly resides in Jammu province and is known for its nationalism and respect for the National Flag.
On learning of the order, the Bar Association called a meeting of its Advisory, Executive,
& Special Invitees’ Committees on March 16, 2018 to discuss this illegal order of the Tribal Affairs Department; the deportation of illegally settled immigrants in and around Jammu who pose a security threat; resolving the anxieties of people of Nowshera, Sunderbani & Kalakote; and the demand for a CBI enquiry into the Rassana Murder Case (Kathua Case).
The Jammu Bar Association contended that illegal settlements of Rohingyas and Bangladeshis were springing up at strategic locations in Jammu, including Army Camps, Railway Station, Airport, bridges, on Jammu’s high hills and along the national highway. In this light, the directions of the State Government to Deputy Commissioners and IGF Jammu to promote demographic changes and bovine smuggling, subverting the rule of law, had to be taken head-on. The recent attack on the Army Camp at Sunjwan Jammu is evidence of the gravity of the danger.
Explaining the demand for a CBI probe in the Rassana murder case, the Bar Association pointed out that after the FIR was lodged, the Chief Minister suo moto declared the incident to be one of rape and murder, though the medical board had not even prepared the post mortem / autopsy report. Significantly, the medical board was constituted twice.
The Special Investigation Team, including officers from the Crime Branch, was reconstituted thrice, each time headed by a different officer. Around this time, the victim family approached the High Court of J&K (OWP No. 259/2018 titled Mohd. Akhter V/s State and Other) through advocate Deepika Singh Rajawat and expressed dissatisfaction with the Crime Branch. The people of Hiranagar, Kathua were also not satisfied with the Crime Branch investigation.
Hence, the Bar Association concluded that the victim family would not get justice without a CBI investigation. The High Court is monitoring the investigation, given the sensitive nature of the case, which could trigger a communal divide though the perpetrator(s) of such a shameful act and the victim cannot be linked to a religion. To stem a potential communal divide, in view of the investigating agency portraying a Hindu sacred place as the site of the alleged heinous crime and destruction of evidence, and torturing three young persons to make false statements before the Magistrate (recorded under section 164-A CrPC), the Jammu Bar Association took up the demand for a CBI probe.
The General House of the Bar Association endorsed these demands on April 3, 2018. It also decided to hold meetings with the civil society of Jammu, and various professional organisations in Jammu region on April 7, in the office of the High Court Bar Association, to mobilise public opinion on these subjects. The Association also resolved to suspend work from April 4 to 7, in support of these issues, and held a protest rally in Jammu city on April 6.
On April 7, various civil society bodies and prominent leaders of various organisations met with members of the Bar Association, and decided to hold a complete Jammu Bandh and Chaka Jam on April 11, 2018. The people of Jammu voluntarily and peacefully supported the Bandh; no untoward incident occurred.
Meanwhile, the J&K Crime Branch filed a charge sheet in the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) Kathua, about 100 kms from Jammu. Traditionally, all agitations by the Jammu Bar Association are supported by all District and Muffasil Bar Associations.
Despite this, the National Media and others launched a vilification campaign against the Jammu Bar Association, and falsely alleged that the Association obstructed the filing of the charge-sheet in the Court. As the charge-sheet was filed in distant Kathua, the obstruction, if any, cannot be attributed to the office bearers of the Jammu Bar Association.
After the charge-sheet was filed in Kathua, the Jammu Bar Association limited the Jammu Bandh to just two demands – deportation of Rohingyas and Bangladeshis from Jammu to any other place in India, and withdrawal of the directions given in the meeting of Feb. 14, 2018, which was chaired by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. The Bar explicitly delinked the demand for CBI enquiry into the Kathua case as the matter had landed in Court.
Despite such calibrated action, some media channels launched a malicious campaign against the Bandh call in Jammu. This compelled the Supreme Court of India to take cognizance of the alleged rape and murder case in Rassana, Kathua, and to issue notices to the office bearers of the District Court Bar Association Kathua and Jammu Bar Association, the Bar Council of India and the J&K Bar Council to explain the alleged obstruction in the filing of the charge sheet and the lawyers representing the victim.
Out of deference to the Bar Council of India, J&K High Court, and the Supreme Court, the Jammu Bar Association decided to resume work while continuing to agitate through peaceful and constitutional methods, for deportation of Rohingyas and Bangladeshis who have illegally settled in and around Jammu and pose a security threat. The Bar Association demands rescinding the directions issued at the meeting of February 14, 2018, which was chaired by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
The Bar vehemently denied obstructing advocate Deepika Singh Rajawat who appeared in Court on behalf of the victim family. Indeed, one Mohd. Akhtar filed a writ petition in the High Court of J&K through advocate Deepika Singh Rajawat (OWP No. 259/20018), which was listed for the first time on February 9, 2018. As per the interim orders passed in this petition, Advocate Deepika Singh Rajawat appeared in OWP No. 259/2018; the High Court monitored the investigation on each and every date fixed in the Rassana case, viz., February 9, 19, 21; March 9, 14, April 9 and 11 when the charge-sheet was filed in Kathua.
After enumerating this sequence of events, the Jammu Bar members told the Bar Council of India that they apprehend grave threats to their security, life and property as the State has miserably failed to perform its constitutional duty. Rather, its acts of omission and commission are encouraging forces hell-bent on changing Jammu’s demography so that the minorities are made insecure and forced to toe line of anti-national forces, duly encouraged and patronized by foreign powers, especially Pakistan.
The Jammu Bar alleged that the Srinagar Bar “is a constituent of Hurriyat” and said it was forced to resort to boycotting the courts – a very rare act – because the political, social and economic justice of the people of Jammu was at stake.
The members of the J&K High Court Bar Association Jammu who met with the Bar Council of India included president B.S. Slathia, vice president Sachin Gupta, general secretary Prem N. Sadotra, and others.
Pgurus, 21 April 2018