Jammu and Kashmir police yet to file final chargesheet in Shujaat Bukhari case

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Shujaat Bukhari, editor of Rising Kashmir, who was shot dead on 14 June 2018.
JK Bank

The Jammu and Kashmir police is yet to file the final chargesheet in the high profile case of assassination of prominent journalist and Editor of English daily Rising Kashmir, Shujaat Bukhari.

According to a report  by The Tribune, J&K police has told the trial court that the final chargesheet is pending against the other accused as details from the United States sought under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) and Red Corner Notice issued against Sajad Gul are pending and also some forensic reports are awaited.

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An MLAT request was forwarded in July last to Principal Secretary to the government Home Department J&K Srinagar, through the DGP for the United States to seek the preservation of data on Facebook & Twitter accounts of journalist Bukhari and other suspect accounts. But as pointed out before the court, the action taken report on it is awaited though it is believed the USA has shared some data.

But since the filing of the preliminary chargesheet, the SIT has reportedly arrested three more persons for their alleged role in arranging the logistics for the attackers and assisting in the recce.

As per the preliminary chargesheet, the SIT arrived at the conclusion that the assassination was carried out by three militants based on the identification by an under-custody accused who was examined by the SIT in Kulgam in the presence of an executive magistrate.

“The Honorable court is further apprised that, as per the identification memo dated 28/6/2018 made on the basis of examination of one under custody accused (name withheld), terrorist act dated 14.06.2018 ( the day Bukahri was killed) at Press Colony has been executed by three militants namely Naveed Jat, Muzaffar Bhat and Azad Malik, all belonging to Lashkar-e-Toiba outfit”, it has been stated in the preliminary chargesheet.The SIT also added section 120-B against Sajad Gul for “criminal conspiracy”, by submitting to the court that Gul, who is presently in Pakistan, has been found guilty of indoctrinating militant ranks and others on his Facebook account ‘Ahmad Khalid” to eliminate Bukhari.

“Accordingly Section 120-B RPC has been added in the instant case and in this regard a Red Corner Notice has been forwarded to Interpol New Delhi through IGP Crime & Railways, (Nodal Agency) with respect to him (Gul)”, even as the action taken report in this regard is still awaited,” it added.

In its preliminary chargesheet, the SIT of the J&K Police has submitted that “further investigation” in respect of the accused, who are “evading arrest intentionally & deliberately”, is “underway”, and “final chargesheet” would be “filed at the later stage”.

It has been submitted that the investigation and filing of the chargesheet against the accused is pending “only for want of their arrest, action taken report on the Red Corner Notice issued in respect of Sheikh Sajad Gul now based in Pakistan and also the action taken report on MLAT from the USA”.

However, the special investigation team (SIT), which is investigating the case following the assassination of Bukhari on June 14, 2018, in Srinagar- in its preliminary chargesheet before the trial court has named five accused in the case, including the Lashkar-e-Toiba commander Naveed Jatt who was killed in a gunfight in central Kashmir’s Budgam district in November last year.

The other accused named in the chargesheet include Muzaffar Bhat, alais Abu Talha, of Kulgam, Azad Ahmad Malik alias Dada, Arwani Anantnag (killed in a gunfight last year), Sheikh Sajad Gul, a Srinagar resident now in Pakistan. Besides, the SIT has mentioned 48 prosecution witnesses in the preliminary chargesheet but withheld the disclosure of most of the names on security grounds.

The only person charged in the case so far is Zubair Ahmed Bhat, hailing from Hazratbal Srinagar, who was apprehended soon after Bukhari’s killing. He has been charged for theft and illegal possession of the weapons under Sections 379 RPC & 7/25 Arms Act and is currently out on bail from the trial court.