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JKLF chief Yasin Malik convicted after pleading guilty in NIA court

JKLF chief Yasin Malik

Chairman of the outlawed Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Mohammad Yasin Malik, who acted as the terror organisation’s ‘Chief Commander’ before his arrest in August 1990, has been convicted by a designated court of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in New Delhi after he pleaded guilty to all charges framed against him in a case related to the Kashmiri separatists’ alleged terrorist and secessionist activities in 2016-17.

Additional Sessions Judge at Patiala House Courts Parveen Singh said in a 9-page order that Malik had voluntarily and after due legal consultation pleaded guilty to the charges framed against him. He accepted Malik’s plea and observed that the quantum of the sentence would be determined separately after hearing arguments. The hearing is expected to take place on 25 May.

Malik had been also charged with spearheading a terrorist-separatist movement from the very beginning in 1990 to his alleged role in the turmoil of 2008, 2010 and 2016. The charge sheet, inter alia, referred to an email sent by one Mohammad Hussain Khan to one Arif Shafi Wani with a copy to Malik revealing his close association with the Pakistan-based jihadist group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT).  

“This email had the transcript of an interview given by accused Yasin Malik to Rajat Sharma in a program titled Aap ki Adalat wherein Yasin Malik stated that he had visited LeT camp in Murree where Hafiz Saeed had organized a felicitation event for him”, said the charge sheet which was not contested by Malik.

Malik is the only accused in the case who had pleaded guilty to the charges even as he maintained that he was fully aware of the consequences of his plea. Pleading his case himself, Malik was provided with amicus curiae, who met with the accused in his jail and explained to him the consequences of his pleading guilty.

On 16 March 2022, the court observed that the accused including Yasin Malik, Shabir Shah, former MLA Engineer Sheikh Abdul Rashid, separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s son-in-law Altaf Fantoosh, prominent separatist Massarat Alam Bhat besides Hurriyat Conference and Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) were prima facie involved in the charges filed against them. However, three of the accused, including the Dukhtaran-e-Millat founder-chairperson Asiya Andrabi, were discharged.

Prominent businessman Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali, whose children’s marriage ceremony was, among others, also attended by Barrister Sultan Mehmood Choudhary, former ‘Prime Minister’ of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in Srinagar, is also facing charges of terror funding in the same cased. In August 1990, Malik had been arrested by security forces from Watali’s Srinagar residence.

In the last 32 years, Malik has been booked in scores of cases including around 70 murder cases. He and his JKLF associates are separately facing trial in the kidnapping of the then Union Home Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s daughter, Rubaiya Sayeed, and the killing of four Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel, in Jammu’s TADA court. Both the cases had been investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The agency had filed a charge sheet in both the cases in TADA court Srinagar in 1990.

In April 2009, Malik got the trial in TADA court Srinagar stayed in J&K High Court. For reasons not known to anybody, the CBI did not get the stay vacated for 10 years. It was only after the killing of 40 CRPF personnel in a suicide terror attack ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 that the CBI got both the cases revived and the trial began in TADA court Jammu under the orders of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court on a CBI petition. Thereafter Malik and a number of other separatists were arrested, booked in fresh terror and terror funding related cases and detained in Delhi’s Tihar Jail.

All the accused were physically produced in the court for framing of charges on 18 April 2022. Malik submitted that he did not want to face trial and left it to the wisdom and discretion of this court to take whatever decision it wanted.

“It was inquired whether he intended to plead guilty and he submitted that he did not want to face any trial. Accused was explained that he can either plead guilty to the charges or plead not guilty to the charges. Accused Yasin Malik submitted that he did not want any trial and therefore, he was ready to plead guilty. On being inquired whether the decision was taken after full consideration and legal advice, he submitted that he had taken this decision after thinking about it for a very long time”, the judge recorded.

“On further being inquired whether he was aware about the maximum punishment which could be inflicted upon him, the accused submitted that he was not aware about the maximum punishment which could be inflicted upon him. Considering the gravity of offences and the fact that accused Yasin Malik had no legal assistance, court found it appropriate that accused Yasin Malik should be given time to re-think over his options and that proper legal assistance should be provided to him. Therefore, Sh. Akhand Pratap Singh Advocate was appointed as amicus curiae for accused Yasin Malik and Sh. Akhand Pratap Singh was requested to have a legal meeting with accused Yasin Malik in jail and explain to him the consequences of entering into a plea”, the judge recorded in today’s order.

“On 10.05.2022, accused were produced physically for framing of charges against them. On that day, accused Yasin Malik again submitted that he wanted to plead guilty to the charges. Thereafter, separate charges for separate offences were framed against accused persons. All the accused except accused Yasin Malik pleaded not guilty to the charges framed against them”, the judge recorded.

“From the procedure adopted by the court, it is clear that sufficient time was provided to the accused to consider his plea. Further to ensure that the accused was making an informed choice, he was granted an opportunity to have legal advice. For this purpose, as the accused had no counsel, an Amicus Curiae was appointed for him. The Amicus Curiae was directed to visit the accused in jail to have legal consultation with him so that the accused could be made aware of the maximum punishment which could be awarded to him if he entered into the plea of guilt and that he could be made aware of the pros and cons of his plea. Thereafter also, accused Yasin Malik pleaded guilty to the charges framed against him”.

“Today, again the court has inquired from the accused whether he wants to re-think over his plea and he has stated that he had taken a well thought decision and that twice the amicus curiae had met in jail and explained to him the consequences of his decision and still he stands by his decision to plead guilty. Thus, I find that accused Yasin Malik has voluntarily and after due legal consultation, meaning thereby after fully knowing the consequences of his plea, has pleaded guilty to the charges framed against him. His plea is accordingly accepted”, said the judge in his order. 

On his pleading guilty, Malik has been convicted for the offences punishable under sections 120-B IPC, 121 IPC, 121-A IPC, 13 UAPA r/w 120-B IPC, 15 UAPA r/w 120-B IPC, 17 UAPA, 18 UAPA, 20 UAPA, 38 UAPA and 39 UAPA.

Also Read: Law of the lands takes its course -NIA court orders framing of charges against terror kingpins Hafiz Saeed,Salahuddin, Yasin Malik and others