The judge of the trial court hearing the Junaid Khan murder case has sought action against a senior government lawyer for allegedly helping persons charged with killing the 15-year-old. In an interim order on October 25, Additional District and Sessions Judge, Faridabad, Y S Rathore said that Additional Advocate General Naveen Kaushik was assisting the counsel of the main accused, Naresh Kumar, in cross-examination of prosecution witnesses. As per court records, the judge said Kaushik was “suggesting questions to be put to the witnesses” at two hearings, on October 24 and 25.
“This act of Mr Naveen Kaushik, Additional Advocate General Haryana amounts to professional misconduct and is against legal ethics and highly unbecoming of an Advocate, particularly because he is a Law Officer in the office of Advocate General, Haryana,” Judge Rathore said on October 25.
Stating that it is a sensitive case in which “according to prosecution case, one boy of minority community was killed during the quarrel in a train over sharing of seats with passengers of majority community after the deceased was allegedly abused on religious lines”, the judge said in case Kaushik appears along with the defence counsel, “it will send a wrong signal and will also create a feeling of insecurity amongst the victim party and will adversely effect the aim of the court to conduct free and fair trial”.
Judge Rathore added, “Accordingly, a letter be written to Hon’ble Punjab & Haryana High Court, Chandigarh for taking up matter with the State Government, Office of Advocate General, Haryana and Bar Council of Punjab & Haryana, Chandigarh for taking necessary action against him.”
Junaid, his brother and two cousins had been attacked on a Mathura-bound train in June by a mob, which also hurled communal slurs against them. The 15-year-old later died of stabbing injuries. The trial court recently framed charges against Naresh Kumar among others.
Kaushik told The Indian Express that “it is a wrong impression” that he was assisting the defence counsel. “I have not appeared in the case and have no connection with it. I was there only because I am the organising secretary of the Bharatiya Bhasha Abhiyan in the north region and the counsel appearing for one of the accused is known to me. He had requested the court that evidence be recorded in Hindi as is provided in the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). On October 25, he asked me if I could provide him the relevant provision of law and so I went there to give it to him.”
The Bhasha Abhiyan, according to Kaushik, works for the cause of getting courts to function in Indian languages. Asked about the judge specifically mentioning that he was suggesting questions to the defence counsel, Kaushik said, “It is a wrong impression. I was giving him the provisions of law regarding Hindi language. It was relevant to court proceedings since the evidence was being recorded and there is no provision for translation of evidence in English. It can only be translated when both the parties agree to it.”
According to the day’s order, an application was moved that day for recording evidence of witnesses in Hindi by advocate Vishal Jolly. The lawyer was informed that “evidence is being recorded in Hindi and separately being typed in English on the computer and same practice is adopted in all the Sessions trials”.
Advocate General, Haryana, Baldev Raj Mahajan told The Indian Express that he was not aware of Kaushik’s appearance in the case and would take appropriate action once it comes to his notice. “AAGs (additional advocate generals) are not debarred from private practice except in cases where the state government is a party,” he said.
The Junaid case is being tried as ‘State of Haryana Vs Naresh Kumar’.
According to Judge Rathore’s order, when the court told Kaushik that he could not appear along with the defence counsel in the case, being a law officer of the government, Kaushik said he had “come only to watch the court proceedings”, and that “on being confronted, Naveen Kaushik has left the court room”.
The Additional Advocate General incidentally was seen at the hearing on the same day that Junaid’s father Jalaluddin filed a petition in the Punjab & Haryana High Court seeking transfer of the probe from the Haryana Police to an independent agency such as the CBI, as well as security for his family and the prosecution witnesses.
“It is the grievance of the petitioner that the statement of all the witnesses has been deliberately distorted to introduce ambiguity, discrepancies and contradictions, with the calculated interest of benefiting the accused,” Jalaluddin’s counsel said in the plea. He also said a person who was among the attackers was made a witness to help the accused.
Earlier this month, rejecting the bail plea of one of the main accused, Rameshwar Dass, the high court had said “there is every likelihood of prosecution witnesses being put in jeopardy”.