Srinagar: Major Avtar Singh, a former army officer, was not the only suspect in the 1996 murder of noted lawyer and human rights activist Jalil Andrabi but there are others.
This is an assertion by Kashmir High Court Bar Association (KHCBA) which has been asked to file an appropriate application by a division bench of the J&K High Court before revisional court for seeking reports filed by Special Investigation Team in connection with Andrabi’s murder.
The lawyers’ body had filed an application before the High Court seeking the certified reports filed by SIT after August 22, 1996, maintaining that the reports would be necessary for substantiating the challenge made by it to a closure report accepted by Chief Judicial Magistrate Srinagar following suicide by Major Avtar Singh at California, US in 2012.
“(We) are of the view that it would be appropriate for the applicant (KHCBA) to file the application before the revisional court hearing Revision Petition (No. 01/2014) because it is the revisional court which, while hearing the revision petition, would be in a position to make up its mind whether copies of the investigation reports filed by the (SIT) are necessary to be supplied,” the division bench headed by Chief Justice M M Kumar said after perusal of record summoned by it and hearing the arguments of counsel for the parties.
“It would be open to the revisional court to consider the request made by the applicant (KHCBA) and then decide the same in accordance with law,” the bench, also comprising Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar, said.
It was on December 31, 2012 when CJM Srinagar accepted closure report filed by police on the ground that the main accused (Avtar Singh) died.
Even as the American media reported that Major Avtar killed his wife and two of their children and critically wounded his teenage son before shooting himself dead in his California home on June 10, 2012, it took the Crime Branch of Kashmir police six months to confirm the death to the court by submitting the certificate from NCB Washington.
Avtar Singh had fled to the US after he was accused of killing Jaleel Andrabi, whose body was found floating in the Jhelum in March 1996. Andrabi, 38, was detained by a unit of Rashtriya Rifles led by Major Avtar Singh and his body was found a day later.
On April 10, 1997, a division bench of the High Court comprising Justices Bilal Nazki and R C Gandhi, had issued orders to arrest Major Singh, impound his passport and exhibit his pictures in the electronic and print media.
The government took no action against Singh and several others, including army officials, indicted for Andrabi’s killing by the SIT of the police set up by the court.
Singh continued in service and did a stint with the Territorial Army in Ludhiana till at least 2001 before suddenly disappearing, moving subsequently to Canada and then to the US.
Singh was not accused of Andrabi’s killing alone but at least five other murder or kidnapping cases are against him.
Two of them include that of a tailor from a Sikh family in Mehjoor Nagar, who disappeared after Singh him up, and Imtiyaz Ahmed Wani, a gardener with the Forest Department, abducted in May 1996.
Former KHCBA president Z A Qureshi along with Arshid Andrabi appeared for the lawyers’ body while state and government of India where defended by Additional Advocate General R A Khan and Assistant Solicitor General S A Makroo respectively.