The Jammu and Kashmir Police was left red-faced on Tuesday after a local court granted bail to a senior editor within hours of arrest in a nearly three-decade-old case, and raised questions about investigation, pointing out that the police had cleared the scribe twice in the past 29 years for passport.
Ghulam Jeelani Qadri, the editor of Daily Afaaq, was arrested late Monday night in a case registered in 1990 under section 3 of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Prevention Act (TADA).
He was arrested on the basis of a non-bailable warrant issued by the then chief judicial magistrate on October 15, 1992.
The law under which Qadri was arrested deals with intention to overawe the government as by law established or to strike terror in the people or any section of the people or to alienate any section of the people or to adversely affect the harmony amongst different sections of the people.
The case pertains to publishing of news items of terror organisations in 1990.
Various journalist organisations including the Kashmir Editor's Guild (KEG) and the Kashmir Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) came in support of Qadiri and contested his arrest in the court of the chief judicial magistrate here.
The state lawyers were clueless about the case and the chief judicial magistrate after granting bail to the editor asked the police to explain as to how it investigated the case in last three decades before finally swooping on the residence of Qadri and arresting him in the dead of night, a statement of KEG said.
The statement expressed its gratitude towards the judicial intervention and said the court 'actually showed the judiciary concern in the case insisting that the liberty of the media is not barred or trampled upon'.
The case police invoked to arrest Qadri was registered against eight journalists and editors out of whom two veterans -- Sofi Ghulam Mohammad of Srinagar Times and Ghulam Mohammad Aarif of Daily Hamdard -- are no more.
The court asked about the case files and diaries from the police which were not available and the chief judicial magistrate also wondered as to how can these prominent people be 'absconders' when they were working regularly.
The court cited example of late Sofi Ghulam Mohammed, against whom a non-bailable warrant was issued, and asked the police how could he be declared as an absconder when he was member of state legislative council in 2002.
"It is still not known why Qadri was singled out for allegedly defying the due process of law in a case he is not aware about. Qadri said he does not know how and why he was declared a proclaimed offender.
"The case is curious because the same police station verified and attested the antecedents of the editor for issuance of the passport twice in last 30 years," the statement said.
The KEG expressed regrets over the way the senior editor was declared a Proclaimed Offender in books and was arrested.
Qadri, like every member of the media in Kashmir, is a law-abiding citizen and could have personally appeared before the police station or the court had he been informed.
He has been a newspaper editor for the last more than two decades and has contributed to the institution of media and has been in public life for three decades.
"How can a person be a proclaimed offender if he is available in his office in the heart of Srinagar for more than 15 hours daily," the organisation asked.