Denying interim relief to journalist and author Gowhar Geelani, booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the J&K High Court on Friday issued a notice to the Union Territory government and listed the case for May 20.
Geelani, who was booked by the J-K Police under the anti-terror law for his social media posts, had filed a petition in the court challenging the jurisdiction of the Cyber Police Station in filing of the FIR, interim protection from arrest and quashing of the FIR. Geelani and a freelance photojournalist were booked for their social media posts which the police termed as “seditious, incendiary, and incriminating.”
The case came up for hearing earlier in the day through video conferencing before Justice Ali Mohammad Magray. In his petition, Geelani’s counsel Salih Peerzada challenged the jurisdiction of the Cyber Police Station to file FIR against Geelani.
“Cyber Police Station, Kashmir Zone has no jurisdiction to register and investigate the case relating to offences falling under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 and Indian Penal Code, as the concerned Police Station has been declared as Police Station for the purpose of registration and investigation of the case(s) regarding the offences falling under provisions of Information Technology, Act, 2000 and other allied offences…,” Peerzada argued in the court.
Responding to Peerzada’s arguments, Senior Additional Advocate General B A Dar informed the court that the case against Geelani has been shifted out of the Cyber Police Station.
“Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, transferred the case to Police Station, Sadder, for investigation in terms of order dated 22.04.2020, therefore, the jurisdiction aspect of the matter is not available to the petitioner to seek quashing of the FIR, which otherwise also, cannot be a ground for quashing of FIR,” government counsel Dar argued.
While the court didn’t provide any relief to Geelani, it listed the case again for May 20 and issued notices to the respondents.
In his petition, Geelani’s counsel Peerzada has argued that mere expression of opinion of political or apolitical in nature on a public forum doesn’t ipso facto constitute an offence. Even as the J-K Police is silent on the sections invoked against Geelani, the petition said that he has been booked under section 13 of Unlawful Activities Prevention ACT (UAPA) and section 505 of Indian Penal Code.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Geelani said that all the charges against him are baseless. “I have always condemned all forms of violence through social media,” the journalist said.
In fact, Geelani was one of the first journalists in the valley to voice his opinion about young boys joining militantcy.
“Kashmir is fast losing its precious human resource, the young boys in teens. And we can’t afford to normalize this colossal human tragedy. Mourning can’t be our permanent politics. Funerals of our young can’t be our political events. This tragedy is the outcome of the absence of meaningful sincere and clean politics,” he had tweeted last year.
On Thursday, the Press Council of India condemned the FIR on Geelani: “Every citizen of this country including a journalist has the right to express their opinion which may not be palatable to many but this doesn’t give anybody the authority to strangulate such voice”.
Reacting to the court judgment in Geelani’s petition, former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted from her handle run by her daughter Iltija Mufti. “No interim relief for @GowharGeelani. Couldn’t be a starker contrast between SC decision on Arnab Goswami & JK High Court’s ruling. Where should people seek justice if even judiciary is seized by national & anti national narrative?”