2019 Banihal Attack: SC Clears Path For Prosecution Of 6 Accused

(MENAFN- Kashmir Observer) New Delhi- The Supreme Court on Friday paved the way for the prosecution of six alleged Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) operatives accused of carrying out the failed car suicide bomb attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy in Banihal in March 2019.

A bench of justices MM Sundresh and SVN Bhatti on Friday set aside the April 2021 judgment of the J&K high court, which had affirmed a trial court order to exonerate the six accused of the terror charges on account of a procedural lapse in initiating their prosecution, according to a report in the
Hindustan Times.


The unsuccessful attack on the CRPF convoy was likened to and closely followed the 14 February 2019 attack in Pulwama, in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed by a suicide bomber, owing allegiance to Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).

The top court said that the procedural lapse was a curable one, putting the authorities concerned at liberty to grant approval for the prosecution of the accused under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) by following the prescribed procedure. Reading out the operative part of the verdict, justice Sundresh said that it was open for the authorities to grant proper approval, as mandated under the law.

Additional solicitor general SV Raju represented the federal agency in the case.

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On March 30, 2019, suspected HM operatives tried to carry out an attack on a CRPF convoy in Banihal on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway. The suspect, Amin of South Kashmir, allegedly tried to ram explosives laden Santro car into the CRPF convoy at Banihal on the pattern of February 14 Pulwama attack.

The CRPF personnel on board had a lucky escape as the plan for a Pulwama-like attack failed. The only damage to the bus was the broken rear-glass windows. The car caught fire as the cylinders exploded. Amin escaped into a hamlet from the spot, only to be nabbed a day later. Subsequently, five other accused – Umar Shafi, Aqib Shafi Shah, Wasim Ahmed Dar, Hilal Ahmad Mantoo and Shahid Ahmad Wani – were also nabbed.

After Pulwama, the Union home ministry transferred investigations into this copycat ambush on CRPF convoy to the National investigation Agency (NIA). The NIA filed its charge sheet in the case in September 2019, naming Amin and five others as accused of hatching a plot to kill the security personnel and also waging a war against the country.

However, in March 2020, a special court in J&K discharged Amin of the UAPA as well as other penal charges noting that the district magistrate concerned could not have filed a complaint in the case without an authorisation from the government to do so. By its judgment in April 2021, the J&K high court affirmed this order, upholding Amin's exoneration.

In February 2021, the NIA filed a supplementary charge sheet against Naveed Mushtaq Shah, a former J&K police constable who later joined HM.

According to a NIA statement on the day, the investigation established that accused Shah was actively involved in the planning and execution of the attack on the CRPF convoy, along with Riyaz Ahmed Naikoo, Rayees Ahmed Khan and Dr Saifullah Mir who were subsequently killed in encounters with security forces. Naikoo, commander of HM, was killed during an encounter in Pulwama in May 2020.

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