Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah got a clean chit in the much publicized Haji Mohammad Yousuf death case when retired judge of the Supreme Court, H.S. Bedi, submitted the report of a one-man commission of inquiry to the State government in Jammu on Saturday.
Mr. Yousuf’s controversial death, during his questioning at the Chief Minister’s residential office on September 29, 2011, had led to a storm in the mainstream political camp as his family members and several opposition parties levelled allegations of “custodial killing” against the Chief Minister and a coterie of his confidantes.
Mr. Yousuf had been called to Mr. Abdullah’s residence after a National Conference (NC) worker and Mr. Abdullah’s representative in Ganderbal Assembly segment, Mohammad Yousuf Bhat, complained that Mr. Yousuf had collected Rs. 87 lakh from him with the promise that he would be nominated as an MLA and thereafter a Minister of State in charge of the Public Works Department.
According to Mr. Abdullah and former Director General of Police Kuldeep Khoda’s statements, Mr. Bhat claimed that Mr. Yousuf had neither fulfilled his promise, nor returned the money to him. On Mr. Bhat’s verbal complaint Mr. Abdullah, as head of the party, called Mr. Yousuf for verification and handed him over to the then Inspector General of Crime, Raja Aijaz, for the registration of an FIR, investigation and returning of the money to the complainant, if established. Mr. Aijaz brought Mr. Yousuf to his office, where his condition deteriorated and he was admitted to the Police Hospital. He died the next morning.
Responding to a barrage of demands and accusations in the legislature, media and political circles, Mr. Abdullah had announced a judicial inquiry into the circumstances leading to the death of the senior NC activist from Bijbehara in South Kashmir. On November 18, 2011, the government had assigned the inquiry to Justice Bedi. After several extensions were granted to complete the investigation, December 28, 2012 had been fixed as the deadline for the inquiry report’s submission.
The Department of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs released excerpts of the findings, minutes after the 96-page report was handed over to Law Secretary Ghulam Hassan Tantray.
Primarily based on the post mortem report, coupled by a forensic analysis by subject experts at the Forensic Medicine Department of the Government Medical College, Srinagar, Justice Bedi’s report has established “myocardial infarction” as the cause of death. It has not found any other factor responsible for Mr. Yousuf’s death — dismissing allegations that the deceased had been severely tortured at Mr. Abdullah’s residence. No evidence of his alleged vomiting in the police vehicle, that carried him first to the State Crime Branch headquarters and later to the hospital, has come up during the course of investigation.
The Then Additional District Magistrate, Srinagar, Mohammad Akbar Ganai, had concluded an inquest in Mr. Yousuf’s death on identical lines.