The Supreme Court has agreed to expedite hearings against the acquittal of a so-called spiritual leader from Kashmir, who was accused of raping several girls at his seminary in 2012.
Gulzar Ahmad Bhat, also known as Gulzan Peer, was acquitted by a trial court and the Jammu and Kashmir high court upheld the ruling in February 2017. The order triggered outrage in the state, prompting the state to approach the apex court.
Normally, an appeal may take more than a year before it is heard after the apex court admits it but on Monday, the top court decided to expedite the proceedings.
In its 63-page judgment, the HC had refused to interfere with a trial court order dismissing the prosecution appeal against it. HC found no merit in the case against and came down heavily on the J&K police for “miserably” failing to prove the case.
Finding fault with the HC judgement, the state said the court could not have brushed aside the version of minor victims who gave consistent and coherent statements before the trial court. Their evidence cannot be disbelieved on flimsy grounds, it said.
Also, it was incorrect on the HC’s part to let off Peer on the grounds that there were no witnesses to corroborate the victims’ theory.
According to the appeal, Peer used to call the victims separately into his room on the pretext of religious teachings at night. He would raise the volume of a tape recorder so that screams and cries of the victims were not heard.
He allegedly “hypnotized” the girls.
The state said the victims delayed going to police because their families were apprehensive. Initially, they approached various clerics and religious institutions. Almost a year later, they filed a case.
Peer’s acquittal triggered anger in the state, following which the police arrested him under the Public Safety Act – a section that allows a person to be imprisoned indefinitely without a charge being filed.
As carried in HT on 21/9/2017