JAMMU: In a significant order a Division Bench of the State High Court (Jammu Wing) comprising Justice Alok Aradhe and Justice Tashi Rabstan has directed the 1st Additional Sessions Judge, Baramulla to take steps for completion of the trial expeditiously. The Division Bench while issuing such directions in the much publicized Gulmarg Land Scam (FIR No.8/2009 VOK) observed that this application (MP No.3/2018) has been filed on behalf of the petitioners seeking directions to the trial court to frame the charge expeditiously.
After hearing Advocate Sheikh Shakeel Ahmed with Advocates Rahul Raina, Suraj Singh and Supriya Chouhan appearing in Public Interest Litigation titled Sheikh Mohammad Shafi & Anr V/s Union of India & Ors, whereas Advocate General Jehangir Iqbal Ganai with Deputy AG Raman Sharma, Govt. Advocate Ahtsham Bhat appearing for the State Government, the Division Bench headed by Justice Alok Aradhe observed in the open court that in view of the orders passed by the Division Bench at Srinagar on December 21, 2016 in PIL No.14/2012 titled Mohammad Rafiq Zargar V/s State & Ors whereby directions were issued to the trial court at Baramulla to expeditiously proceed in the matter in accordance with law, the Division Bench further observed that, “We are not inclined to entertain the application. However, it is directed that the trial court shall take steps for completion of trial of the case expeditiously”.
Advocate S.S. Ahmed appearing for the petitioners submitted that the Division Bench on August 28, 2012 then headed by Chief Justice M.M. Kumar (since retired) had directed the SVO to file charge sheet against Mehboob Iqbal (IAS), the then Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir and others in case FIR No.8/2009 VOK within a period of 02 weeks and with regard to Baseer Ahmed Khan (IAS) the then Deputy Commissioner Baramulla, the Division Bench had directed the State Government to forward his papers for grant of prosecution sanction under Section 6 of J&K Prevention of Corruption Act to the DoPT Govt. of India.
Advocate S.S. Ahmed further submitted that it was on September 25, 2012 SVO filed the charge sheet against Mehboob Iqbal (IAS) and 17 others in the Court of Additional Special Judge (Anti-Corruption) Srinagar and on October 5, 2013 the said case was transferred to the Court of 1st Additional District and Sessions Judge Baramulla. Advocate Ahmed further submitted that DoPT granted prosecution sanction against Baseer Ahmed Khan and a supplementary challan was also presented against him and the same was clubbed with the challan titled State V/s Mehboob Iqbal and Ors.
Advocate S.S. Ahmed further submitted that since November 9, 2013 the trial court at Baramulla has not been able to decide the question regarding framing of charge and almost six years have elapsed and there is no headway in the matter. Advocate Ahmed further submitted that amongst the accused one is Former Divisional Commissioner Kashmir and another is incumbent Divisional Commissioner Kashmir and the case is being adjourned due to the absence of the influential accused.
Advocate S.S. Ahmed further submitted that the instant case is a biggest land scam of the State wherein senior functionaries of the State and Top Hoteliers of Kashmir are involved and land worth crores of Rupees situated at Gulmarg was grabbed by illegally applying Roshini Scheme when the same was not applicable to the facts of the instant case. He further submitted that so much of laxity cannot be extended in a corruption case as the Apex Court has time and again ruled that corruption cases should be decided with utmost promptitude.
Advocate S.S. Ahmed also submitted that even the State High Court has issued directions vide various circulars to the Anti-Corruption Courts in State of J&K to decide the corruption matters speedily and also to keep the High Court informed about the stages of the trial.
At this stage Advocate General Jehangir Iqbal Ganai submitted that there is no delay in the matter as the Division Bench at Srinagar had also called the records of the case in a Public Interest Litigation and thereafter on December, 21, 2016 the directions were issued to the trial court at Baramulla to decide the case expeditiously. Advocate General further submitted that time was consumed in the instant case regarding the question of the applicability of the Roshini Scheme or not and the challan was silent on the subject and the matter was deliberated before the trial court at length on the said issue and subsequently the trial court held that it will decide the question of charge on the available material placed on record by the SVO. The Advocate General further while resisting the said application submitted that no fresh directions are warranted in view of the directions already issued by the Division Bench at Srinagar.
While rebutting the submissions of Advocate General, Advocate Sheikh Shakeel Ahmed appearing for the petitioners submitted that it is the instant PIL wherein the petitioners sought prosecution of the high profile accused including the present FIR No.8/2009 VOK and it was because of the indulgence shown by the Division Bench on August, 28, 2012 the challan was presented against the Former Divisional Commissioner Kashmir and others. He further submitted all steps in Gulmarg Land Scam have been taken due to the intervention of the Division Bench at Jammu particularly in the present PIL.
After hearing both the sides at length, the Division Bench headed by Justice Alok Aradhe directed the 1st Additional Sessions Judge Baramulla to take steps for completion of the trial expeditiously. However the Division Bench in view of the directions already issued by Division Bench at Srinagar further observed that, “We are not inclined to entertain the application”. With these observations the Division Bench disposed of the fresh Miscellaneous Application.