What was the Srinagar sex abuse scandal?
The J&K Police’s intelligence wing chanced upon it in August 2004. Following an elaborate covert operation and surveillance of cell phones, a case was registered against Sabina, her husband, four girls and three businessmen on October 14, 2004. Investigations found minor girls were “blackmailed and coerced” into the flesh trade, and supplied to politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen and police and paramilitary officers. But the “explosive details” were hushed up. In March 2006, elders from the welfare committee of Habbakadal neighbourhood in Srinagar approached police with two porn CDs featuring a minor girl and filed a complaint. Following investigations, a Sub-Divisional Police Officer filed a report to his bosses informing them about the involvement of the high-profile individuals. Among 48 names provided by the girl to police were two former ministers and legislators, three SPs, seven DSPs, a BSF DIG, 10 local businessmen and several government officials.
How was the scandal exposed?
On April 29, 2006, The Indian Express exclusively reported the contents of the SDPO’s confidential report. This led to massive protests across the Valley, and police raids on several places in Srinagar. Sensing the intensity of the public outrage, the government handed over the case to the CBI. The J&K High Court Bar Association filed a petition, and the HC initiated proceedings. Two top politicians, a senior bureaucrat, a DIG of BSF, two SPs, and some other officials were arrested.
When did the case go to Chandigarh?
In September 2006, on the direction of the Supreme Court, after the J&K High Court Bar Association asked its members not to take up the case of any accused. Fourteen of the 18 accused were tried in Chandigarh. Among them were former J&K ministers Ghulam Ahmed Mir and Raman Mattoo, BSF DIG K C Padhi, former state Additional Advocate General Anil Sethi, DSP Mohammad Ashraf Mir, IAS officer Mohammad Iqbal Khanday and hotel owner Riyaz Ahmed Kawa. The trial of the four others is pending in a Srinagar court.
After six years of trial in Chandigarh, on September 29, 2012, ADSJ Vimal Kumar acquitted the main accused, including the two former ministers, IAS officer Khanday, and the two main accused, Sabina and her husband Abdul Hamid Bullah, after some of the witnesses turned hostile. Ghulam Ahmad Mir is now the president of Congress in J&K. Khanday is now chief secretary of the state.
What is the latest in the case?
Nearly two years ago, the CBI had wanted the case pending before the Principal Sessions Court in Srinagar to be clubbed with the trials in Chandigarh. “The case is the same and the evidence collected there can be of some help in the cases here. So we had moved SC to transfer that case here for fair trial,” R K Handa, counsel for CBI said. The SC had stayed the trial then. On Thursday, counsel for both CBI and the main accused informed the court in Chandigarh that the SC had dismissed the CBI plea seeking transfer of the main case to Chandigarh. Summons were then issued to the accused and witnesses for July 24.
Srinagar to Chandigarh
In April 2006, The Indian Express reported on the Srinagar sex abuse scandal involving top politicians and officials. Police raids followed, and the J&K govt called in CBI for a thorough and impartial probe. There were violent protests across Kashmir, and the J&K High Court began monitoring the probe on a daily basis. In June, two weeks after arresting two top J&K politicians, CBI arrested Iqbal Khanday, one of the seniormost IAS officers in the state. But in August, the Supreme Court ordered trial of 14 of 18 accused shifted from Srinagar to Chandigarh after the J&K HC Bar Association refused to allow its lawyers to represent any of the accused. Case dragged on until 2012, when the CBI court acquitted five of the main accused.