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Journalist Geelani’s bail plea rejected, evidence shows that he is framed
|New Delhi: Syed Iftikhar Geelani, a Kashmir Times journalist and son-in-law of Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, was denied bail by chief metropolitan magistrate, Sangita Dhingra Sehgal, on November 13. Iftikhar Geelani was arrested in June this year for possessing documents which had details about the deployment of Indian troops in Jammu and Kashmir.
The judge rejected the bail on the premise that under Section 3(2) of the Official Secrets Act (OSA) it was not necessary to show that accused was guilty of any particular act. She said that the documents were verified by the army. The army was of the view that it must have been compiled by a secret agent assigned to keep a watch over the strength and location of Indian troops.
Dhingra said that Geelani received e-mails from other journalists. These e-mails indicate that he had a desire to liberate Kashmir. One of these messages was sent by Nusrat Javed, South Asia Editor of the Pakistani paper News on January 17, 2002. She had written that US wants a solution to Kashmir problem. In the e-mail, to keep a guard over Abdul Ghani Lone, and Yasin Malik , a leader of Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) leader, was requested.
The home ministry has said that the military is divided over the matter. There are two contrary opinions about the information. It seems that only one of them was used against Geelani by the police to make a case against him.
The special cell of Delhi Police arrested Geelani on June 9 after it received information from Income Tax (IT) Department. The IT officials had found this information on his computer during a raid on his house.
Ever since Geelani’s arrest, his counsel V. K. Ohri, has been saying that the same document was available on the Internet and anybody could access them. He had applied for bail on the ground that the case was politically motivated, supposedly because he was a relative of Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Ohri had told the court that the information could be downloaded from Internet. The information was taken from a research article which was published by a Pakistan-based organisation, Institute for Strategic Studies, in 1996. The article was not only available on Internet, but was accessible in government-funded universities and institutional libraries in Islamabad.
After five months of Geelani’s ordeal, the Delhi police reluctantly admitted in Dhingra’s court on November 12 the information found in the possession of Geelani was identical to those made available by the Pakistan government for the public in Pakistan.
The legal community is shocked at the attitude of Delhi police. Lawyer Rajeev Dhawan says, "When the documents are published materials available to all, where does the whole question of official secrecy come into the picture? In this case, the police and the government owe an apology to Mr Geelani. Besides, he should be given compensation, nothing less than Rs. 5 lakh and without having to run to court for it. The government should step in with the compensation."
A former high court judge Rajinder Sacchar said that all the charges framed against Geelani should be dropped immediately. "First they tried to book him under Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), and then it came to Official Secrets Act, and the police statement in the court suggests that they are available online. The whole case has been hounded by doubts from the very outset, the charges should be dropped and Geelani should be set free," he said.
Sacchar insisted on the need for NGOs, journalists' associations and human rights organisations to move the high court through public interest litigation to prove the malicious intent of the prosecution. Sacchar pointed out that once the malicious intent of the police was proved, Geelani could ask for compensation running into millions of rupees for the damages.
¯ MG Correspondent