In a rare order that raises questions on the independence of the judiciary in Jammu and Kashmir, a sessions judge in Srinagar on Monday recused from hearing a bail plea, citing a phone call from a High Court judge instructing him not to grant bail in the matter.
The order was passed in the case Sheikh Salman v. JKUT through SHO P/S Saddar, Srinagar where the applicant was accused of offences of attempt to murder, wrongful restraint and hurt under Section 307, 341 and 323 of the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC).
The Principal Sessions Judge, Srinagar, Abdul Rashid Malik, made a daring move by naming the J&K High Court judge, who tried to influence him, and his Secretary in the order.
The move has received commendations on social media with many calling it brave and rare.
“This application has come up today for hearing. At 9.51 AM, the under-signed received a call from Mr Tariq Ahmad Mota, Secretary to Hon’ble Mr Justice Javid Iqbal Wani,” Malik said in his written order dated December 7, referring to the bail application.
“The following were the contents of his mobile call: ‘I have been directed by Hon’ble Mr Justice Javid Iqbal Wani to convey you to make sure that no bail is granted to Sheikh Salman. If there is any Anticipatory bail pending, the direction is the same’,” the order reads.
Citing this, the Sessions Judge expressed his “inability to hear the matter” and forwarded the bail application to the Registrar Judicial, J&K High Court, with a request that the same may be placed before the Chief Justice “as the matter involves the liberty of a person”.
“Therefore, for the aforesaid reasons, the under-signed expresses the inability to hear the matter. This application is submitted to learned Registrar Judicial, High Court of Jammu and Kashmir with the request that the same may be placed before the Hon’ble Chief Justices as the matter involves the liberty of the person,” the order reads.
“The learned counsel for the petitioner shall appear before the learned Registrar Judicial, High Court of Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar today.”
The bail application was later forwarded to the Chief Justice Gita Mittal, who retired on Tuesday, who referred it back to the district court which subsequently granted bail to the applicant on Wednesday.
Pertinently, Justice Javid Iqbal Wani is the son-in-law of Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association (J&K HCBA) president Mian Abdul Qayoom.
He was appointed judge of the High Court in June earlier this year, becoming the second Kashmir-based judge in the High Court of Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh, after Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey.
Interestingly, he had opposed the release of his father-in-law who was held under the draconian Public Safety Act (PSA) and also represented the Army in many cases, including the Pathribal Fake Encounter case.