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Shopian case: SC questions HC order of arresting cops

July 24, 2009 19:06 IST
The arrest of senior police officers in connection with the alleged rape and murder of two women in Shopian was on Friday questioned by the Supreme Court which also criticised Jammu and Kashmir government for failing to produce sufficient evidence to justify its action.

The apex court posed searching questions relating to the investigations and materials forming the basis for the Jammu and Kashmir High Court to order the arrest and asked the sessions court in Shopian to "expeditiously consider the bail applications of the police officers."

It directed the investigating officer to be present there with the case diary on Monday.

Superintendent of Police Javed Iqbal Mattoo and Deputy SP Rohit Baskotra, who had challenged an order of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court directing their arrest and conduct of narco-analysis test and DNA profiling by collecting their blood samples, were allowed to move the sessions court on Saturday.

"What material were available before the High Court to direct arrest of these officers. There should have been proper investigation," the Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice P Sathasivam said when former Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir and senior advocate B A Khan, appearing for the victim's family defended the High Court order.

"Anybody can be arrested. Anybody who has nothing to do with this case can be arrested. What material was there for the arrest? Even now, they (state) have been unable to produce the material," the Bench remarked when Khan said there was nothing wrong with the High Court order which was delivered when the whole of Kashmir had to suffer.

The two police officers had also challenged the order that their bail plea could only be heard by the high court bench which has passed the order of their arrest.

"We want to maintain the rule of law. We want that the police officers should make their bail plea before proper court. It (bail) will be considered by the sessions court," a Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice P Sathasivam said.

The submission by the advocates representing the Jammu and High Court Bar Association on whose petition the High Court had passed the order that the report submitted in sealed cover was the basis for the direction to arrest the police officers did not impress the Bench.

"Everybody in the neighbourhood could be arrested. Should there not be a proper investigation?" the apex court bench said and took exception to the monitoring of the case by the High Court.

"Does the High Court have to monitor criminal cases? How many cases of rape are monitored by the High Court?" it said before passing the order in which it extended the stay on the High Court order directing narco-analysis test of the police officers.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the state government, conceded there was "over-reaction of the High Court in this case."

The alleged rape and murder of 17-year-old Asiya and her 22-year-old sister-in-law Neelofar, whose bodies were recovered near a stream in Shopian on May 30, had triggered widespread street protests across Kashmir Valley and strikes in the region.

During the hearing, the apex court bench said the High Court should have left it to the superior police officers to investigate the case and should have entitled the police officers to move for bail before the appropriate court.

The Bench also expressed surprise that only because of the agitation, the investigation was handed over to the Special Investigation Team.

"Investigation can be done by the superior officers. Only because of agitation, SIT was involved?" the Bench said.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the police officers, described the incident as an "extraordinary" case in which "unprecedented illegal order" has been passed by the High Court without giving a hearing to the officers who were not at all connected with the case.

"There is no material against the officers, not a line in the counter-affidavit filed by the state to suggest any connection in the case," Rohatgi alleged.

He said there was nothing in the FIR also to even suggest that the police officers were connected with the crime. Mattoo and Baskotra, who had sought a stay of the High Court order, were arrested along with two others--SHO Shafiq Ahmed and Sub-inspector Gazi Abdul Rehman.

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