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Jammu And Kashmir Court Grants Interim Bail To Man Accused Of ‘promoting Enmity’ For Comment On Non-local Officials At A Janata Darbar

“I can have expectations from you because you are Kashmir-based and you can understand us. But what expectations can I have from officers who are outsiders,” Sajad Rashid Sofi had reportedly said. The court granted him bail on June 12, but Sajad Rashid Sofi remains under preventive detention (Sajad Ahmad Sofi v. Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir)

By: Surbhi Kumari, Amity University Patna

A resident of Jammu and Kashmir has been booked for “promoting enmity” after he said that he had no expectations from non-local officials posted in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

As per the police report, fifty-year-old Sajad Rashid Sofi and a resident of Wani Mohalla area in Safapora village, Ganderbal district, made the comment during an interaction between locals and the Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor’s advisor, Baseer Ahmad Khan, at Manasbal in Central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district on June 10.

He was first arrested after making the comments at a public hearing and then granted interim bail on June 12 by a magistrate court till June 21. However, the police kept him under preventive detention, saying he was a potential “threat to peace.”

During the interaction, Sofi is stated to have said, “Mein aapse umeed rakhta hoon. Chunki aap ik Kashmiri hain aur samajh sakte hain, aur mein aap ka gareban pakad sakta hoon aur aapse jawab talab kar sakta hoon. Magar gair-riyasati afsaron se kya umeed rakh sakta hoon?”

(Translation: ‘I can have expectations from you because you are Kashmir-based and you can understand us. I can grab you by the collar and seek answers. But what expectations can I have from officers who are outsiders?’)

Reports said that these remarks were objected to by the deputy commissioner (DC) of Ganderbal, Krittika Jyotsna who was present at the event. DC Ganderbal is an IAS officer of the 2014 batch of the Uttar Pradesh cadre. She was sent to Jammu and Kashmir on inter-cadre deputation in February 2021 for a period of two years along with her husband, who is also an IAS officer, and holds the key portfolio of Information Direction in Jammu and Kashmir.

Sofi was booked by the Jammu and Kashmir Police and a criminal case was registered against him at Safapora Police Station under Section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for promoting enmity between groups.

Sofi proceeded to move a bail application before the court of the Judicial Magistrate, first Class, Ganderbal.

On June 12, Judge Fakhr Un Nissa granted interim bail to Sofi till June 21, 2021, subject to various conditions, including that he will remain present before the investigating officer concerned as and when directed to do so and shall remain present before the court on the next date of hearing.

“Needless to mention that bail is a rule and its rejection is an exception. Bail in non-bailable crime cannot be refused without assigning strong reason although bail is a discretion of the court and discretion of bail cannot be exercised arbitrarily. The allegedly committed crime attributed to the applicant does not carry life imprisonment or death penalty debarring this court to exercise discretion of bail in favour of the applicant. As such, this court has a sufficient reason to exercise discretion of bail in favour of the applicant … without going into the depth of the merits of the case, the instant application is allowed and the accused person is admitted to interim bail upto 21-06-2021 provided he will furnish surety and personal bonds amounting to Rupees 30,000/- before the SHO concerned,” the Court’s order stated.

The matter will be taken up next on June 21.

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