Sajad Gul, a trainee reporter with The Kashmir Walla, has not been released by Bandipora police after he was granted bail by a local court in Bandipora district on Saturday. Instead, the officials say that he has another case against him, including charge of ‘attempt to murder’.
Gul has been under Jammu and Kashmir police’s custody for the last ten days. He was arrested days after he posted a video in which a group of people were seen raising anti-India slogans after the killing of a militant in a gunfight in Srinagar.
As per officials, a fresh FIR has been filed against Gul, under section 153B, 147, 148, 149, 307 Indian Penal Code. However, the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Bandipora was unavailable for a comment.
As Gul is in police custody despite being granted bail by the court, an official told The Kashmir Walla that he (Gul) is under custody in connection with another case registered against him on 3 January 2022 that is three days before he was arrested. This was also informed by the prosecution to the court that Gul has three cases registered against him.
As per police sources, the case was registered after he shot and posted a video on social media of people raising anti-India slogans while mourning the death of a militant in the Hajin area of Bandipora.
Earlier, the police in a report submitted to court accused him of hatching “criminal conspiracy” on his social media account being used to disseminate information “against the national interests” on the “dictation and guidance” from Pakistan based agencies.
As per the police, a case was registered against him under FIR no. 79 of 2021 and an investigation was put into motion. They said that statements of witnesses were also recorded and offences under section 153-B, 506 read with 120-B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) were attracted.
In this instant case, Gul was granted bail by the court after hearing the legal counsel of The Kashmir Walla, representing Gul.
The legal counsel had filed a bail application on 10 January 2022 to ensure his release that was admitted on Saturday (15 January 2022) by the Judicial Magistrate (Duty Magistrate) Sumbal Sonawari in Bandipora district.
The court had on Saturday directed police to release Gul against a bond of 30,000 rupees if he was not involved in any other crime. Meanwhile, Gul was also directed to cooperate with the investigation officer and not to leave Jammu and Kashmir without prior permission.
Umair Ronga, the counsel for Gul said, “when the orders of release reached the police station Hajin, the family members were made to wait for a few hours, to be informed that the journalist would not be released on the pretext that one more FIR has been registered against him, apparently to thwart the orders of Court”.
Ronga said, “in terms of the law the police could have added offences during the course of an investigation if attracted, however, registration of a second FIR defeats the mandate of law,” he said and added. “There was no mention of another case registered against him till yesterday. The matter will be brought before a Court of Law and justice will be done.”
Senior advocate Musharraf Baba said that “the police have bypassed law just to keep Gul in custody”.
“Under section 173 clause 8 Crpc they could have added additional charges if any in the First Investigation Report (FIR) already filed or submitted a supplementary chargesheet rather than registering a fresh FIR,” Baba said.
He said, “now in any circumstances, there was another case registered against him, the police should have mentioned it in the report submitted to the court while his (Gul) bail application was being processed,” Baba said.
A family member of Gul told The Kashmir Walla they were not aware of his custody.
“We have been worried about him as his custody has been changed while police do not inform us where he is,” he said
Meanwhile, Gul’s arrest was widely condemned across the world by several organisations. The Press Council of India (PCI), a premier body in India meant for preserving the freedom of the press and of maintaining and improving the standards of newspapers and news agencies in India also had taken cognisance of the Gul’s arrest after the Jammu and Kashmir Journalists Association (JAKJA) wrote to them.
Speaking to The Kashmir Walla on 11 January, Prakash Dubey, the PCI committee member, said that they have received the letter from the JAKJA and have taken cognizance of the matter.
“We [PCI] are going to discuss the matter (Gul’s arrest). We stand in solidarity with all the Kashmiri journalists, and are thinking what can be done,” Dubey said. “We are going to pursue the complaint.”