Srinagar: The J&K High Court on Wednesday issued notice to the central and state governments asking for their response to a petition seeking a thorough and impartial probe under judicial monitoring into the custodial death of Awantipora teacher Rizwan Assad Pandit.
The court of Justice Tashi Rabstan issued notice to Chief Secretary, J&K Government, Principal Secretary to J&K Government, Home Department, Director General of Police, J&K, Union of India through Home Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, New Delhi. The court called for response by May 21, the date fixed for next hearing of the case.
The petition was filed by J&K Reconciliation Front through its chairman Dr Sandeep Mawa. It sought directions from the court to register cases against persons in whose custody the killing of Rizwan took place.
“This custodial death needs to be investigated in a transparent and time-bound manner under judicial monitoring,” the petition stated.
The petitioner through its counsel Salih Pirzada also asked for compensation of Rs 50 lakh for the family of the victim. It said the amount should be recovered from the persons in whose custody the killing took place.
The petitioner’s counsel referred to a recent Supreme Court judgement passed in case titled ‘Extra Judicial Execution Victim Families Association Vs Union of India’ wherein the court held that if the people of the country are deprived of human rights or cannot have them enforced, democracy itself would be in peril.
The petition said that the Supreme court in many cases had invariably held that custodial violence, high-handedness including torture, and death in police lock-ups strike a blow at the rule of the law and the same is aggravated by the fact that they are committed by the persons who are supposed to be protectors of citizens.
The petition rued that due to indiscriminate incarceration of people in general in Kashmir, the youth were taking up arms as they had lost faith in democracy.
The petitioner in this aspect also sought direction from the court to constitute a committee to examine the increase in militancy-related incidents. A direction was also sought to restrain the respondents from using indiscriminate force against people so that the younger generation dies not pick up arms.
It was also sought from the court that the State Legal Service Authority through its member secretary be directed to provide legal aid to the victim’s family.
Rizwan Pandit, a resident of Awantipora in Pulwama district, was picked up by police from his residence during the night of March 17. He was later shifted to Cargo detention centre, Srinagar.
On March 19, early in the morning, news of Rizwan’s death in police custody appeared on social media. Without mentioning the cause of death, the police, in an initial statement, said, “Rizwan, who was arrested in a terror-related case, died in police custody and a magisterial inquiry has been ordered under section 176 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.” The Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar, Shahid Iqbal, ordered a probe into the incident by the Additional District Magistrate of Srinagar.
On March 21, the government shifted the probe to Pulwama and the case was handed over to Qazi Masood. The preliminary post-mortem report discovered that “excessive bleeding caused by deep wounds on Rizwan’s body” could have resulted in his death.
Born and raised in Awantipora, Rizwan according to his family and colleagues, was a skilled academic, social activist and generous philanthropist. After graduating from Sri Pratap College in Srinagar, he went to Dehradun where he completed his Masters in Chemistry in 2014. Before getting married, his family said, Rizwan was planning to do a PhD.
In 2016, Rizwan became a teacher at the Sabir Abdullah Public School (SAPS). Besides, he started his own private tuition centre, Elite Group of Tutorials, in his locality. Rizwan was the second of Asadullah Pandit’s three sons. His 28th birthday was just a day before he died.