On the face of it, the decision of keeping Muslims and Kashmiri Pandiths away from the judicial process by appointing two Sikhs as special public prosecutors in the Kathua rape murder case, has put a big question mark on the neutrality of the judicial process, rendering it open to the charge that the systemic processes are influenced by factors other than principles of the profession like religion.
This flies flat against reality as the sequence of events, in terms of panning out of the investigations of the odious case so eloquently demonstrate. Kashmiri Muslims and Pandiths have maintained the principles of neutrality religiously by trying to access the facts as they exist not as they wanted them to appear. In the police department Ramesh Kumar Jala, a Kashmiri Pandith and Afadul Mujtaba, another officer in the ranks, a Kashmiri Muslim unlike accused police officers (Hindus of Kathua) solved the matter by using their professional acumen and disallowing religious biases affect the case. By virtue of this, the Muslims and the Kashmiri Pandiths stand vindicated.
By appointing two Sikhs as public prosecutors keeping Muslims and Pandiths away is uncalled for and a question to their credibility for simply satisfying the ego of those who tried to hamper the judicial process. This, somehow acknowledges, that the entire legislative and judicial system seem subservient to a community, which made a brazen attempt to tarnish, mutilate and distort the very ethics of humanity and principles of judicial system by trying to stop the police team from filing the charge sheet and also announcing free legal aid to the accused in the heinous crime. The case, which they tried to fiddle with, was heinous in nature and had stirred the conscience of the entire Indian civil society but the Kathua bar association remained unaffected as they cared more about their religious biases than professional, human and moral ethics.
However, the credibility of the Kathua Bar Association is in question after its overt and obvious display of a partisan role in the rape and murder case of a minor girl who happened to be a member of a Muslim nomadic community led to their partisanship behavior. This not only exposes the Bar members of Kathua and their operations, or Modus Operandi, which they would be carrying out in Kathua courts as and when a case of a Muslim complainant would come to their notice and attention, but also speaks volumes as to how they would be dealing with the community, which, by constitutional clauses, share equal rights( but the practitioners of the law undermine the clauses and forget the oath, testifying their allegiance to the bias rather than the constitution).
In fact, the charge sheet of the case also exposes how the accused, (that the Bar fraternity of Kathua) have been advocating for, used a temple- a holy place- for an unholy act and committed rape and murder of a girl who was yet to have obligations of practicing the faith-of Islam as she had not yet attained that age- 11 years as per Muslim Personal Law. However, the media trial exerted pressures on the Kathua bar; they retracted from their stand and announced they would not provide free legal aid to the accused.
Now, the point is about people (Muslim community) living in areas where the mindset of Kathua prevails and the subsequent misfortunes inflicted on them by non-human environments created by people like Deepak Khajuria, Ram and even the minors like the one who is the prime accused in the heinous case. How is the state machinery going to deal with them? The state needs police officers and law practitioners like the ones who delivered in Kathua case. These were mostly either Muslims or Kashmiri Pandiths. (Perhaps, on an unrelated not, this may be because it has something to do with the soil-Kashmir).
Again, by keeping Muslims and Pandiths from the legal proceedings of the case away and appointing two Sikhs, demeans the services offered by Muslims and Pandiths together. These Kashmiris did not lett religious bias overpower their professional faith, the ethics and commandments of police and judiciary. Their credibility can never be challenged as they, in this particular case, have shown the highest level of professionalism, ethical and moral standards, setting aside their personal likes and dislikes, unlike the Kathua police and Bar.
If the appointment of people other than Muslims and, or Hindus , in the case in contention, is not accorded a rethink, it will set a wrong precedent. The case actually warrants rationality and the cold logic of the law and not setting of precedents like the one in contention. The judiciary if it, instead of law, rationality starts chasing the collective conscience, will end up diminishing its own standards, processes and procedures. The basic formats of any profession are uncompromising as they create genres only after their formats are intact. By making changes in the formats, the profession will be rendered redundant. From a larger moral perspective, this very development, that is, the redundancy of law constitutes a failure of a nation, state and society thereby losing the right to call herself a nation- perhaps the natural corollary of a condition where law is not respected and the human chastity is unsafe.
—The author is Consulting Editor to the Kashmir Reader. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org