D A RASHID (Srinagar) Jan 31: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Thursday directed the Crime Branch Investigating officer probing the custodial killing of Muhammad Sultan Bhat of Ganderbal to appear before it along with case diaries to explain the conflicting status reports submitted in the court hitherto.
A bench of Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar directed the IO to remain present in the court on next date of hearing to explain the conflicting reports after CB filed the latest status report in the court.
The latest status report filed by the Crime Branch indicates that the investigation concluded in the case hitherto has revealed two versions stating one is based on the statements of the relatives of the deceased Muhammad Sultan Bhat and the next has come forth in view of the statements of the Army personnel.
“So to conclude the investigation, the arrest of Mumma Ikhwani is imperative,” said the report.
“To secure the presence of Major Adjutant M R Nunia and Major Sunny Kurian and then Commanding officer 5 RR Camp Duderhama Ganderbal for their custodial interrogation, correspondence was made with army authorities and simultaneously an application was moved before the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate Srinagar under the relevant sect of Police Act, seeking warrant of arrest against the accused Majors,” the report said.
It said the CJM issued warrant of arrest against the two Army majors and directed the Brigade Commander 3 sector RR Mansbal Camp to execute the same. According to the report, the court directed that after their arrest the Army officers be produced before it.
The report revealed that in the wake of the issuance of the arrest warrant, the Army authorities presented Major Sunny Kurian (now Col) before the CJM Srinagar. “However, the court directed Sunny to cooperate with the investigating agency for conducting further investigation,” said the report.
The report said that Major Adjutant M R Nunia was not produced before the court as army authorities reported that he had already retired from service saying it would take more time to get his present address.
As per the orders of the Court, Col Sunny and then Commanding Officer 5 RR were produced before the IO and were examined. “Both the Army officers revealed that during the intervening night of 19/20 September 1999, an ambush was laid in the area of Dilar Mansbal following intelligence inputs that militants were present in the area. And one militant was killed while the others fled the spot after an encounter ensued in the area.”
“ They ( Army officers) further said the slain militant was not picked up from his house but was a part of the militants who opened fire on ambush party at Dilar Ganderbal,” said the report.
The report indicated that during the course of investigation, mother and brother of Bhat in their statements said that the deceased was picked up by Ghulam Muhammad Sheikh alias Mumma Ikhwani and the witnesses have not named any of the Army personnel. “The arrest of Mumma Ikhwani is necessary to know the actual facts which led to the killing of Sultan Bhat,” said the report.
Interestingly in November last year, the IO of Crime Branch had informed the High Court that he had received a communication from Army confirming that Major Adjutant M R Nunia and Major Sunny Kurian have shot dead Bhat in 1999.
A Crime Branch probe report had earlier named Major Adjutant S Sehgal, Lance Naik Vikram Singh, and Vinod Kumar of 5 Rashtriya Rifles as the main accused in the case. The report had also indicted Ghulam Muhammad Sheikh alias Mama Ikhwani who it said was physically guiding and instructing 5 RR in Ganderbal.
Bhat was picked up during the intervening night of September 19- 20, 1999, by Army’s unit of 5 RR stationed at Ganderbal from his residence with Ghulam Muhammad Sheikh alias Mama Ikhwani guiding them to Bhat’s house.
Begum Khatija of Batvina Ganderbal had filed a petition in High Court seeking reinvestigation into the case of kidnapping and custodial killing of her son Sultan Bhat.
The petitioner is seeking implementation of the recommendations of SHRC directing the government to reopen the FIR No. 158 of 1999 registered in Police Station Ganderbal.
After the police investigation, the family had approached the DGP with the request of carrying out fresh investigation into the case. The DGP referred the case to Crime Branch.
The petitioner was represented by Advocate Mian Abdul Qayoom while the state was represented by Shujaul Haque Tantray.