Srinagar: The Kupwara Sessions Court on Saturday ordered state government to appoint Special Public Prosecutor to challenge the Army’s revision petition against reinvestigation of Kunan Poshpora mass rape case after the public prosecutor admitted before the court that he has also been appointed as Standing Counsel by Government of India (GoI).
As the hearing of the case started on Saturday, the victim’s counsel, Advocate Parvez Imroz raised the objection that Public Prosecutor, Ghulam Mohammad Shah, has been appointed as Standing Counsel by GoI.
After initial protest, Shah later agreed that he has been appointed as Standing Counsel by GoI and he has no right to argue the matter.
The Session’s Judge, while terming the Shah’s appointment as “conflict of Interest” ordered the Commissioner Secretary, Law Department, Jammu and Kashmir Government to appoint a Special Public Prosecutor for the case within 10 days.
“During the pendency of revision petition, public prosecutor has been appointed as Central Government’s Standing Counsel. So in view of the conflict of interest it is necessary to have substitution of public persecutor. So order should be issued to Commissioner Secretary, Law Department to appoint new public prosecutor within 10 days,” the Session’s Judge said.
At least 30 women, including teenagers and elderly, were allegedly raped by soldiers belonging to Army’s 4 Rajputana Rifles during the night intervening February 23/24, 1991 in Kunan-Poshpora villages of Kupwara district.
Police had filed a case but closed it later as ‘untraced’. On June 18 last year, acting on the petition of Kunan-Poshpora Village Committee, the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM), Kupwara directed the police to reinvestigate the case “to unravel the identity of those who happen to be perpetrators”.
The reinvestigation was to be conducted by police officer not below the rank of SSP within three months. And on September 14, 2013 the court gave three more months to the police.
However, in November, 2013 the Army and Government of India had filed a revision petition before the Principal Sessions Judge, Kupwara challenging the CJM’s order to reinvestigate the case.
The Army in its revision petition had invoked section 125 of the Army Act, saying that the competence of filing the final charge sheet to decide whether the accused be tried through court martial or criminal court lies with the Army only.
The Army has also said that the session court has “failed to appreciate that the FIR lodged in the incident was seriously doubted as the incident was not immediately reported to the local police station.”
“The villagers reported the alleged incident after the delay of seven days,” said the petition. “This lends support to the case of the prosecution that FIR and application of the villagers was a concocted story,” it added.
So far, on 10 consecutive dates, the revision petition before the Session Court has been adjourned without hearing arguments on behalf of victims.
Meanwhile, Support Group for Justice for Kunan Poshpora Survivors, in its statement said that “it is the matter of shame that officials appointed to pursue the case on behalf of the survivors collaborate with accused, that is, the Indian army in ensuring that justice is delayed and denied.”
“This is a clear example of professional misconduct, lack of integrity and is in violation of the terms of engagement of CGSC which states that a standing counsel cannot appear in any case against Union of India,” the statement added.
The statement said that the proceedings in the court on Saturday showed the complete collusion of the State Government with the GoI and the Indian Army at every level in providing impunity to perpetrators in the case.
“It requires to be investigated whether Public Prosecutor Ghulam Mohammad Shah was deliberately appointed at this particular juncture by the Union of India to subvert the processes of justice in this case,” said the statement.
The statement also said that to add to the collusion between the Government of Jammu and Kashmir and GoI, the new Special Public Prosecutor will now be appointed by the state law department, which is headed by Law Minister, Mir Saifullah “who sought to buy out the Kunan Poshpora survivors by paying them Rs. 39 Lacs in cash in May 2012 under the false pretext that it was official payment.”
The statement also said that the SP, Abdul Jabbar who was appointed as special officer to reinvestigate the case has not made any advance in the case and only seeks extensions.