Police report says he crossed LoC several times; acted as militant for 8 years; attacked Army

The Jammu and Kashmir Police have found the topper in current year’s Higher Judicial Service selection to be a former Pakistan-trained militant who served as “Deputy Chief of Al-Jehad,” lobbed grenades at the Army, sustained gunshot injuries in an encounter and remained in jail for 14 months under the Public Safety Act (PSA).

He is among the 215 advocates, with an eligibility of seven years of practice, who appeared for the written examination. A two-member committee of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court (JKHC), comprising Justices Virender Singh and J.P. Singh, completed the selection process in July 2012. It subsequently recommended a list of nine candidates for appointment as district and sessions judges. Even as the Law Department started the process with character verification of the candidates, a group of failed contenders challenged the ab initio selection process ab initio in the Supreme Court and got it stayed.

Militant links

But on Friday last, a Bench of Justices Aftab Aalam and Ranjana Desai vacated the stay, but only in favour of seven respondent candidates. According to official sources, one of the candidates was being dropped as his marks in a question had been counted twice “inadvertently.” The fate of another candidate, who figured on top of the list, is likely to be determined in February next. One of the petitioners has submitted an additional application, challenging the topper’s selection on account of his character verification by the police. A newspaper clipping, reporting that the selected candidate had “militant links”, has formed the basis of the fresh petition.

The verification, carried out by the J&K Police in October and November was submitted to the Law Department. An official communication forwarded to Civil Secretariat and accessed by The Hindu reveals the topper “is aged about 40 years and LLB by qualification. Recently he has been appointed as judge. Report further reveals that subject is Pak-trained militant, had illegally crossed LoC several times for seeking subversive training in 1990.”

Shady antecedents

It adds: “He has remained Dy Chief of Al-Jehad outfit and Publicity Chief of Shoora Jehad. He was active from 1991 to 1998 in militancy-related activities. The subject fired upon the Army in 1991 in which he himself has got bullet injury. On 17-04-1998, he was arrested by SOG Srinagar at Aali Kadal Srinagar and a case FIR No: 82/1998 u/s 201 RPC, 7/27 I.A. Act stands registered against him in P/S M.R Gunj [Police Station Maharaja Ranbir Gunj Srinagar] and [the Police] recovered Rs. 11 lakh from his possession. The challan of the case has been produced in the Hon’ble Court of Law for judicial determination on 12/08/1998. It is further learnt that subject has [remained] detained under PSA in Central Jail Srinagar from 25-05-1998 to 31-07-1999”.

In 1990s, Al-Jehad was a formidable pro-Pakistan militant outfit and Shoora-e-Jehad, an umbrella of pro-Pakistan guerrilla groups based in Muzzafarabad and Islamabad. CID officials have confirmed to higher authorities that the candidate under verification had “evidence of gunshot injury” on his hand.

The disputed topper in the final select list, who requested he may not be identified publicly, declined to respond to the specific queries. He asserted that that he would not respond to the “unofficial police reports” in advance of submitting his reply to the court as and when he receives a notice.

State had no role

Advocate General, Mohammad Ishaq Qadiri, told The Hindu that the State government had no role in the selection. He elaborated that the selection process was the exclusive responsibility of the J&K High Court. JKHC recommends select list to the Law Department which processes it further for the Cabinet approval. The Governor, under the law, is the authority to appoint D&SJs, who hold a Constitutional position and adjudicate serious criminal matters such as murder.