Srinagar: The J&K high court on Saturday directed police to declare the law under which a girl, who was allegedly molested by a soldier in Handwara on Tuesday, has been detained along with her father and aunt since April 12.
Hearing a petition filed by 16-year-old girl’s mother, a single bench of the high court comprising Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar, also issued a notice to army and police, asking them reply by April 20 to the contentions in the plea including that of illegal “recording and circulation of the video” in which the girl’s identity has been revealed.
The girl’s statement in the video exonerates army of molestation charges.
The court also barred the police including SP Handwara and Station House Officer of the police station concerned from producing the schoolgirl before print or electronic media.
“It is further provided that the (police) shall produce these persons (girl, father and aunt) before nearest court Chief Judicial Magistrate/Judicial Magistrate,” the court added.
According to the petitioner, her daughter was ‘dragged’ to the police station by a constable of armed police, Mohammad Shafi.
At around 1am on April 13, she said, family members of the girl were called to police station and accordingly “my husband, sister and brother-in-law went to police station.”
“My husband and the sister were detained there. My brother-in-law was let off and was seen crying inside the police station Handwara,” she said.
The petitioner said that a video, “released by army’s spokesman Col NN Joshi at the behest of 15 Corps Commander”, was prepared even before the two family members were detained.
“It appears that the video was recorded at the Handwara police station presumably on the direction of the SP and the SHO,” she said.
While the cops have denied any role in recording the video, she said, it’s clear that there was no family member accompanying the girl when the video was recorded.
“The video reveals the identity of (my) daughter and (I) apprehend that this statement recorded on video may been extracted by the police under duress and is being used by army and police to divert attention from killings.”
She has also buttressed her claim by stating that police has not carried any investigation to find out as to who recorded the video. “It strongly suggests that the police are involved in recording the video,” she said, adding that the police and army have already displayed ‘mala fide’ in the case.
“The video and its circulation is against known criminal procedures, violates the privacy and rights of the girl,” advocate Parvez Imroz, representing the petitioner, told the court.
He said it was an attempt to damage the reputation of the minor girl, as well harm the fair and independent investigation of the allegation of sexual assault.
“The illegal detention of the minor girl has been done to stall and manipulate the investigation. The police have tried to portray her illegal detention and that of two other family members as protective custody. If at all the protection was warranted, it could be provided at the residence of the girl and not in police custody,” he said.
Referring to apex court’s judgment—Hassainara Khatoon Vs Home Secretary of Bihar, Imroz said that protective custody is a euphemism calculated to disguise what is really and in truth nothing but the imprisonment.
He said Jammu and Kashmir Juvenile Justices and Protection Act 2013 also bars the disclosure of identity of a child.
Imroz said the girl, her father and aunt have been kept in illegal detention in violation of the constitutional rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
Stating that life of the minor and two other family members was in jeopardy, Imroz urged the judge to direct the police to produce the trio before the court.
He also sought directions to Director General of Police to file an FIR against the SP and the SHO for illegal arrest and for carrying out a fair investigation.
He also demands an investigation into the role of army particularly GoC 15 Corps Badamanibagh Srinagar in “creation and release of the video.”
“District and Sessions Judge Kupwara should be asked to carry out an enquiry into the creation and circulation of video and surrounding circumstances, to be concluded within two weeks,” he said.
Lastly, he sought directions to the investigating officer against the SP and SHO and for regularly updating the court with status reports.