Bar to send eight members to Delhi to accompany president, won’t resume work until he honourably returns home
Srinagar: Expressing strong resentment against the National Investigation Agency (NIA) summoning the president of the J&K High Court Bar Association, hundreds of lawyers on Tuesday marched in support of advocate Mian Qayoom across Kashmir.
The NIA has summoned Qayoom to New Delhi on September 6 at 10:30am for questioning in the RC-10/2017/NIA/DLI case.
The summons to Qayoom, 67, infuriated the lawyer community, which came out on the streets in support of Qayoom and condemned the steps taken in what they termed as “efforts to cow down the lawyer fraternity”.
The NIA has filed a case of alleged terror funding. NIA sleuths have raided dozens of places from Srinagar to New Delhi and have arrested as many as seven Hurriyat Conference leaders and a top Kashmiri businessman in the case.
Expanding its net of investigation, the NIA sent summons to Mian Abdul Qayoom on September 2, asking him to present himself at the NIA headquarters for questioning as a “witness in the case”, following which the Bar Association called for the suspension of work across the Kashmir region and held protests.
In Srinagar, scores of lawyers took out a protest march from the district court complex at Moomin Abad, Batamaloo, to Jahangir Chowk, after which they entered the J&K High Court complex.
“We won’t resume work until advocate Mian Abdul Qayoom honourably returns home from New Delhi,” the protesting lawyers said.
Senior lawyer Zaffar A Shah said the lawyers would continue to stay away from work until Qayoom returns “with dignity” to the Valley.
Qayoom has been practising law in Kashmir and in outside courts for almost 40 years now.
“We feel that the (NIA) notice is not bona fide. It is the outcome of a design, of a conspiracy, to lower the credibility of our public men,” Shah told journalists.
He said that the NIA could have recorded the statement of Qayoom in Srinagar as well.
“We know Mr Qayoom. He is not involved in any manner in this case at all. But at the same time, if the NIA wanted to record his statement or to question him, we strongly condemn his summoning to New Delhi. The same thing could have been done even at Srinagar if it was a simple case of recording the statement for a witness or seeking information from him,” said Shah.
By summoning him to New Delhi, he said, “we feel that our respectable persons are being humiliated”.
The lawyers, who earlier held a general body meeting, alleged that it was a ploy by the Government of India to stop Mian Abdul Qayoom from “pleading the case before Supreme Court of India in ‘Pellet Gun Case’; preparing case against challenge to Article 35-A of the Constitution, pending before the apex court; pleading the cases of detenues before High Court of Jammu and Kashmir, in particular Asiya Andrabi and others; performing various activities relating to resolution of Kashmir dispute, to say only a few”.
In solidarity with Qayoom, the Bar has decided to send at least eight of its members to Delhi to accompany the Bar president. “We will accompany Qayoom, who is the crown of the Kashmir Bar, to Delhi and the next course of action will be decided on 7 September,” said advocate Nasir Qadri.
“We see no basis for calling him as a witness when he has nothing to do with the allegations involved in FIR RC-10 nor is he acquainted with any circumstance of the case or investigation,” Bar members said in a statement.
The Bar members asserted, “We have reason to say that for quite some time a well-designed plan and conspiracy has been conceived to involve all persons who actively are seeking resolution of Kashmir dispute in accordance with wishes of the people.”
Lawyers across Kashmir held protests and boycotted work in protest against the NIA summons to Qayoom.
In south Kashmir, work remained suspended in most courts on Tuesday as lawyers took out protest rallies at many places.
In response to the strike call, most courts in Anantnag, Shopian and Pulwama districts of south Kashmir remained suspended for the day.
“Yes, the work remained suspended in Anantnag, Shangus, Aishmuqam, Vailoo, Bijbehara and Dooru courts in our district today,” Anantnag Bar Association president Fayaz Sodagar told Kashmir Reader.
He said the lawyer fraternity stands firm behind Mian Qayoom.
In Shopian, the Bar Association took out a protest rally from the district court to Main Market and back, demanding immediate withdrawal of the notice against Qayoom.
The rally was led by Bar district president Abdul Majeed Mir.
Later, a resolution was passed by the Shopian Bar Association calling the NIA notice to Qayoom “an intimidating tactic used by the State to muzzle the voices of lawyer community of Kashmir”.
“The bar strongly condemns such persecution and reaffirms that the lawyers of district Bar Association, Shopian, stand with Mian Abdul Qayoom,” the resolution read. Lawyers also held protests in Pulwama.
Meanwhile, the Bar has postponed its annual elections sine die. The elections were scheduled to be held on September 7. Mian Abdul Qayoom had stood for the president’s post.