Srinagar: Investigations into the escape of Lashkar-e-Taiba militant Abu Hanzullah have identified lapses at different stages, especially the hurriedly issued orders for transfer of the militant to a central jail from Kathua in the Jammu region.
Police sources said that Hanzullah had moved a habeas corpus petition before a single bench of the High Court in Srinagar, to which the court ordered that Hanzullah be lodged “preferably in a jail in Kashmir division”. The court passed the order on November 19, 2016.
The state home department then issued an order on January 27, 2017, directing for compliance with the High Court order with “immediate effect”.
The order, a copy of which is available with news agency PTI, was issued on behalf of the state’s Principal Secretary (Home) by the then Special Secretary, Dilshad Shaheen.
A senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to PTI, said that there was undue haste in the case of Hanzullah. He said such hardcore militants could have been easily booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA) and lodged in a jail outside Kashmir Valley.
“The second course that could have been taken was to challenge the single-bench order of the High Court and reason that he (Hanzullah) should be kept away from other inmates as he was a highly motivated terrorist,” said the official.
The high court order was also not specific about any prison in Kashmir and had left it to the government to choose an appropriate jail, he said, adding, “Hanzullah could have been kept at Anantnag prison in south Kashmir, which is more secure, or at Humhama Jail where hardcore terrorists are often kept.”
In November last year, a communication marked as “urgent” to Principal Secretary (Home) was sent by the then Director General of Prisons, SK Mishra, asking him to shift some of the prisoners including Hanzullah to a jail in Jammu. Mishra also stressed on the need to segregate the militants completely from each other.
“In view of inputs received with regard to anti-national activities of the militancy-related prisoners lodged in central jail, Srinagar, from time to time through police and (security) agencies, there is urgent need to shift these prisoners to jails in Jammu division in order to segregate them from each other. This will help in preventing the already deteriorating security atmosphere in the Valley and prevent indoctrination of young offenders,” Mishra, a 1985-batch officer who is the senior-most IPS officer in the state, said in his letter.
Mishra, who was shunted to the post of Chairman-cum-Managing Director of the Jammu and Kashmir Police Housing Corporation after the escape of Hanzullah, did not answer the phone or messages sent to his mobile phone.
Notwithstanding silence from the state home department, Mishra issued an order for shifting 17 Pakistani nationals accused in cases of militancy and drug cases to be shifted outside jails in Jammu but it could not be complied with, because of the home department’s order issued in January.
Mishra made another attempt in January this year when he shot off another letter, a copy of which is with PTI, to Principal Secretary Home in which he highlighted that presence of Pakistani hardcore militants was hampering the smooth functioning of jails in Kashmir Valley.
“….the prosecution wing of the police department needs to defend such shifting orders as and when the trial courts desire to lodge them in Kashmir-based jails again.”
“It is, therefore, requested that necessary directions may kindly be issued to prosecution wing of police department to defend the shifting orders of the prisoners before the trial courts,” the letter dated January 13, 2018, said.
Messages to state Home Secretary RK Goyal on his phone remained unanswered.
Hanzullah escaped from SMHS hospital after he was handed over a pistol with which he killed two policemen who were escorting him to the hospital. The case is now being probed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which took over the case from the Jammu and Kashmir Police. The agency has also taken custody of five Kashmiris arrested in the case.