Credited with killing 68 terrorists in Chenab Valley region of Jammu and Kashmir, a prominent encounter specialist, Sub-Inspector Shiv Kumar alias Sonu, who among over half a dozen people including his PSO was arrested by state police on charges of first encouraging local youth to join terrorist ranks and then killing them to receive rewards has been acquitted by Principal Sessions Judge, Bhaderwah, M K Sharma as 15 important prosecution witnesses turned hostile.
Dismissing the charges levelled against him, the judge observed that “before drawing the curtain in the case, court cannot help observing that this is a case in which the police cited as many as 93 witnesses to establish various charges against the accused persons. “Surprisingly, majority of the witnesses including some police personnel and respectable people of the locality have turned hostile, alleging that they were tortured, threatened and detained to make statements against accused during the course of investigations; the judge observed, adding that these also included nine of the 15 witnesses examined under Section 164 of Criminal Procedure Code.
“This is a dangerous trend. It shall not be out of place to mention here that the power of the police to arrest a person or launch prosecution has to be exercised judiciously and not at the whims and fancies and arbitrarily. The creation of evidence under threat or coercion will have serious fallouts,; the judge observed.
Pointing out that it shall not be proper at this stage to issue a notice of perjury to the witnesses who made contradictory statements during the trial, the judge said that “I leave it to the discretion of the district police chief to first hold a preliminary inquiry and if warranted launch prosecution for perjury.
The other accused acquitted in the case included Sonu, PSO Mohammad Ayub, besides Abdul Rashid, Altaf Hussain, Mohammad Rafi, Mohammad Yaqoob and Arshad Ahmed.
According to police story, Shiv Kumar alias Sonu along with his PSO Mohammad Ayub and other accused Arshad Ahmed and Mohammad Arif Naik, in order to get out of turn promotions as well as cash rewards and publicity, hatched a conspiracy to engage two Kashmiri boys to operate as militants in Kishtwar and Doda districts. The boys have been identified as Muzaffar Ahmed and Shahbaz, both residents of Pulwama.
On April 14, 2013, Shiv Kumar called Abdul Rashid to Kishtwar and next morning gave him a bag containing a pistol and an AK 56 rifle along with ammunition, besides three Chinese grenades and sent him to Sahara. Rashid, in turn, distributed the pistol, AK 56 rifle and grenades among Mohammad Rafi, Akhtar Hussain, Shahbaz and Muzaffer.
Five days thereafter, Abdul Rashid asked Mohammad Altaf to throw a grenade on the cavalcade of state Chief Secretary who was returning from Kishtwar, or on the group of people or on Thathri police station. Altaf, however, threw the grenade at the police station on the intervening night of April 27-28, 2013, which did not explode. During the investigation, Mohammad Rafi was arrested and he narrated the entire story to the police.