In an unusual move, a designated court of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) transferred the bail hearing of an accused in a case of alleged “subversive activities” in J&K to another court on the same day it was expected to dispose of the application.
The NIA court of District and Sessions Judge (DSJ) Poonam A Bamba had been hearing the bail plea of the accused, photojournalist Kamran Yusuf, since October 17, 2017. The court had marked January 12 as the “disposal” date. Yusuf’s BAIL application will now be heard again by the court of Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) Tarun Sehrawat, who has marked January 18 as the next date of hearing. Along with Yusuf’s plea, DSJ Bamba transferred 10 other NIA cases to the court of ASJ Sehrawat.
In response to Yusuf’s bail plea, in December the NIA had submitted to the court that Yusuf was not cooperating with the investigators — “…nor has he put forth accurate information, including passwords to his device, which are necessary for the purpose of investigation”. The agency said that his BSNL mobile phone SIM card — the “most important evidence”, which could have led to the recovery of chats he had had on social media with other stone-pelters — was not found in his possession. It could not be recovered, the agency informed the court.
On the assertion that Yusuf was a photojournalist, the NIA submitted that he had worked as a freelancer with a newspaper, and was on probation for five months at a news channel. Verification of Yusuf’s claims of being a photojournalist is still “under process”, it submitted.
The NIA informed the court that whether Yusuf is “freelancing and selling photographs to various entities is irrelevant to the present case, as that is just a cover and does not absolve him in any way of the offences committed by him”.
Yusuf was held on September 5, 2017, on an FIR in which seven others were arrested in July for alleged terror funding. Among those arrested was Altaf Ahmad Shah, alias Altaf Fantosh, son-in-law of Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
Yusuf has been accused of “being actively involved in stone-pelting incidents at various locations in the Kashmir Valley”. According to the NIA, he was also allegedly in “regular touch with anti-national elements”.