As clamour for CBI probe into Kathua rape grows, a look at agency's track record in Jammu and Kashmir

Days after the Kathua rape victim was found dead, the National Panthers Party president, Bhim Singh, arrived at her home in Rassana village. According to the parents of the victim, Singh told them to demand a CBI probe into the incident, but they promised him nothing.

"Bhim Singh was the first to visit us and he asked us to demand a CBI inquiry and reject the investigation by the Jammu and Kashmir Police," the mother of the eight-year-old victim told Firstpost, "When we told him that the police was doing a good job, he replied in a harsh tone: 'Do you have to live with the villagers or the police?'." Most recently, the Jammu Bar Council has demanded that the case be transferred to the CBI.

A number of people in Jammu, including leaders of the BJP, Congress and Panthers Party have been demanding a CBI probe into the case, perhaps conscious of the poor track record of the agency while dealing with cases in Jammu and Kashmir. "Ironically, it is the same reason that people in Jammu have been asking for the probe to be conducted by CBI. The credibility of the CBI when it comes to conducting fair and impartial probes in high-profile cases in this state is pathetic. Its track record has been pathetic," Parvez Imroz, human rights lawyer and senior advocate in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, told Firstpost.

The Central Bureau of Investigation has been involved in many cases but four of the cases handled by the agency, the most high-profile ones, have led to zero convictions.

On 6 January, 1993, Border Security Force troopers in north Kashmir's Sopore town led by their commanding officer S Thangappan, shot and killed 57 people after a rifle was snatched from a trooper. Imroz says 24 days after the massacre, the government set up a one man Commission of Inquiry on 30 January, 1993 headed by Justice Amarjeet Choudhary. The case was handed by the state government to CBI in late January 1993. Twenty years later, the CBI filed a closure report under Section 173 (2) of the CrPC, citing a lack of evidence.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Pathribal fake encounter

The chilling details in the cold-blooded murder of five civilians — branded as Lashkar-e-Taiba militants — by the army in a fake encounter, were in fact unearthed by the CBI. The massacre of 36 Sikhs occurred on 20 March, 2000 when then US president Bill Clinton arrived in Delhi. The slaughter was remarkable in that the victims were Sikhs, a religious minority never targeted during a decade marked by bloodshed. The CBI took over the case in 2003 and indicted five armymen.

The army on 23 January, 2014 closed the case, saying the evidence recorded couldn't establish a prima facie case against any of the accused. The army had earlier opted for a Court of Inquiry after the Supreme Court gave it eight weeks to decide whether it wanted the case to be tried in a regular criminal court or face a court martial. It was the Supreme Court again in 2017 that admitted a plea challenging a Jammu and Kashmir High Court verdict that challenged the army’s decision to close proceedings against five soldiers involved. The families had filed a writ petition in the high court, seeking the reopening of the case and the re-conducting of the trial. After 19 years, there have been no convictions.

Srinagar sex scandal

The infamous sex scandal of 2006 in Kashmir involved senior police officers, politicians and top bureaucrats from the state. The accused were charged under various sections, including rape of a 15-year-old girl. The main accused Sabeena is already dead and some of the prominent accused were honourably acquitted. The CBI initially went after the sex abuse scandal with gusto. But then there was a sudden halt.

Experts and political commentators believe the agency went slow because of the involvement of many powerful people. The trial of the 14 accused was shifted from Srinagar to the Chandigarh CBI court on the orders of the Supreme Court. The CBI, however, drew criticism for not following the case meticulously. One of the accused had claimed that the CBI had forced her to change her testimony. "The people in Jammu know that CBI will exonerate these men because of their track record in the Valley, and they know people they have bailed perpetrators," lawyer Imroz said.

PDP leader Naeem Akhtar recently chided the Congress party for demanding a CBI probe initially. "And they still claim a moral high pedestal. Mr (Jammu and Kashmir Congress chief Ghulam Ahmad) Mir is incidentally a beneficiary of a CBI probe into the infamous sex scandal. He could be speaking out of experience," he tweeted. "The CBI botched the sleaze racket in 2006 and all the accused went home and all those who were arrested were acquitted by the court," Akhtar added.

"Our stand is very clear that the Crime Branch case was monitored by the high court not by us. The court directed the agency to arrest people after the agency every week showed its status report. It was not on our directions. The victim's family is not demanding a CBI probe, but the alleged perpetrators. We are asking for a fast track court for the speedy justice in this case," Rafi Mir, PDP spokesperson told Firstpost. No conviction ever took place.

Shopian 'rape and murder' case

The alleged rape and murder case of a 22-year-old woman and her teenage sister-in-law from Shopian put Kashmir on edge in 2009. On 30 May, the two had gone to their orchard but their dead bodies were found in the Rambi Ara stream. The state government led by Omar Abdullah handed the case to the CBI.

The bodies of two women were recovered from a stream whose water level at that time, according to family members of the victims, was not even five inches. A one-man commission said the victims had been raped and murdered. But the CBI gave a clean chit to five police officials who had earlier been indicted by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the police that had probed the case earlier.

The agency said the cause of the teenager's death was "asphyxia as a result of ante-mortem drowning". In the 22-year-old's case, the chargesheet said there were "no ante-mortem injuries" and death was a result of "asphyxia" by drowning.

The agency also named six doctors in the chargesheet, along with five lawyers and two civilians for allegedly fabricating evidence to demonstrate the two women had been raped before being killed. "When the chargesheet was submitted, I lost my last hope in the justice-delivery system and the trust put by our leaders in the agency," Shakeel Ahangar, husband of one and brother of the victim, told Firstpost, "These institutions are used by the state as a political tool to make fun of oppressed people."

Killing of IAF men

Suspected militants shot dead four Indian Air Force men and wounded nine on 25 January, 1990 when forces took control of Srinagar and a massive crackdown was launched after militancy had erupted. During the course of the trial, a transfer application was filed by the accused, which was rejected after which they approached the high court in Srinagar to transfer the case. The high court stayed the proceedings of the trial court. For now, the court at Srinagar is hearing the transfer appeal.

The government ordered a CBI inquiry into the killing of four IAF men, but what happened to that probe remains unknown. It has been 28 years but there has been no conviction. JKLF leaders Mohammad Yaseen Malik, Manzoor Ahmed Sofi, Javed Ahmed Mir, Showkat Ahmed Bakshi, Javed Ahmed Zargar and Ali Muhammad Mir were named as accused in the case. The case was given to the CBI but after 28 years, no conviction has taken place.

Mehran Lateef case

It was the Jammu and Kashmir High Court that issued directions to the CBI on 6 February, 2014 to start investigating the case of three-year-old Mehran Lateef Mir from the Habbakadal area of Srinagar, who went missing on 13 May, 2008. The child had stepped out of home to buy sweets. The agency found no clues about the child’s whereabouts. The case was closed after a city court accepted the CBI’s closure report to the effect. No one knows, even 10 years on, what happened to the child.

Sailan massacre

Even after 19 years, the families of victims of Sailan massacre are still waiting for justice. The Sailan village of Surankote in Poonch district witnessed the killing of 19 civilians by four special police officers (SPOs) and personnel of the 9 Para commando battalion. "It is an apt example of the manner in which the system seeks to exhaust, disappoint families of victims, and in the end, attempt to ensure impunity for the armed forces," Imroz said

The CBI filed a closure report on 25 August, 2015 before the CBI court in Jammu. DSP Ashok Kalra of the CBI sought to shut down investigations in the Sailan massacre. No one was ever convicted in the case.

JKCA scam

In February this year, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court directed the CBI to produce a chargesheet in the multi-crore Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association (JKCA) scam within one month. That has still not happened. The case pertains to the embezzlement of nearly Rs 113 crore at the JKCA in 2012. The BCCI had transferred the money to JKCA from April 2002 to December 2011 but the funds were allegedly embezzled. The high court on 9 March handed the probe over to the CBI, observing that the police investigation lacked both speed and credibility.

The CBI on various occasions moved applications for extension of time from the court in completing the investigation and on the previous occasions, the extension sought by the CBI was vehemently opposed by the other parties. The court granted a final opportunity for the matter in February. To date, the agency has not produced any chargesheet before the court.

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Updated Date: Apr 26, 2018 20:35:46 IST

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