A man accused of involvement in militancy has approached the Supreme Court to direct the Jammu and Kashmir government to appoint him an additional sessions judge, a decision kept on hold following adverse intelligence reports against him.
Mohammed Altaf Khan, 44, topped the selection list of nine candidates who cleared the exams for Jammu and Kashmir’s subordinate judiciary in August 2012. He staked his claim to the post on the grounds that he was acquitted in a criminal case lodged against him in 1998.
A total of 215 advocates, who met an eligibility criterion of seven years of legal practice, appeared for the written examination. However, all appointments, including Khan’s, were stayed after some unsuccessful candidates moved the top court.
In September 2013, the Supreme Court allowed the appointments but said they would be subject to the outcome of the petition challenging the merit list.
An objection was raised to Khan’s appointment citing police reports that indicated he was active as a militancy-related activist from 1991 to 1998. It was alleged that he had crossed over to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir for training and was an accused in an Arms Act case. The Jammu and Kashmir high court confirmed the police verification report.
Arrested in 1998 under the Public Safety Act, Khan remained in jail for a few months. He denied the allegations, saying a trial court acquitted him in 2010.
“He was given a clean chit after the police witnesses told the court the case against Khan was false,” Khan's lawyer Gagandeep Sharma told HT.
After his release from jail, Khan went to Pune to study law and also pursued a post-graduate course at the prestigious National Law University Bangalore.
In the wake of an acquittal verdict, the SC directed the J-K government to take the final call on Khan’s future. Two years after the SC order, the state has yet to come to a decision.
Khan’s fresh application before the SC states his case was sent to the chief secretary who constituted a screening committee in June 2013, which is yet to give its conclusions. His representations to the state government and to the chief minister’s redress cell proved futile.
A bench headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu on Monday asked the state government to come back with a response to Khan’s application within four weeks.
Counsel for the J-K high court, Bharat Sangal, said: “He secured the first position in the HC’s selection list. The state has to decide in such cases.”
Besides participating in several international peace conferences, Khan has stated he was the first Kashmiri Muslim who started confidence-building measures with Kashmiri pandits in the year 2000.
He was also invited by the department of personnel and training to train young IAS and Kashmir administrative officers at Panchagani and in J-K.
“If the former chief secretary can be installed in the highest bureaucratic position in the state after being acquitted by court, why is a different yardstick being used for me,” Khan told Hindustan Times.
(With inputs from Toufiq Rashid, Srinagar)