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HC rejects bail plea of Baramulla Councillor accused of cheating

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Srinagar: The J&K High Court on Tuesday rejected the bail application of a Councillor of the Municipal Council Baramulla alleged of being involved in cheating, extortion and many other offences.

The councillor, Ashiq Hussain Ganai, according to the prosecution, claimed to wield high bureaucratic and political influence. He had extorted lakhs of rupees from an acquaintance in exchange for the release of his (acquaintance’s) brother, lodged in a Haraya jail for “killing an army-man”.

The victim had filed an application before Senior Superintendent of Police, Baramulla, against the councillor and his accomplice Manzoor Ahmad Bhat.

“Three persons — the bail applicant councillor, Manzoor Ahmad Bhat and Ashiq Hussain Lone — claiming to have high political and bureaucratic influence, assured the complainant that they could secure release of his brother and demanded an amount of Rs 5.50 lakhs. Believing the assurance of the accused, the complainant made a payment of Rs 3.00 lakhs to the applicant and Rs 1.00 lakh to Umar Ganai and the remaining amount of Rs 1.50 lakhs was handed over to the accused in cash but despite receiving the aforesaid payment, the accused persons failed to get his brother released from the custody. An additional amount of Rs one lakh was also demanded which the complainant flatly refused,” the prosecution said.

“On his request to do the needful pursuant to the settlement, the accused persons threatened the complainant of dire consequences. The application was forwarded to the concerned Police Station and FIR No.152/2023 for commission of offences under Section 420 and 384 IPC was registered against the applicant and other accused persons,” it added.

The applicant councillor sought bail in anticipation of arrest, which had already been turned down by the Sessions Judge, Baramulla in August 2023.

The applicant and other accused persons stated that a false and frivolous FIR has been registered against them only to tarnish their image.

The prosecution story states that the Sessions Court rejected the bail application on the ground that six criminal cases were pending against the councillor.

The respondents claim that the councillor is a habitual offender and is involved in cases relating possession of counterfeit seals, forgery, attempt to murder, cheating and other crimes.

“He is continuously avoiding his presence before the investigative authorities and has used social media platform Facebook to address the media-persons and indirectly suppress the main witness, which is a kind of intimidation to the complainant that he may use his political and bureaucratic influence to harass the main witnesses of the case,” it said.

Justice Rajnesh Oswal after perusing the records observed  “the allegations against the applicant are very serious in nature and in light of the amount transferred in his account, as is evident from the bank statement, it is, prima facie, established that the applicant has received an amount of Rs 3.00 lakhs from the complainant. The contention of learned counsel for the applicant that the applicant has not received any amount from the complainant gets belied in view of the record of the bank procured by the Investigating Officer.”

He said “there are very serious allegations against the petitioner in respect of receipt of money for procuring release of brother of the complainant. No doubt offence under section 420 IPC is punishable with maximum imprisonment of seven years but the antecedents of the applicant are also not clear enough for grant of bail in anticipation of arrest.”

He said the antecedents and the conduct of the accused are also the relevant considerations for grant of bail in anticipation of arrest and accordingly dismissed the counsellor’s petition.

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