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Supreme Court States No Substantial Progress Made in Kothkhai Custodial Death Trial, Grants Bail to EX-IGP Zaidi

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Zahur H Zaidi Granted Bail in shimla Guidya gangrape case1

Shimla-Ex-IGP Zaidi who was under custody for last 19 months has been granted Bail in Kotkhai Custodial Death by the Hon’ble Supreme Court on Friday, 5th April 2019. The order was passed by the full bench of the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India sitting with two other judges.

Importantly the reason that has weighed upon the Hon’ble court for granting bail  was that the trial had not made substantial progress beyond the framing of the charge.

The Hon’ble Court stated in its order that;

  …Our attention has been drawn to the allegations against the accused- appellant and that he is in custody for the last 19 months. Though the accused-appellant is facing charge under Section 302, we are told that the trial has not made substantial progress beyond the framing of the charge. Completion of trial will take some time…

…the period of custody suffered and likely time that may be taken for completion of trial, we are of the view that the accused appellant  should be released on bail in connection with FIR No.RC SI 2017 S0009 CBI/SC-I/New Delhi, on satisfaction of the appropriate condition(s) as may be imposed by the learned trial court…

The CBI had also pleaded in the court to shift the hearing of the case from H.P High Court to Delhi High Court for expeditious disposal. The  Hon’ble Court did not adhere to this request and observed that the same would be considered after hearing all the accused.

Further CBI had also raised doubts that if the police officer was granted bail, he could influence and intimidate witnesses in the case as he was a high-rank police official. To this the Hon’ble court observed that this cannot be a reason to  deny bail at this juncture , and if such incidence comes to light then it is always open for CBI to apply for cancellation of Bail in the competent court.

The matter is ordered to be listed after two weeks.

The reason of delay in trial with a remark that nothing substantial had been done in the case after framing of charge is a blow to the prosecution’s case

Zaidi was denied bail by the State High Court when he had approached it in January 2018. The court had said that the case of custodial killing was not a simple offence committed in violation of Section 302 of IPC. The court had reminded that custodial killing is one of the worst things that could happen in a civil society-governed by law. In the judicial system, custodial death is more serious than just murder.

After the rejection of bail, Zaidi moved to Supreme Court. The apex court had earlier granted him an interim bail of one week to attend last rituals of his mother.   

The accused was among the five persons who were arrested by the Special Investigation Team headed by Zaidi in relation to Gudiya gangrape (which was later termed as only rape by CBI) of a minor school girl in Halaila forest of Kotkhai Tehsil, Shimla district. The girl went missing on July 4, 2017, and her body was found in the Halaila forest on the morning of July 6. By 13 July, Zaidi-led SIT claimed it cracked the case and projected six accused, who were mostly labourers, as the culprits. The public, including the locals from Gudiya’s region, expressed doubts over the SIT’s investigation and demanded a CBI inquiry.  By July 18, Suraj-a Nepalese laborer-was allegedly killed in the police lock-up. The blame was put on another accused and inmate of Suraj. This alleged custodial killing led to massive and violent protest from locals. The State Government and Police faced severe criticism across the State.    

A day after Suraj was killed, the State government referred the case to CBI. After the case was handed over to the CBI, nine policemen including members of the SIT and then Superintendent of Police, Shimla, DW Negi, were arrested over custodial death and for allegedly framing innocent persons.

Deven Khanna is a Lawyer, practicing at High Court of Himachal Pradesh, other H.P Courts/Tribunals and the Supreme Court of India, he is an alumnus of a National Law School. For any queries related to the articles, he can be contacted at 7018469792 or at khannadeven@gmail.com. The personal blog is at https://lawumbrella.wordpress.com/

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Kotkhai Custodial Death Case: Forced to Consume Liquor, Cannabis, then Tortured, Witness Tells Court

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Kotkhai Custodial Death case trail witnesses

Shimla-In the Kotkhai custodial death case, six more witnesses recorded their statements in the special CBI court in Chandigarh on October 9, 2019. One of the witnesses included Ashish Chauhan – an accused in Gudia rape and murder case, who was later discharged by the CBI.

While three accused – former Inspector General of Police, Zahur H Zaidi, former SP, Shimla, DW Negi, and DSP, Theog, Manoj Joshi-were already granted bail by the court, the bail plea of three others was dismissed yesterday. These three accused included former Station House Officer (SHO), Kotkhai Police Station, Rajinder Singh, head constable Rafee Mohammad, and constable Raneeta.

In his statement, prosecution witness Ashish Chauhan told the court that he was picked up from his home on July 9, 2017, by three policemen and was taken to Bankufer rest house, where he was interrogated. On July 9, he was taken to Chhaila police post where he was kept till July 10.

Ashish, in his statement, told the court that Zaidi, Bhajan Dev Negi, Rattan Negi, PSO Sushil, PSO Sunil, and Manoj Joshi started torturing him from July 11 using different techniques. They asked him to confess to the crime, which he had not committed, Ashish said. He alleged that he was tied upside down with a rope and beaten brutally with sticks and given electric shocks. He also alleged that during this torture, he has sustained grieve injury to his spinal cord. 

He also alleged that Zaidi forcefully made him consume neat alcohol. Zaidi smoked cannabis and also forced him to smoke the same, Ashish alleged.

On the intervening night of July 13-14, his signatures were taken and he was told that an FIR was registered. The police was also alleged of keeping him in custody illegally without taking him to the court within 24 hours of arrest. It was only on July 15 that he was taken to the local court in Theog and was officially taken on remand.  

Other than Ashish, statements of other prosecution witnesses including Dr HV Acharya, Assistant Director, Forensic Science Laboratory, Gujarat, who had conducted BEOS and narco test on Ashish Chauhan, Rajinder Singh, Lokjan, Deepak and Subhash Singh, was also recorded. 

As per the conclusion of the report, no the role of five accused was observed in the act of rape and murder of Gudia as the motive of rape and murder were not established. Similarly, narco and BEOS test did not suggest any role of Rajinder in the killing of Suraj inside Kotkhai Police Station lock-up.

Further, prosecution witness Dr Ashwani Soon, who is a radiologist with DDU Zonal Hosptial, Shimla, Pritam Chand, Amar Singh Verma and constable Ajay Kumar also recorded their statement and were cross-examined.

Earlier, in the previous hearing in the case in September 2019, six prosecution witnesses had recorded their statement in the court. As a crucial revelation, the driver of Zaidi had told the court that he was with the accused from July 11 to July 13, 2017. He confirmed that he took Zaidi to the spot where the body of the rape victim was lying on July 11. Later, the driver said, he took Zaidi to Kotkhai Police Station and then to the Guest House of Public Works Department in the afternoon. Five accused were also kept at the HPPWD guest house illegally after their arrest.

Similarly, during a hearing on August 16, 2019, two villagers, Prashant Negi and Ishan, had given statements that they were illegally detained and kept at the said guest house. They had also told the court that they were brutally beaten, kept naked, and given third-degree torture between July 11 and July 13. These two CBI witnesses had identified Zaidi and then SP DW Negi and other police officials who were present during this time.

There are total 60 prosecution witnesses of CBI in the case. Statements of over 26 witnesses have already been recorded.

On August 29, 2017, CBI had arrested eight Police officials including the IG Zaidi in relation to the custodial killing of Suraj – an accused in the Gudia rape and murder case- on July 18, 2017. Later, then SP DW Negi was also arrested. CBI had later discharged all remaining accused alleging that they were innocent and were framed by the said police officials.

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Himachal BJP Leaders Including President Satti Make Mockery of HC Orders and Laws of Entry on Sealed Roads

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Hp BJP President Satpal Satti Breaks Rule

Shimla-Entry of vehicles on the Ridge Maidan is prohibited except for the emergency vehicles and vehicles of the Governor and the Chief Minister. But this is not the only concern; the Ridge Maidan and the tank beneath it have developed cracks. The movement of vehicles could make things worse. However, the Ministers, MLAs, Govt Officials, and even leaders of the ruling BJP do not care about what the law or the state High Court says or they don’t care about the sensitive condition of the Ridge Maidan.

The Chief Minister Jairam Thakur led Bharatiya Janata Party government had made a promise to the people of the state that it will put a check on VIP culture. However, neither the Ministers nor the MLAs of BJP are keeping this promise. They are openly defying laws related to entry and parking on sealed roads, as well as, showing disregard to the orders of the State High Court. The VIP culture is flourishing.

In such an instance, on September 25, 2019, on the occasion of Birth anniversary of Pt. Deendayal Upadhyaya, a drive to clean statues of great leaders of the Nation established in Shimla town was organized. The Chief Minister also took part in the drive and cleaned the statues of Mahatma Gandhi, Lala Lajpat Rai, former Prime Ministers Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi, and first Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh Dr. Y.S. Parmar and Lt. Gen. Daulat Singh situated at The Ridge Shimla.

BJP State President Satpal Singh Satti also took part in it. But he forgot to show regard to rules and regulations and to the orders of the state High Court. His car was seen parked in front of the state library on the historic Shimla Ridge Maidan. Some other government vehicles including that of the Chief Minister Jairam Thakur was also on the sealed road.

As per the rules, as well as, the High Court orders, except emergency vehicles and vehicles of the Governor and the Chief Minister, no vehicle is allowed to enter the sealed road. However, enjoying the perks of power, the BJP President, displayed how political power allows leaders to over-ride rules and regulations.

This is not the first instance. Earlier, on August 28, 2019, at an event organized by BJP to pay tribute to their senior party leader Arun Jaitley, several ministers, MLA, and other government officials reached the Gaiety Theatre in their vehicles. The police was helpless and instead of enforcing the orders of no entry on the sealed Ridge Maidan, they were seen facilitating them.

Moreover, neither the Dailies nor online news portals highlighted it.

Even the Chief Minister isn’t following the orders of the Supreme Court regarding the ban on usage of the multi-toned horns in official vehicles. As per information obtained through an RTI, the vehicles of the Chief Minister and several other ministers were allegedly still using sirens/multi-tone horns in their official vehicles. A Division Bench comprising acting Chief Justice Dharam Chand Chaudhary and Justice Jyotsna Rewal Dua has sought a reply from the state government in its order passed recently. The order was passed on a petition filed by the HP High Court Bar Association.

Then, daily, several VIP cars with stickers of MLA could be seen parked on the sealed road near Clarks hotel. Pictures of these vehicles could be seen on social media posted by commoners. Several readers have shared these images with Himachal Watcher too. These posts receive a lot of critical comments from the people, but it never bothers these VIPs.

Parking on Sealed Roads Is Prohibited by Court Orders?Though the parking is prohibited on sealed roads of Shimla for…

Himachal Watcher द्वारा इस दिन पोस्ट की गई बुधवार, 7 अगस्त 2019

Then, there are VIP cars breaking traffic queues and parked wrongly, causing traffic jams.

#HPGovt Vehicles Continue Creating Traffic Nuisance With govt stickers on their cars, govt officials continue to…

Himachal Watcher द्वारा इस दिन पोस्ट की गई गुरुवार, 12 सितंबर 2019

What message the ruling party and the government want to send to the people? Do they want to make it a matter of prestige to violate laws and defy court orders

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APMC Bill 2019: Will it End Exploitation of Farmers in Himachal? This is What Minister Markanda and MLA Rakesh Singha Have to Say

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APMC Bill 2019 agriculture minister markanda and mla rakesh singha

Shimla-The Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee Bill 2019 would check exploitation of farmers and apple growers by commission agents and traders, says the Agriculture Minister Ram Lal Markanda. Unless this Bill is passed, the government has no control over existing APMC, thus, despite being the Agriculture Minister, he is helpless to get justice for the farmers, Markanda had told media couple of weeks ago.

However, Rakesh Singh, MLA of Theog Constituency, has a different opinion regarding the Bill. He said he has gone through the Bill thoroughly. Singha rejected Markands’s claim that the government has no control over the APMC. He asks as to how it is possible when the majority of the APMC members are officials of the state government.

Video: MLA Rakesh Singh on Agriculture Minister’s Claim That He Has No Control Over APMC

When asked whether the new APMC Bill would actually benefit farmers and fruit growers of the state, Singha said it was the other way round. With this bill, the government would permit that anyone from anywhere in India could open a market in Himachal. It’s natural that giant firms would use this opportunity, leading to shut down of small local businesses. He asserts that existing laws are equally strong.  

Video: Agriculture Minister Ram Lal Markanda and MLA Rakesh Singha on APMC Bill 2019

It’s pertinent to mention that apple growers, as well as, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti had been protesting over pending payments of hundreds of apple growers, which were not being paid by commission agents. Then there were complaints of unregistered and even blacklisted commission agents infiltrating the market and depriving growers of receiving justified prices for their produce. The growers approached the APMC and the state government several times with pleas to help them in recovering their payments worth lakhs of rupees. None of the two came to their rescue.

Led by the Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, the growers were forced file FIRs against commission agents, following which some of the pending payments were recovered.

The response of the Agriculture Minister to these repeated instances of frauds and exploitations by traders and commission agents despite provisions of rules and regulations regarding the payments and conducting business in the markets was that he has no control over the APMC at all. As per Markanda, the solution lies in the new APMC Bill 2019, which was to be passed in the monsoon session of the HP Legislative Assembly. However, it was deferred till the winters session and was sent to Select Committee after some MLAs pointed out that the Act should be carefully analysed before passing and implementing it.

Markanda says that the APMC Bill 2019 would be passed in the winter session and it would bring relief to the growers. He asserts that the Bill has provisions to prevent farmers and apple growers from frauds.

The Bill would apply on the commission agents based outside the state. After the implementation of this bill, the market fee would only be charged at markets and all other barriers would be lifted. It would open the market of entire India to growers by facilitating online trading, Markanda claimed. 

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