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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]

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