SRINAGAR: One of the major arguments against the team that cracked the Kathua rape and murder case was that one of the officers of the team has a criminal background and had been jailed in past. He was also accused of resorting to torturing the individuals held in the Kathua case.
His name is Urfan Ahmad Wani, a Dy SP rank officer. He was part of the overall Crime Branch investigations led by Naveed Peerzada and supervised by Sr SP R K Jalla.
Senior journalist Ahmad Ali Fayaz reported in the Quint that Urfan was actually framed for not obliged the BJP leaders in the Chaneb Valley.
Wani, according to Fayyaz faced two ‘dubious’ cases: in first he was charged with the custodial murder of Rishi Kumar on 24 April 2007 and then on next day he was charged with the rape of Rishi Kumar’s sister. Wani has been in custody from October 2009 to March 2011, when he was released on bail. And finally, he was acquitted of all charges on May 11, 2017.
It all started on May 17, 2006, near Swara village in Doda, where militants had intercepted a Tata Sumo car which had only the family of local BJP leader Mela Ram and his personal security officer (PSO) inside it. The militants took the rifle away from Ram’s PSO and allowed them all to leave unharmed.
The PSO went to the nearest VDC guards and complained about the militants stealing his rifle, the report said. To avoid any kind of investigation into the stolen rifle, the guards fired indiscriminately into the air to feign a confrontation with militants which they could use to justify losing the rifle. Farooq Ahmad Khan (28), who was grazing his sheep nearby, was fatally hit by one of these stray bullets. He was declared ‘brought dead’ at Public Health Centre (PHC) in Gandoh.
An FIR was filed by Khan’s family under sections 302 and 109 of Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) against the members of the VDC at the Gandoh police station. Wani got the case as he was the additional SHO of the police station.
His investigation proved the case against the VDC members. A charge-sheet was filed against six accused members of the VDC on July 02, 2007. However, Wani was transferred before the charge-sheet was filed. He says that during this time, BJP leaders left no stone unturned in exerting pressure on him. He had named a former BJP state President, DK Kotwal, as one of those pressurising him.
But later on April 02, 2007, a man called Madan Lal was killed in a family dispute. Wani got the case as he was posted as the SHO of the Karara police station, where the incident occurred.
Madan Lal’s father, Fulail Singh, his stepbrother, Rishi Kumar, his sister, and other family members were called in for questioning. The trial records categorically state that the sister was questioned while other family, relatives and the sarpanch of the village, Mohammad Ramzan, was present.
Since it was getting late in the evening, Ramzan insisted that the girl and her sister-in-law (wife of the deceased) stay at the police post and return to Chirala the next day. On April 19, Lal’s father and step-brother Rishi Kumar, along with some more family members, were arrested. Rishi was taken to a judicial magistrate for remand on April 20, 2007. But Rishi fell ill on the same day and had to be rushed by Wani to the local public healthcare centre. He was referred to the District Hospital in Doda and therefrom to Government Medical College (GMC) Jammu on April 22. After two days he died in the hospital.
After Rishi died, his family filed a case of custodial killing against Wani. And a day after Rishi’s death, his sister accused Wani of holding her against her will in his room in the Karara police post. She said he beat her and raped her repeatedly for seven days – he was subsequently charged with rape and was suspended a day later.
“Wani, whose marriage was approaching, fell into depression. He was treated by private psychiatrists and a government hospital for psychiatric diseases in Srinagar from June 2007 onwards,” the report said. “His marriage was called off.”
Wani says these charges were levied against him to put pressure on him, as this was also the time that the charge sheet against the six accused in the VDC murder case was being filed. “The BJP offered him a deal: They would withdraw both cases if he only shut down the VDC investigation,” it said.
The Quint reported that charges were framed against Wani when he refused to oblige local and senior leaders of BJP, including two former state presidents. They wanted him to hush up a murder case against members of the Village Defence Committee (VDC) in Swara, Doda.
Wani claims to have recorded phone conversations with politicians in which they said they would withdraw both FIRs against him if he agreed to withdraw his investigation into the murder cases against the VDC members. “One of the leaders he claims spoke to him is now a BJP MLA from that area,” the report said. “But, Wani says, unsure of their word, he chose not to give in. He decided to continue his investigation into the murder case. This defiance turned the BJP leaders against him.”
But Wani preferred to surrender on October 12, 2009 and was granted bail on March 08, 2011. Meanwhile, trial in the court of Additional Sessions Judge Doda commenced in the murder case from April 08, 2009 and in the rape case from October 22, 2010.
For the rape charge, the police didn’t find any material or circumstantial evidence of “recent rape”. It was also proved that Wani was at the Karara police post for only six of the seven days during which was accused of raping Rishi’s sister. The complainant in the rape case was repeatedly summoned to court, but she didn’t appear even once for about eight years.
Eleven months after in April 2007, a Deputy SP got her statement recorded under section 164-A Cr PC before a magistrate in Jammu. The statement given by the woman didn’t identify witnesses. Even the original copy was not provided to the trial court. And, she chose not to appear for cross-examination.
In the murder case, the report said, the court documents stated that Rishi had high jaundice levels that contributed to his death, and noted that there were no external injury marks or injuries in his vital organs.
On May 11, 2017, Additional Sessions Judge Doda dismissed both the cases as not admitted and acquitted Wani of all the charges.
“…I am of this considered opinion that the prosecution has failed to establish the charge u/s 376 RPC (rape) against the accused beyond any reasonable shadow of a doubt. The net result of which is that this challan fails and is accordingly dismissed as not proved an accused is acquitted of all the charges levelled against him,” the report quotes the judgement ruling on 11 May 2017. In an identical order on the same day, the trial court dismissed the alleged murder case and acquitted Wani of all charges.
The inquiry ordered by former IGP Jammu Dilbagh Singh also exonerated him of all charges of professional misconduct and criminal involvement. He was reinstated with full benefits.
His departmental inquiry was conducted by three successive senior superintendents of police and supervised by two DIGs of Doda, Munish Kumar Sinha and Basant Kumar Rath. IGP Jammu SD Singh Jamwal accepted the fresh report submitted by DIG Basant Rath and ordered Wani’s total exoneration and reinstatement with full benefits. Sinha is now IGP and posted as Joint Director with CBI.
“Those were totally concocted and unfounded cases against him,” Fayyaz quoted Sinha saying. “He was an innocent officer and had been framed. I feel vindicated that nothing was proved against him in the judicial trial, leading to him being exonerated of all charges.”