A Delhi court snubbed today an over-enthusiastic prosecutor for the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for asking Kashmiri separatist leader Shabir Shah to chant ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ to prove his patriotism, saying it was not a television studio. Additional Sessions Judge Sidharth Sharma chided the lawyer for his remark and later allowed the ED’s plea for extention of sixty-four-year-old Shah’s custodial interrogation in a decade-old money laundering case. The ED’s counsel Rajeev Awasthi alleged that Shah was ruining the country by using money to fund terror and breached the line by daring the separatist leader to chant ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ to prove his patriotism. However, an anguished judge stopped him, warning that the courtroom was not a “television studio.” “Argue on the merits of the case,” said the judge.
During the proceedings, the ED submitted that foreign funds were used for terror activities including stone pelting on the security agencies in the Valley. The agency told the court that the source of funding of properties of Shah, worth hundreds of crores of rupees, had to be unearthed. The prosecutor told the court that Shah, arrested on July 25 in the money laundering, was “totally non-cooperative” during his questioning by the ED. Advocate M S Khan, appearing for Shah, however, alleged that his client was being pressured and compelled to give various statements during his custody by ED officials.
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He opposed the submission made by the agency, saying that it was not revealing the complete facts before the court. The agency said there was a need to probe a lot of cash transactions which were used for terror activities and stone pelting causing huge inconvenience in the Valley. The ED said it was ascertaining Shah’s role in “anti- national activities” as well as the terror funding through ‘hawala’ channels from countries like Pakistan, the UAE and the UK. It told the court that the separatist leader was in continuous contact with anti-national elements, besides terrorists in Pakistan, and received money for “disrupting the peace of Jammu and Kashmir”. It also said that Shah’s associates were to be confronted with him and the “international ramification” of financial involvement was to be unearthed.
The ED’s application, seeking seven days’ custody, also said that during interrogation Shah revealed that he was obtaining donations for the Kashmir issue in cash for which he was not filing any income tax returns. The records relating to the donations were to be recovered and the accused had to be confronted with them, the agency said. Shah was arrested by the ED a day after several Hurriyat leaders were taken into custody of the National Investigating Agency (NIA) in a case of alleged terror funding in the Valley to fuel unrest. He was taken into custody in the August 2005 case in which the Special Cell of Delhi Police had arrested Mohammed Aslam Wani (35), an alleged hawala dealer, claiming that Rs 63 lakh was recovered from Wani out of which Rs 52 lakh was allegedly to be delivered to Shah.
The agency had earlier issued summonses to Shah in the case, the prosecution had said, adding that Wani had claimed that he had given Rs 2.25 crore to Shah. Investigating agencies like the NIA have cracked down on Hurriyat leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s son-in-law — Altaf Ahmed Shah, also known as Altaf Fantoosh — and six other Kashmiri separatists.