Srinagar: Not a “single photo” or “video” could be produced by National Investigation Agency (NIA) showing Kamran Yousuf as being involved in stone-pelting, said a Delhi court while granting bail to arrested photojournalist.
The NIA arrested Kamran on September 5, 2017, from his hometown in southern Kashmir’s Pulwama on charges of “stone throwing”. The agency alleged that his work as a photojournalist was merely a front to “cover up his subversive activities”.
Six months after he was imprisoned in Delhi’s highly secured Tihar Jail, Kamran was granted bail by additional sessions judge Tarun Sherawat on two sureties of Rs 50,000 each on March 13.
“NIA has not placed on record any single photo/video showing that the applicant/accused was indulging in stone pelting activities at any site,” said the 27-page order.
“…Mere presence of the accused at the site of incident is not sufficient to implicate such accused, who is a journalist, for the offences allegedly occurred during that period at that site,” it noted.
The 23-year-old photojournalist was a regular contributor to Kashmir’s largest circulated daily apart from other media organisations. He lived in Pulwama’s Tahab village and was raised by his mother after she got divorced when Kamran was two.
The NIA’s argument in its chargesheet, which had drawn condemnation from journalist bodies, was that Kamran was not a “real journalist” because he had not covered “any developmental activity of any government department or any inauguration of hospital, school building, road, bridge, statement of political party in power or any other social/developmental activity by state government or government of India.”
In the detailed bail order, the court said that Kamran was working as a photojournalist and was covering, “social, cultural, political, economical (sic), and other activities in the Valley”.
“As such, in my considered view, his presence on the sites of stone pelting incident etc is intrinsic notwithstanding the fact/contention that he was not a permanent employee of any media organization,” the judge said.
The court also dismissed the NIA claim that Kamran had “close nexus with terrorist organisations” saying the investigating officer (IO) could not show any chat conversation of Kamran with other accused chargesheteed in the case.
The young photojournalist’s counsel had sought time for verifying the phone numbers, which the NIA had accused Kamran of being in touch with. The numbers turned out to be of SSP JK Police and of other journalists or photojournalists. “But none of them is the co-accused in the case,” the court observed.
“In the circumstances, I may observe that applicant or accused has never been in touch with the other accused persons of this case and even if as per the prosecution case, he was in touch/contact with other suspects i.e. B Party, in that case, it is not explained as to why the prosecution did not make them as accused in this case.
“…Or why did they not investigate on their involvement or participation in the alleged offences notwithstanding the fact that the present application is pending or disposal for last more than four months even after filing of the charge-sheet about 50 days back. It is surprising to note that the IO is not able to provide details of these persons till date,” the court said.
“Prima facie”, it noted, NIA has also not leveled specific allegations against Kamran that he is a member of any particular banned organisation as the first schedule annexed to Unlawful Activities Act. “Even otherwise, mere membership of a banned organization will not make a person criminally liable unless he resorts to violence or incites people to violence,” it added.