His son phoned in the morning, the one call of a few minutes he is allowed every week, says Mohammad Shaban Ganai. “Showkat was crying, it felt as if a knife was pierced through my heart.”
Showkat Ahmad Ganai and two other Kashmiri students, Arsheed Yusuf and Inayat Altaf Sheikh, have now been in Agra District Jail for three months,and promoting enmity between groups for allegedly cheering for Pakistan during the T20 World Cup match that India lost. On Tuesday, the Agra police filed a chargesheet in the case before the CJM Court, though sanction for prosecution under sedition and other charges is still awaited. The court passed an order taking cognizance of the chargesheet.
Inspector Pravindra Kumar Singh, the investigating officer, says they filed the chargesheet as “the stipulated period to file it (90 days) was ending”. “We sent a letter to the state government seeking prosecution sanction against the accused after collecting evidence against them… We attached a photocopy of the letter (with the chargesheet),” the inspector said.
Charges were filed against the three under IPC Sections 124-A (sedition), 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups) and 505 (1)(B) (with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public, or to any section of the public). Sections 124-A, 153-A and 505 (1)(B) need to be approved by the state government before the charges are accepted in a court of law.
The Agra police letter is dated November. Police also sent details of the case to the government to verify.
Studying at an Agra engineering college under the Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme for J&K students, the three youths had allegedly shared “anti-India” messages on WhatsApp after Pakistan’s victory.
Ganai said that before every hearing, his son’s lawyer says he is very hopeful of bail. But then comes the court order. “We are unable to understand what is happening. We are losing hope for justice… I had to sell my cow to fight for his bail. I have taken a loan of Rs 50,000-Rs 60,000 from neighbours. But there is no outcome.”
Shabir Ahmad Sheikh, the uncle of Inayat Altaf, said: “Our lawyer is unable to understand the delay in bail. He says there is no valid reason.”
Mathura-based lawyer Madhuvan Dutt, who came forward to represent the three students after advocates in Agra refused, said he will move the Allahabad High Court to seek directions to quash the proceedings against the youths, as well as seek statutory bail for them.
Dutt said the court should not have taken cognizance of chargesheet, and the trial could not be carried out without prosecution sanction. “We had sought statutory bail from a local court of Agra. Since the local court rejected our application, we will appeal in the High Court.”
The defence had also sought transfer of the case from Agra to Mathura. But the Allahabad High Court is yet to pass an order in this regard.
The three had been arrested following protests by right-wing outfits. The college had later rusticated them.
The families of the three had appealed to the UP government to drop the cases against them and “forgive them for their mistake”.
With AMIL BHATNAGAR