Omar Abdullah’s arbitrary action?
Questions are being raised whether the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah can order the withdrawal of the sedition case registered against Abdul Ahad Jan, the suspended policeman who threw a shoe at him during the Independence Day parade. It also raises a larger question as to how the political leader could interfere in the procedure laid down by law and take upon himself the power to withdraw such a case.
According to Jan’s lawyer, he had been charged under section 124-A of the Ranbir Penal Code, which is applicable in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Jan had in fact cried before the Magistrate while alleging police torture and his action of throwing the shoe was hailed by a large number of people in the Valley who are apparently unhappy with Omar Abdullah’s style of governance.
What is to be seen is how the police translates Omar’s direction since the offence of sedition is non compoundable and carries punishment upto life imprisonment or life imprisonment with fine or three years in prison depending on the gravity of the case. Secondly, the powers to withdraw such a case only lie with the courts and not with the political authority. Omar is the Chief Minister and not the Monarch of Kashmir who can do what he wishes to and there are laid down mechanisms to deal with cases, which get registered.
But the dilemma before the police will be that if it dilutes its contention in the court to enable the case to be dismissed or withdrawn, it will be doing so at the risk of inviting criticism. All saw the act of the shoe being thrown at Omar Abdullah as various channels repeatedly telecast it. The police credibility would thus suffer tremendously if it lies before the Court to enable the case to be withdrawn. As it is the Jammu and Kashmir police does not have much credibility and its image would get further eroded.
Under the law as it exists in India and also in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the political authority is not expected to interfere in the working of a judicial process. Once a case is registered, it is only the courts that can take a view on it after obtaining detailed reports from the prosecution and defence. It therefore would have been better if Omar had refrained from publicly interfering in this aspect of his government’s functioning when he leaves a lot to be desired in most other aspects. There are many who will now start saying that Omar’s men must have planted Ahad Jan in the VVIP enclosure so that the chief minister could get some sympathy. The entire show was stage-managed, it is going to be alleged. Otherwise how can Ahad Jan be sent home under police escort even before he has obtained bail from a court of law? In the Bhopal Gas tragedy, Warren Anderson at least left after getting bail. But even those legal formalities were given a go by.
The entire matter must be re-examined. If Ahad is guilty, he should be punished. If he is not, the police should be hauled up for registering a false case. As far as the Chief minister goes, he should always remember that he is an elected representative of the people and therefore answerable to the people. He is not the King of Kashmir under any circumstances.