At the centre of the protests in Handwara sparked by the molestation of a young school girl, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court directed the police superintendent to allow the minor to meet her mother and lawyers.
Protests erupted in Handwara town after allegations of molestation by an Army solider on 12 April, two people died and a women was hit by a bullet. However, the case has taken on different turns since then. Initially, an army personnel was accussed of molesting the girl, however in her video statements to the police and the chief judicial magistrate under Section 164-A of CrPC, she absolved the armyman of any wrongdoing.
The girl named, Hilal Ahmed Bandey as one of the persons who molested her after she she came out of a public restroom. In her statement before the Judicial Magistrate, she said that on 12 April, after school hours, while proceeding to her home with her friend, she entered in a public lavatory near main chowk in Handwara — "As soon as she came out of lavatory she was confronted, assaulted and dragged by two boys and her bag was snatched. One of the boys was in school uniform. The production of the girl along with her father before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Handwara was to comply with the order of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court," police had said.
According to The Hindustan Times, the girl was being kept in "illegal police custody"and a Habeas Corpus writ was heard by the High Court. A statement by the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Societies (JKCCS) quoted in the paper reads, "The consequence of today’s proceedings is six more days of illegal police custody for the Handwara minor girl. But, the direction to SP Ghulam Jeelani Wani will ensure that for the first time since being detained the minor girl and family will have unhindered access to legal counsel."
The girl's counsel claims that her statements to the police and CJM were not made voluntarily. He said the girl, who did not blame any army personnel for molestation as alleged earlier, had been pressured to testify in a manner directed by the police. He said the girl's statement before the chief judicial magistrate, Handwara on Sunday was recorded in the absence of her father and her lawyers. "The minor girl's statement under Section 164-A CrPC was recorded before the judicial magistrate at Handwara.
Her father was not present in court during the recording of the statement. No lawyer was present in court accompanying her. "In the courtroom, besides the judge, there were four other persons who the minor girl could not identify," the spokesman said. JKCSS also maintains that the girl was being kept in detention illegally, in a "jungle-like place."
The JKCCS has also written to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, director-general of Jammu and Kashmir Police, IGP Kashmir, DIG North Kashmir, divisional commissioner Kashmir and DC Kupwara for "unhindered access of the legal counsels to the family".
But, so far, "the government has chosen to not respond," he said.
With inputs from PTI