Lawyers across Kashmir boycotted court work for four consecutive days from 4th to 7th September 2017 against the summoning of the President of High Court Bar Association (JKHCBA), Advocate Mian Qayoom by NIA (National Investigation Agency). The lawyers at Srinagar court complex as well as the High Court had also staged protests under the banner of JKHCBA. They were even supported by all the District and Mufassil Bar Associations of Kashmir.
The NIA has claimed that they are probing into whether the funding of separatists from terrorist outfits was being used to fuel violence in the valley (FIR No. RC-10/2017/NIA/DIL) and has hence issued summons to Advocate Mian Qayoom. However since the past few months on this pretext, the NIA has been targeting lawyers in the valley. In July, the houses of Advocate Devinder Singh Behl from Jammu was raided. On August 16th, the residence of Advocate Mohammed Shafi Resh was raided in Baghat, as part of twelve raids conducted by the NIA in Srinagar, Baramulla, and Handwara. Advocate Resh is a member of the Bar and also represents the pro-freedom Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Geelani. Meanwhile, Doda based lawyer, Babur-ul-Islam Nehru remains in custody since 22 July 2017.
As reasons for going on strike, the HCBA in its letter to the CJI, has mentioned its apprehensions and suspicions, stating that though Mian Qayoom has been summoned as a witness, they have reason to believe that there is more than what meets the eye. The notice had been issued under Section 160 Cr.P.C., Proviso wherein it requires NIA to record the statement of a witness at his place of residence if he/she is less than 15 or more than 65 years of age. Qayoom is more than 65 years of age.
However, this particular targeting of lawyers like Mohammed Shafi Resh and the President of the JKHCBA has to be viewed in the background of the recent decisions of the HCBA. On July 28th, the HCBA had constituted a “high powered” legal team to examine the constitutional validity of NIA Act, 2008 and its application to the State of J&K and suggest ways and means for providing necessary legal aid to all those who have been booked in FIR No. RC-10/2017/NIA/DIL by NIA, taken to Delhi after arrest and remanded to police custody. This was decided by the Bar Association in the interests of issues concerning the people of Kashmir, more particularly the one relating to the “misuse” of the provisions of NIA Act by NIA authorities in “terrorising, arresting, humiliating and harassing” the pro-freedom leadership and their activists. The HCBA had also taken a stand before the Supreme Court with regard to the use of pellets in Kashmir and is also defending Article 35-A of the Constitution of India in a petition filed by an NGO Court calling for it to be struck down. It is hence imperative that the recent summons issued by the NIA/Central Government on the head of the HCBA be viewed as an act of vindictiveness to suppress and harass anyone (in this case a Lawyer’s Association) who dare challenge the authority of Delhi.
The Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) strongly condemns the illegal and unwarranted raid on the residence of advocate Resh and views the summons issued to the High Court Bar Association President, Mian Qayoom as an act to suppress, harass and demonise the Kashmiri lawyers in general and a Bar Association in particular. It is also an attempt by the NIA to browbeat the parties in the litigation process by attacking lawyers who have been staunch defenders of Article 35A of the Constitution of India and the rights of Kashmiri people. IAPL demands, that the NIA immediately stop all raids, summons and criminal proceedings directed against Kashmiri lawyers in connection with FIR No. RC-10/2017/NIA/DIL. IAPL also extends its solidarity to the legitimate struggle of the Kashmiri lawyers protesting against the unwarranted and unconstitutional authority of Delhi.
Advocate Surendra Gadling,
Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL)