JEHANGIR ALI | 3 MARCH, 2017
JK High Court Acquits Peer Held For Raping Girls In Seminary
SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has acquitted an infamous faith healer, Gulzar Ahmad Bhat aka Gulzar Peer, who was held on charge of raping girl students at his religious seminary, in a case which shook the Valley in 2013.
A division bench of Justices Janak Raj Kotwal and BS Walia of Jammu wing of the High Court acquitted Gulzar and 12 other people listed as accused in the case by upholding the judgement of the lower court.
"The judgement of acquittal rendered by the learned trial court does not call for any interference by this court and this appeal (against the acquittal of Gulzar by the state government) is therefore dismissed as without any merit," the court said.
After massive public pressure against his acquittal by the Principal Sessions court in Budgam in 2015, the State government had filed an appeal in the High Court. Veteran Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani had also spoken out against Gulzar's acquittal.
The case dates back to the December of 2012 when four victims accused Gulzar, who commanded a massive following in the entire valley with some politicians, bureaucrats and even police officers as his clients, of raping them at his institute in Shamsabad village.
The case had cast a dark shadow on the nature of the faith healers' business in the Valley where people follow a liberal interpretation of Islam and faith healers, popularly known as peers, are known to have worked miracles in cases where even medical science has failed.
Coming down heavily on the J&K police for "miserably" failing to prove the case, the court pointed out that the reason for delay in filing of FIR and failure to prove the seizure of evidence from Gulzar's home turned "lethal" for the case.
According to court records, the victims had turned to various political and religious leaders, including a prominent separatist leader, for help since December 2012 before approaching the police in May 18, 2013 when the case was filed and the accused was arrested.
These leaders were never examined or listed as witnesses in the case.
The police had listed 13 people as accused in the case and 18 prosecution witnesses were identified of whom all but one were examined: Tehsildar Mohammad Hussain Shah, who died of "natural causes", according to police.
Shah was a prosecution witness and as executive magistrate of the area, had sealed the material, including mattresses, tape recorder, etc. used by the accused during the crime, which were recovered from the institute.
Going against the laid down procedures in law, the police had made no secondary witness to the sealing of the material. The court observed that the sealing of these materials could not be proved which went against the prosecution's theory.
The scale of negligence on part of J&K police in the case can be gauged from the fact that the date of birth of one victim was recorded as that of her brother, although they are not twins.
Earlier in December last year, Gulzar had approached the Supreme Court, seeking transfer of his case to any other High Court of the country, arguing that he was not able to get a good lawyer to fight his case due to the sensitivities involved in the matter.