SRINAGAR: A Srinagar court’s order has revived hopes for getting justice to a city family that lost its only breadwinner in the custody of the police, almost a quarter-century ago.
Muhammad Ramzan Bhat, a resident of Miskeen Bagh was allegedly killed in police custody during the intervening night of May 31 and June 1, 1996. He had been accused of being a militant and involved in three civilian killings, allegations not substantiated by any material on record with the court, so far.
Bhat was a daily wager with the PDD, who also ran a small provision store in his locality to supplement the family income. Interestingly, he had returned the same day home after being with election duty for four days, reports appearing in the media said.
The court of Second Additional Munsiff on October 28, 2021, has directed the city police chief to constitute a Special Investigation Team (SIT) that, apart from investigating the murder, must probe the erstwhile station house officer heading the Rainawari police station and his colleagues. The direction also seeks answers why an earlier SIT was sitting over the case for three years.
According to the details mentioned in the 11-page order, on June 1, 1996, the police station at Khanyar got a doket that two militants from Zarb-ul-Mujahideen – Mohammad Ramzan Bhat and Mehraj ud Din Mir, were killed when they fired upon security forces at Miskeen Bagh. After the autopsy, the bodies were handed over to the families and the case was closed as untraced.
Ramzan’s wife, Jameela petitioned the higher-ups and the SSP Srinagar reopened the case. She pleaded that the encounter was fake and the real reasons were that two guards – Majeed and Azam Gujjar, posted at Social Welfare Department’s Miskeen Bagh premises, had taken provisions from her husband’s shop on credit. When Bhat, according to the details mentioned in the order, sought Rs 7500, the duo, annoyed over repayment calls, conspired with SHO Rainawari and Bhat was arrested from his shop. Later, Bhat was taken to the interior of Miskeen Bagh where he was killed and Mir was asked to run and later fired upon, He was driven to SMHS in an injured condition where he also died.
Jameela has been witness to her husband’s arrest and public beating before that and has seen him being taken into the police station in an unconscious state.
On Jameela’s pleading, the SSP Srinagar reopened the case and constituted a SIT on May 5, 2006. SP City (North) had handed over the investigation of the case to SDPO, Khanyar on April 23, 2009. The communication mentions that the SIT has not completed the investigations in the case. The court has seen the SP North order as “insubordination” and “bad in the eyes of law”.
“It has been further stated that according to the report dated 11.02.2017 the main points reflects that “SHO Rainawari the then SHO Mir Hussain, Constable Nooruddin 427 9th BTN, Constable Ali Mohammad 2066 have misled the investigating agency and provided false details of the incident,” the order has mentioned the developments that have taken place in the case.
The order has also put on record a communication that Additional DGP, CID sent to DIG Srinagar on October 20, 2005, in which it has detailed the outcome of its field investigation. “The said shopkeeper when demanded the money, both the guarded (sic) personnel got annoyed and they with the help of SOG Rainawari arrested him along with Mehraj ud Din. It has also been reported that they torched (sic) him which resulted into his death. The guard personnel and SOG Rainawari then threw his dead body in the nallah and told Mehraj ud Din to run away. They fired upon him thereby causing him injuries who was admitted to SMHS hospital by his in-laws. The said Mehraj ud Din told to his in-laws that Mohammad Ramzan Bhat was killed during torture. However, Mehraj ud Din also succumbed to his injuries further report reveals that Mohammad Ramzan was not involved in subversive activities.”
Besides, the order has also put on record the finding of the autopsy. “The deceased under autopsy has sustained sharp penetrating injury to right paraspinal region leading to liver laceration profuse haemorrhage shock cardiorespiratory arrest and death.”
The police, according to the order has accused the slain of being terrorists, who were involved in three civilian killings and kidnappings but nothing has been put on record to substantiate the allegations.
It was on basis of these facts that the court has directed for the constitution of a SIT that will investigate the murder and the role of the cops mentioned in the case. “It is very unfortunate that 25 years have elapse since the case was registered in the year 1996 and till date the case has not been taken to its logical conclusion,” the court has observed. It has termed the police closure report as “botched up investigations”. SSP Srinagar has been given six months to conclude the investigations.
Though the family was chasing the case with politicians and the erstwhile SHRC, they finally petitioned the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) seeking the status of the case. Within 10 days, the police submitted the case closure report on March 15, 2021. This led the widow to file a protest petition that led to the reopening of the case and the subsequent orders.