Molestation case: Ex-Cong minister put on trial

Srinagar: Senior Congress leader and former Minister of State (MoS) for Health, Shabir Ahmad Khan, was Wednesday put on trial by a local court on charges of sexual assault on a chargesheet filed against him by the police following a complaint last year by a lady doctor here.
Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) Virender Singh Bhou framed the charge against Khan 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).
The direction followed after Khan, a former member of state legislative assembly from Rajouri, pleaded not guilty and claimed to be tried.
“Prima facie, there is sufficient material to presume that accused (Khan) has committed offence under section 354, 509 RPC and ground exists for holding trial against him,” the court said, observing that concluding lines of statement of victim specifically pin points the allegations which fall within the compass of Sections 354 and 509 RPC.
The lady doctor had said that Khan “acted like a sexual predator” and tried to molest her in his office at Winter Secretariat here on January 28.
The court directed the prosecution to “lead evidence in substance of charge” on May 16.
If found guilty, he might face five years in prison and fine under section 354 RPC while section 509 RPC provides for punishment with imprisonment of three years and fine. Both sections provide for punishment for minimum of one year in jail along with fine.
On May 26 last year, the court had reserved orders on framing of charge or ‘sum and substance of accusations’—as referred in legal parlance and had announced to pronounce it on June 2. However, the order was deferred to June 9 and postponed until today, mainly following floods and due absence of the accused from time to time.
The order followed arguments by counsel for Khan and prosecution assisted by counsel for victim doctor as well as consideration of various judgments of the Supreme Court and the high court by the CJM.
“In view of the allegations and evidence on record and statement made by the victim, when taken in totality, presumption of commission of offences is disclosed on part of accused.…Court has only to see a ground whether offences alleged against accused are presumably prima facie disclosed or not while framing charge and whether accused can be put on trial for the offence or not,” the court said.
Even for presumption of commission of offences, court said, it is sufficient ground for framing charge and putting the accused to trial.
“The court cannot conduct mini trial and cannot presume the end of trial at the stage of framing charge. Prima facie there is sufficient material to presume that accused has committed (the) offences.”
On April 3 last year, police filed the chargesheet before the CJM in Khan’s absence, claiming that he did not cooperate with it, a charge denied by the later subsequently.
Khan had resigned as MoS Health on February 7, a day after police registered the case FIR (No. 09/2014) on a complaint by the doctor.
Even as the CJM had issued arrested warrant against him, Khan remained in hiding for six days and appeared before the police only after interim bail was granted by the High Court. Advocates Mir Shafaqat Hussain and Rafiq Ahmad Joo represented the victim before the court.