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HT Explainer: A long haul for a case that shook Jammu and Kashmir

The sex scandal that was unearthed in 2006, and led to the resignation of then J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah, in 2009, is at the stage of final arguments at a Chandigarh special court here.

india Updated: Feb 25, 2018 13:10 IST
Aneesha Bedi
Aneesha Bedi
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Jammu and Kashmir,flesh trade racket,J&K chief minister
After the CBI special court in Chandigarh rejected the defence plea to recall the main prosecutrix for further examination in January this year, the order in this case of immoral trafficking and rape is expected to be out in March.

Twelve years after a sex CD involving a 15-year-old brought to light a flesh trade racket, implicating a host of VVIPs in Jammu-Kashmir, including politicians, bureaucrats, and senior cops, the victim continues her long wait for justice.

The sex scandal that was unearthed in 2006, and led to the resignation of then J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah, in 2009, is at the stage of final arguments at a Chandigarh special court here. The high-profile case, which shook the state of J&K, is arguably the oldest at the UT district courts here.

Highlights
  • April 2006: Case unearthed
  • May 2006: Investigations handed over to the CBI
  • September 2006: Case transferred to Chandigarh
  • July 2009: J&K CM Omar Abdullah quits
  • October 2012: Two witnesses turn hostile
  • September 2012: Four main accused acquitted
  • August 2017: Hotel owner Riyaz Ahmed Kawa acquitted
  • January 2018: Application moved
  • February 2018: Former J&K SP Yusuf Mir acquitted in a supplementary case

Girls, including minors, were allegedly forced into prostitution, blackmailed and supplied to top police officials, bureaucrats, politicians and even surrendered militants.

After the CBI special court in Chandigarh rejected the defence plea to recall the main prosecutrix for further examination in January this year, the order in this case of immoral trafficking and rape is expected to be out in March. The defence counsel will be presenting his final arguments at the trial court here, starting Monday.

As the high-profile case moves to its final arguments, HT takes a look at the multitude of twists and turns it’s taken in the course of these 12 long years.

How the scandal was unearthed

The scandal broke in the summer of 2006 after a pornographic CD was handed over to the police. The police questioned two girls and the alleged kingpin, Sabeena. After grilling them, they discovered the names of 56 people allegedly involved in the racket.

According to the chargesheet, some men from one of the girl’s mohalla received the three CDs containing obscene images and videos of the girl. A Class VII student of a school in Srinagar, the 15-year-old girl was forced into prostitution by Sabeena and her husband, Abdul Hamid Bullah, when she went to them to seek monetary help for her family. The duo, who ran a brothel, allegedly began to supply the girl to various officials. Sabeena and her husband were subsequently booked for running a brothel, and living on the earnings of prostitution. The couple, however, died of natural causes during the pendency of the case.

Members of one Samaj Sudhar Committee in the state took it upon themselves to lodge a formal complaint with the police after they got hold of the video clippings, and the content of the three CDs was transferred into one.

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court had even ordered that the persons named by the prosecutrix be subjected to Test Identification Parade (TIP) before a judicial magistrate. These were persons who allegedly had intercourse with the victim between January 2003 and January 2006.

During the investigation, various hoteliers and guest house owners besides police officials were also booked for criminal conspiracy among other charges. A supplementary challan was filed against them, but most of them were acquitted for want of adequate evidence.

Who were the VIPs charged

The then chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Ghulam Nabi Azad, asked the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe the matter following a letter by his deputy Muzaffar Hussain Beig.

The CBI arrested two former J&K ministers, Ghulam Ahmed Mir and Raman Mattoo, for their alleged involvement in the case. Former J&K additional advocate general Anil Sethi was also arrested in the case soon afterwards.

By June end that year, CBI filed the first chargesheet against nine people. Among them were Border Security Force (BSF) DIG SK Padhi and deputy superintendent of police Mohammad Ashraf Mir. One of the senior most IAS officers in the state, Iqbal Khanday, who was principal secretary to former chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, was also arrested.

During the trial, charges were framed against 14 accused and the Supreme Court transferred the case to Chandigarh the same year.

The accused were charged under Sections 376 (rape) of the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) and 5 of the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act, among other charges. The alleged kingpin Sabeena and her husband Abdul Hamid Bullah were also charged with criminal conspiracy.

As per the chargesheet, the then 15-year-old prosecutrix had approached Sabeena for monetary help. Sabeena laced the victim’s drink with a sedative following which she was sexually assaulted and given ₹500. Afterwards, the victim was raped on multiple occasions.

Subsequently, the name of then J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah also surfaced in the CBI chargesheet, which led to him quitting as the CM in July 2009. However, as the case progressed, most of the accused were acquitted for lack of evidence. In addition, several witnesses also turned hostile.

VIPS named in the case
  • Former J&K ministers Ghulam Ahmad Mir and Raman Mattoo
  • Former BSF deputy inspector general KS Padhi
  • Former additional advocate general Anil Sethi
  • Former deputy superintendent of police Mohammad Ashraf Mir
  • Former chief secy Iqbal Khandey

The Long Haul to Justice

Given the sensitivity of the case, the prolonged trial and frequent adjournments have raised several questions. While the present public prosecutor in the matter, KP Singh, blames it on the large number of witnesses in the case, defence counsel Rabindra Pandit says it was also because many of these witnesses had to come from J&K to Chandigarh to record their statements. “Many a time, the matter was adjourned since they couldn’t turn up due to curfews, poor law and order situation or lack of flights to Chandigarh,” added the defence lawyer.

The chargesheet also includes the names of 70 witnesses. Lack of documentary evidence also led to the usually long trial in the matter, which was transferred to Chandigarh on the directions of the apex court in the interest of fair investigations. The involvement of big names from the region shouldn’t interfere with the objective viewing of the matter, the SC had held.

What is the current status

In an interesting turn of events in the sex scandal, the special CBI court here denied the defence plea to recall the prosecutrix for further examination. The accused had moved an application in this regard, which was declined by the special court, citing an amendment under the CrPC. The court had said that prosecutrix cannot be recalled once her statement had been recorded, to avoid harassment among other concerns. Subsequently, the victim, who is now in her late 20s, filed a petition before the Punjab and Haryana high court stating that she wanted to appear before the court and was willing to record her statement again. The petition that was to be heard on February 22 was adjourned and the matter will now come up before the HC on Monday.

Meanwhile, after representing the prosecution for all these years, the case got a new prosecutor only a fortnight ago with advocate KP Singh replacing advocate RK Handa. Sources said Handa was replaced after additional district and sessions judge at special CBI court, Gagan Geet Kaur, noticed his alleged bias towards the accused.

The last to be acquitted in the supplementary case was Muhammad Yusuf Mir, former SP of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, after the victim turned hostile. Earlier, in April last year, Riyaz Ahmed Kawa was acquitted for running a brothel at Imperial Hotel.

Six more people acquitted between 2012 and 2013 in the supplementary challan included Muhammad Iqbal Khandey, former chief secretary; Raman Mattu,former minister; Absar Ahmed Dar, a police official; Hilal Ahmed Shah and Ghulam Ahmed Mir.

First Published: Feb 25, 2018 13:08 IST