NIA, ED call for AIIMS panel to assess jailed Kashmiri businessman’s health
Days after former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti urged the government to release businessman Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali on humanitarian grounds because he is suffering from cancer, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) have proposed forming a panel of doctors from AIIMS to assess his illness.
Facing terror and money laundering charges for supporting secessionist and terrorist activities in Kashmir, Watali was arrested by the NIA in August 2017, and has been in judicial custody since then.
Seeking urgent bail, Watali’s lawyer Shariq J Reyaz informed the special judge NIA court – Parveen Singh at Patiala House Courts – on January 11 that the businessman has been diagnosed with stage IV prostate cancer that requires immediate, supervised medical treatment.
Watali, 70, is suffering from chronic multiple ailments, including acute diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, and dyslipidemia hypertension marked by high blood pressure, his lawyer said. On account of severe back pain, he has been rendered immobile and was carried around on a stretcher for the past two months.
Watali was admitted at Max Hospital in Saket on December 30 after doctors opined that his was a case of prostate cancer that could lead to paralysis, according to Watali’s bail plea, which was reviewed by HT. The reports of Max hospital have been submitted along with it.
Appearing for NIA, senior advocate Sidharth Luthra informed the court that the agency wants to refer the case to the director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi to constitute a panel of doctors to assess Watali’s condition and submit a status report on his illness. ED’s special prosecutor Nitesh Rana echoed Luthra’s stand.
Agreeing with both sides, the court adjourned the matter till January 28. Meanwhile, it has asked the jail authorities not to remove Watali from Max Hospital till the next hearing.
In her appeal to the central government, Peoples Democratic Party president Mufti tweeted on December 31: “Zahoor Watali imprisoned in Tihar jail is suffering from malignant cancer & is critically ill. He is in urgent need of medical attention & needs to be with his family. Request GOI (Government of India)to release him on humanitarian grounds so that he can get the necessary care.”
She had tagged home secretary Ajay Bhalla and the home ministry in her tweet.
The law enforcement agencies have alleged that Watali was receiving money from Hafiz Saeed, chief of terror outfits Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaat-Ud-Dawa, from ISI, from the Pakistan High Commission at New Delhi and also from a source based in Dubai, which he was remitting to the Hurriyat leaders, separatists and stone pelters in Jammu and Kashmir.