NEW DELHI: After police registered a case of “attempt to suicide” against Bakerwal activist Talib Hussain, the Supreme Court heard a habeas corpus petition alleging torture meted out to the activist in the police custody, on Wednesday, August 7, 2018. A key mobiliser in Kathua rape and murder case, Hussain was placed in police custody last Wednesday under the Arms Act following rape allegations.

A three-member bench — comprising Chief Justice of India Deepak Misra, Justices DY Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee — heard the matter at 11:15 am today, August 8, 2018. Senior advocate Indira Jaising and advocate Sunil Fernandes submitted that the moment there’s torture perpetrated against the accused/prisoner, the custody becomes unlawful. Supreme Court has issued a notice to the J&K Police to file a reply to the allegations. The matter will be next heard on August 21, 2018.

Seeking judicial intervention, Hussain’s family moved Supreme Court and demanded protection of his life and limbs. “On August 6, when some family members of Talib Hussian went to Samba Police Station to meet him, police started thrashing him mercilessly. While his head was bleeding due to grave injuries, police did not allow them to talk to him. Instead they were chased away,” said a relative of the activist pleading anonymity.

Mubeen Farooqi, counsel of the Kathua rape and murder victim’s family, who filed petition in the Supreme Court, also complained of police misconduct during his visit to the police station: “After I came to know that Talib Hussian has been arrested in a fake rape case, I rushed to Samba Police Station on August 2. SHO Chanchal Singh initially did not allow me to meet him for his signatures on the Vakalatnama. In fact he asked me to first show court orders to meet Talib Hussain. Requested to give his instructions in writing, the SHO lost his cool and started misbehaving with me.”

“Finally, when I was allowed to meet him, Talib Hussain came across deeply distressed, pale and unhealthy. He confided to me that police were harassing him in every possible way and could even kill him for raising hue and cry over Kathua case,” Mubeen maintained, alleging that Talib Hussain was stripped naked and beaten in the police custody, inflicting life-threatening injuries upon him.

Demanding that the State be directed to produce Hussain before the Court, the petition maintains that the FIRs against him are aimed at persecuting the activist for his “crusading role as a social activist” in the Kathua case.

“Both the PSO’s—who were allotted by the J&K Police to Talib Hussain following an order by the apex court on April 18— have testified before the State High Court that Talib didn’t manhandled his wife on June 25 as alleged in the domestic violence and dowry demand complaint. They told court that Talib Hussain was 200 kms away from his wife on the said date, attending the All Tribal Coordination Committee Conference at Banihal,” maintained Farooqi.

“During our meeting at the police station, Talib Hussain also told me that police have threatened to slap more FIRs on him and won’t let him get off the hook,” he claimed, adding that “such false cases won’t stand judicial scrutiny in the days to come. They just want to make an example out of Hussain after the popular anger over Kathua case has subsided. But such dirty tricks will certainly weaken Kathua case by intimidating key witnesses.”

Pertinently, the rape and murder of eight-year-old nomadic Bakerwal girl in January had created fissures in the state’s coalition government. Several BJP MLAs including two ministers in the former government had openly sided with the accused persons. Subsequently, both the ministers were dropped from the state’s cabinet following public outrage across the country.

J&K Police says ‘suicide attempt’

State Police Chief Shesh Paul Vaid, however, told that Hussain hit himself on the head “out of frustration” and had only sustained scratches. He was taken back to the Samba Police Station from the hospital, he was quoted as saying.

But later in the evening SHO Samba, Chanchal Singh told local press that “Hussain attempted to end his life” by beating his head against the wall in police lock-up. Singh added that Hussain committed offence under Section 309 RPC and another FIR had been registered against him.

Previously, Hussain’s estranged wife had filed a case of dowry and domestic violence against him but the police had been restrained from arresting him by the J&K High Court on July 30. Next day at around 12:30 pm, a police team headed by sub inspector Rajveer Singh from Police Post Mansar, Samba reported Police Station Tral in Pulwama district to arrest Hussain in connection with investigation in FIR 185 under section 307, 382, 363, 323, 354 A and 498 A of RPC. After having learnt that FIR 185 had been stayed by Srinagar wing of the State High Court, Samba police registered another FIR 211 on the same date and time and the police team arrested Hussain under section 376 RPC and 4/25 of arms act on the direction of SHO Samba.

The complainant in rape case in her police statement had alleged that Hussain met her in a forest area about a month and a half ago, where he armed with a meat chopper, pushed her on the ground, touched her private parts and then attempted rape.

On Tuesday, Hussain’s wife appeared in Samba District Court and filed a petition seeking maintenance through Jammu based advocate AK Sawhney. Incidentally, Sawhney is also a counsel representing the accused persons in Kathua case in Pathankot district and sessions court, where day-to-day in-camera trial is underway as directed by the apex court during transfer of the case from Jammu.

Speaking to the local media on the court premises, Sawhney alleged that Rasana (Kathua) abduction, gangrape and murder case was the handiwork of Hussain, who subsequently organised protests and communalised the entire issue.

Sawhney further claimed that Hussain’s wife has also filed a rape case against his brother.

Pertinently, Hussain’s father-in-law Mohammad Tahir and BJP MLA Choudhary Lal Singh had earlier alleged that the activist has connections with separatists and is responsible for several bomb blasts in Jammu besides the attack on an Army camp Sunjwan in February.

(Courtesy Leaflet)