1998 Surankote killings: High Court calls for CBI probe

‘A gruesome offence has been committed and it was duty of State to investigate the case to unearth the truth and bring culprits to justice’

D A RASHID

Srinagar, Nov 21: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court Wednesday directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe into the killing of 19 members of three families who were allegedly massacred at Surankote area of Poonch district of Jammu region in 1998. 
Disposing of the petition filed by the victim families seeking investigation by a Special Investigation Team of the CBI, the Court of Muzaffar Hussain Attar directed the investigating agency to take over the case for investigation.
“It is provided that CBI will take the matter for investigation and conduct the probe in accordance with law and ensure that justice is meted out to the petitioners,” Justice Attar ordered. The court said it is hoped and trusted that investigation would be conducted with a reasonable dispatch.
The court held that the petitioners are seeking justice and the matter cannot be shelved. It observed that the State has to perform its functions in accordance with statutes and law of the land.
The court said the shadow case diary which is available with senior AAG representing the state would show that last CD was written on June 30, 2002 and on that day Deputy Superintendent of Police directed the IO to expedite the investigation of the case.  The court said, “In this case it is  admitted that 19 persons have been killed during the intervening night of August 3/4 in 1998 and the Court in the facts of circumstances of the case is satisfied that the matter should be referred for investigation to CBI.”
While state advocate, AM Magray submitted that the state would file objections to the petition, the court disposed of the petition making some strong observations in the matter. 

OBSERVATIONS
The court observed that “ours is a democratic country which is governed by the Rule of Law. It is the constitution which is source of all laws and the privileged document do ordain for protection of the human life.”
It observed that a gruesome offence has been committed and it was duty of the State and the authority to investigate the case to unearth the truth and bring culprits to justice.
The court observed that the mandate contained in Article 21 of constitution (Provisions of Criminal Procedure Code) do order that the perpetrators of  crime should be brought to Justice.

PETITION AND CASE HISTORY
Three families of the victims had filed the petition seeking direction to the Government for reinvestigation of the case by a Special Investigation Team or Central Bureau of Investigation team (CBI) or any other to bring the accused to book.
 They also sought directions for implementing the recommendations of the State Human Rights Commission in the matter.
 The families contended that during the intervening night of 3/ 4 August  in 1998, 19 members comprising six males and 13 females of three families were allegedly killed in the house of Hussain Muhammad Sheikh with alleged “active participation” of then SSP J P Singh, Surankote, Major Gora of 9 Para Rashtriya Rifiles C/O 56 APO, Sevak Singh Additional SP Poonch, SPOs Muhammad Younis alias Tiger, Muhammad Rafiq Gujjar alias Pathan, and Havaldars Maqsood Ahmad and Muhammad Akbar who were posted at Police Station Poonch.
The petitioners stated that massacre of 19 members with age ranging from 4 years to 70 years including a pregnant woman, Zareena Begum, was reported widely in the media and Police Station Surankote had registered an FIR 122 of 98 under various criminal sections of RPC on August 4.
  The petition stated that SHRC after taking suo-moto cognizance of the matter investigated the “carnage’” by conducting on-the-spot investigation. The Commission had presented inquiry report before the Government.
 “The SHRC first published an interim report and subsequently a final report which was presented to then Chief Minister,” the petition states.
In its concluding report, the SHRC stated that that one Zakir Hussain basically a militant surrendered before the Army and was recruited as SPO who worked with the Army. “He recruited three more persons from Gujjar community and remained attached to local Army,” the report states.
 The report said that a militant Imtiyaz Sheikh operating in the area was leading a group of militants there.
 “Zakir Hussain along with his group in association with the Army were attempting to nab Imtiyaz, his father, Lassa Khan. On this pretext, they searched their house frequently. Five days prior to the killings, there was a rumour that Imtiyaz has come to village Sailan. Zakir Hussain with his associates might have been on alert to catch Imtiyaz,” the report states.
 “So the militant Imtiyaz was not only conscious of being wanted but they might have been chasing Zakir Hussain, who fell to the bullets of some unknown gunmen on at Sailna. Zakir’s Group lost its leader, army lost its trusted informer and father lost his son. While lifting Zakir’s body, Army had vowed to wipe out 20 persons before his burial,” the report said.
 “As a natural consequence of Zakir’s killing could not be ignored, moreover, the involvement of Imtiyaz and his group could not be ruled out. The facts reveal the whole family of militant Imtiyaz including his father Lassa Sheikh together with the family of Ahmad Din got brutally killed on the same night when the SPO Zakir was killed,” the report revealed.
It added: “One glaring fact was noted that when the bloodbath of 19 persons was going on in the house of Ahmad Din, Army did not come to the spot when its picket was just 200 metres away. The silence of the army over the incident was not meaningless; the uniformed persons were seen moving with torch-lights around the scene of occurrence.”
 The report further said “though there was no direct evidence against a particular person, question doesn’t travel beyond the belief that three unnamed associate SPOs of the slain SPO, his relations joined by the security forces of the area have to shoulder the allegations of the massacre of innocent souls because the statements recorded and the expressions gathered indicated so.”
In the final report, the SHRC recommend that the State Home Department should issue directions to SP Poonch to identify the three SPOs who were Zakir’s associates. It had also recommended that the Unified Command is under obligation to take stock of the occurrence where the Army personnel of the picket did not react at the time of the massacre.
The petitioners were represented by Advocate Parvaiz Imroz , State by SAAG, A M Magray and Shujaul Haq Tantray and  the Union government by S A Makroo.

FAMILY SPEAKS
“Police investigation has left us in a state of dejection and we are reposing trust in CBI investigation. We have heard that CBI carries out the investigation in a fair manner. But time will prove if it would deliver justice or not,” Latif Sheikh, whose parents and four sisters were killed, said.
He said though the order of HC has “given us some relief it is not wise to gloat over the decision as it depends upon CBI now to deliver justice.”

Lastupdate on : Wed, 21 Nov 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 21 Nov 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 22 Nov 2012 00:00:00 IST




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