New Delhi: The Supreme Court of India has directed an army Brigadier to cooperate with police investigation into the custodial disappearance of a man, Manzoor Ahmad Dar, from Rawalpora, Srinagar, in 2002.
However, a bench of Chief Justice HL Dattu and Justice Amitava Roy directed the police not to arrest the officer, Brigadier Kishore Malhotra, as was directed by the high court on July 7.
“Brig. Kishore Malhotra shall not be arrested by the police authorities but he will participate in the enquiry and co-operate with the investigating agency,” the bench said.
The apex court passed the order while hearing a special leave petition filed by army against high court’s July 7 order, which had directed a special investigation team (SIT) of the police to arrest Malhotra, who was working as a Major in 2002.
“The SIT directed to investigate the matter failed to realise that Manzoor Ahmad Dar has not been seen after he was picked up by Major Kishore Malhotra and other armed forces of 35 Rashtriya Rifles during the intervening night of January 18 and 19, 2002, and has been allegedly subjected to custodial disappearance,” high court’s single bench of Justice Hasnain Masoodi had observed while hearing a petition filed by Manzoor’s wife, Jana.
“Instead of approaching the authorities for prosecution of Major Kishore for an offence punishable under section 364 RPC, the SIT should have arrested Major Kishore and subjected him to custodial interrogation and should have taken the investigation ahead to find out the circumstances (under which) Manzoor Ahmad Dar was picked up and whether he was subjected to custodial disappearance,” the court said and directed the SIT to proceed with the investigation, “touching the aforementioned aspects of the case.”
The court had also directed the SHO of Saddar police station to remain present along with a fresh status report by the next date of hearing in the case.
Jana had deposed before a magistrate that soldiers of the RR had come to her house during the intervening night of January 18 and 19, 2002, and took her husband along with them.
“It was completely dark…army personnel were holding torches,” she said. The officer, she added, was accompanying the army party that revisited her house “two to four times” after the first raid.
Jana had also deposed that she was not content with the closure report filed by the police and demanded further investigation into the matter.
Subsequently, the magistrate directed the investigating officer to conduct the investigation “de novo” (from the beginning). The magistrate also directed the police to at least hold a test identification parade of the accused persons in Jana’s presence.
Jana’s charges against the army have been corroborated by an inquiry conducted by Chief Judicial Magistrate Budgam. Subsequent to the inquiry by the CJM, the high court had directed the SHO of police station Saddar to conduct the investigation into the FIR already registered (no 33/2002 under section 364 RPC) expeditiously.
During the course of investigation, the police recorded statements of various witnesses, including Jana and her daughter Bilquees. Both of them revealed that Malhotra, who was then posted at Old Airport Srinagar, knew the circumstances leading to Dar’s abduction and subsequent disappearance.