Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Wednesday asked former Minister of State for Health, Shabir Ahmad Khan, to appear before the police on Thursday even as it barred him from leaving the state till February 18.
Khan, a senior Congress leader and sitting member of Legislative Assembly from Poonch, is wanted by police in case of alleged molestation attempt on a lady doctor here.
Passing interim order on the anticipatory bail application by Khan, a bench of Justice Janak Raj Kotwal directed the congressman to make himself available for investigation or the interrogation before Investigation Officer (Station House Officer Shaheed Gunj) by Thursday evening.
“If the Investigation Officer arrests (Khan), in that case, he shall be released on his furnishing personal bond along with surety in the amount of Rs 25000 each,” the court said.
However, the court put riders on Khan to the extent that he shall not leave the territorial jurisdiction of Srinagar without the permission of the Investigation Officer.
“(He) shall not in any case leave the territorial jurisdiction of the state till disposal of this (anticipatory bail) application,” the court said, declaring to announce his verdict on the plea by Khan on February 18.
Earlier, the court reserved orders on the anticipatory bail after hearing senior advocate B S Slathia representing Khan, senior advocate B A Bashir for the doctor and Additional Advocate General R A Khan for the state.
While Slathia and Bashir argued in support of their clients, the state objected to the anticipatory bail, emphasizing that Khan’s arrest has become imperative to conclude the investigation in the case.
“The allegations levelled against him are very serious and the police needs him for custodial interrogation to complete the investigation and file the challan,” the AAG, RA Khan, said.
Khan resigned as MoS Health on Friday last, a day after police registered a case FIR (No. 09/2014) under RPC sections of 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) based on a complaint by the doctor.
In his arguments advocate Slathia pleaded for anticipatory bail for his client saying he was willing to cooperate with the investigations as the allegation against him was “false and frivolous.”
“My client stepped down the moment he heard through media about allegations levelled against him by the doctor to pave way for the fair investigation,” he said.
Slathia also questioned delay in filing case, saying that the incident alleged to have taken place happened on January 28 while the FIR was lodged on February 6.
“From 28 to February 6, she delayed lodging the FIR, and one can presume that some distorted facts have been furnished.”
However, advocate Bashir countered him by saying Khan stepped down on the orders from the party high command in New Delhi.
“First point raised by (Khan) is that he has never committed any wrong. Even though I don’t have details about his past records, fact remains anything happens for first time,” he said.
Regarding claims of “voluntarily” resignation by Khan on moral grounds, advocate Bashir said, “The fact remains that it was a political decision which came from New Delhi that he has to resign as party was facing humiliation. Politicians never leave the seat even if they are on the death bed.”
The counsel for the doctor also questioned contention by Khan’s counsel that custodial interrogation is not required. “They mean to say that custodial interrogation is required for murderers and dacoits so that weapons and other things can be recovered and not other crimes as nothing will come out as probably no recovery could be made. Whatever I have do I have done it,” he said, rejecting the contention as strange.
Regarding the delay in the registration of FIR, advocate Bashir referred to the case of Justice (retd) A K Ganguly, the former Supreme Court Judge), against whom the FIR was registered after one year.
“The case (against Justice Ganguly) was registered on a Facebook post wherein the intern had alleged sexual assault on her by the judge.”
He said Justice Ganguly was not granted anticipatory bail by the Supreme Court to get across the message that law is same for everyone.
“See, Justice Ganguly, who had a privilege of presiding over the same Apex Court, was not granted the bail. Could our minister, honourable as he was called, equate his credentials to Justice Ganguly who tried his level best to get interim bail, probably the allegations against him were not that harsh,” he said, adding, “It was done to ensure that powerful people in (India) do not take leverage in judicial process to victimize others.”
Bashir said Khan is a powerful person and that he has referred to it in his bail application by referring to his participation in roundtable conferences, minister holding five or more portfolios.
“More influential he is, more caution this court has to be in granting bail so that a signal does not go that law is for a common man not for a powerful person.”
To the other contentions regarding separatists, political rivalry as well as claims by Khan that the doctor wanted promotion out of turn, Bashir termed them as “irrelevant.”
“Nothing is more important than honour. Commonsense repels this argument that if he does get me promoted, I will get myself humiliated throughout the state.”
On Saturday, Chief Judicial Magistrate Srinagar Verinder Singh Bahu issued the arrested warrant after against Khan who has hitherto (filing of this story) evading arrest.