The Chairman of Muslim Deeni Mahaz Dr Muhammad Qasim Faktoo completed 24 years of imprisonment, today. Dr Qasim was arrested on February 5, 1993 and booked under section 3 (TADA), under section 302 r/w 120-B RPC. The TADA Court of Jammu acquitted him and other two accused in the case on July 14, 2001 by giving observation: “The prosecution has miserably failed to prove the case against the accused persons.”
The authorities challenged the acquittal in the Supreme Court of India which sentenced him to life imprisonment with the direction at the end of the judgment: “They (accused) shall be given benefit of the period already undergone (under trial period) by them.” On completion of 14 years, the High Court of the territory directed the jail authorities to place Dr Muhammad Qasim’s case before the Review Board for review of his case. The Review Board, while taking into consideration all aspects of the case, recommended premature release of Dr Qasim in its meeting held on June 6, 2008.
The authorities rejected the Review Board’s recommendations not on the basis of interpretation of the life imprisonment that life imprisonment means imprisonment of whole natural life but on the basis of J&K Jail Manual Rule 54.1 which, according to Government, debars TADA lifer convicts from release on completion of two-third (14 years) of 20 years.
The High Court quashed the impugned order and directed the authorities to consider the case on the basis of J&K Jail Manual “Keeping in view the discussion made hereinabove read with law laid down by the apex court, the respondents had to consider the case of the petitioner in terms of the Jail Manual and lay laid down by the apex court. Viewed thus, the writ petition is allowed impugned order is quashed and respondents are directed to consider the case of the petitioner as indicated above and made a decision.”
The authorities challenged the order before the double bench of the High Court which observed, “The petition as highlighted warrants favourable consideration but impediment in the way of respondent (writ petitioner) is the scope of Rule 54.1 of the JK Jail Manual which orders him ineligible.”—KMS