The three-judge Disciplinary Committee of the High Court has stated: “Having gone through the contents of the complaint and material placed on record, we are of the view that, prima facie, the allegations levelled by the Law Secretary against the three Advocates constitute professional and other misconduct.”
It issued notices to the three advocates for their reply by or before the next date of hearing on December 17. It also issued notice to the complainant Union Territory Law Secretary Achal Sethi’s and the Advocate General DC Raina.
This could well be the beginning of the process of cancellation of the licences to practice law of the three leading advocates of the so-called ‘Azadi’ in Kashmir.
On Sethi’s complaint and orders of the disciplinary committee — comprising Justice Sanjeev Kumar, Justice Sanjay Dhar and Justice Mohammad Akram Choudhary — the High Court registry has summoned senior advocates Mian Abdul Qayoom, Nazir Ahmad Ronga and Ghulam Nabi Thoker alias Shaheen for their explanation. Legal experts believe that dissatisfaction of the disciplinary committee, in the absence of a Bar Council which does not exist in J&K, could straightaway lead to termination of the licences of the respondents.
Messers Qayoom, Ronga and Shaheen have functioned as presidents of High Court Bar association of Kashmir (HCBA) which was a general council constituent of the separatist All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) from 1993 till the amalgam’s split in 2003. Pursuing Hurriyat’s ideology, holding demonstrations for ‘Azadi’ and euphemistically calling for a “resolution of the Kashmir dispute under the UN resolutions or tripartite talks”, HCBA operated as an individual organisation after 2003 and did not join either of the two factions of the Hurriyat Conference. However, neither the Hurriyat nor HCBA have been banned till date. Qayoom, Ronga and Shaheen have been summoned as individual legal practitioners.
The Government’s action against the top separatist lawyers, after establishing control on all other significant platforms of so-called Azadi after the erstwhile State’s reorganisation in August 2019, is remarkable as it could virtually bury the movement of secessionism in Kashmir’s legal fraternity. While Qayoom has been a staunch supporter of the late hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Ronga has been in close proximity of the pro-Azadi Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
Following advocate Babar Qadri’s assassination in Srinagar on 24 September 2020, the UT Government did not permit HCBA to hold its elections. Srinagar District Magistrate observed that the association was allegedly pursuing separatist activity.
The Law Secretary’s complaint contains references to specific statements, actions and demonstrations of the three senior advocates as also the FIRs registered against them from time to time since 1990. It also contains Qayoom’s audacious statement before Justice Yaqoob Mir on 7 April 2010 when the former HCBA chief said, during his cross examination by advocate Sheikh Shakeel Ahmad, that he didn’t believe in the Indian Constitution and didn’t consider himself as an Indian national. The HCBA had filed a contempt complaint against the then Superintendent of Kot Bhalwal Jail of Jammu, Mirza Saleem Beg, who didn’t allow Qayoom and his associates to meet some detained militants and separatists as per the date and timing of their choice.
The complaint based on a dossier of the law enforcement agencies says that in 1990, Qayoom openly came out in support of the secessionist movement and presented a memorandum to UNMOGIP Headquarters at Srinagar. He was solely responsible for forming the HCBA, drafting its constitution and making it a constituent of the APHC. It pointed out that HCBA’s constitution provided in its aims and objectives “to secure secession of J&K from Union of India”.
A detailed investigation carried out by the law enforcement agencies has said that in April 2005 Qayoom made a public statement openly supporting terrorists and saying that armed struggle should continue till the goal of “azadi” was achieved. It said that in December 2007, Qayoom attended a seminar titled “Qaid e Azam” organised by Muslim League to commemorate the birth of the Pakistan founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah.
In June 2008, Qayoom played a key role in instigating the people against the Government during the Amarnath Land row. In October 2008, he led a procession up to Lal Chowk raising slogans in support of freedom. In March 2009, he stated that Kashmiri people should be proud of 18 ‘Mujahideen’ who sacrificed their lives at Kupwara, the report said.
Mian Qayoom and J&K High Court Bar Association in the name of free legal aid, defend the cases of all the terrorists and stone pelters. Qayoom claims that the assistance is given free of cost. However, reports contrarily suggest that Qayoom draws huge sums from Pakistan and terrorist organization for fighting their cases.
Heading the legal cell established and funded by Pakistan’s ISI, he along with a battery of lawyers including late Advocate Shafqat Hussian would plead and secure favourable decisions in all cases pertaining to entities involved in terrorism and secessionism since 1990, the law enforcement agencies’ investigation has observed. Questions have been raised over Qayoom and others attending the funeral processions and visiting the residences of the militants killed in encounters with the security forces.
“In February 2009, Shaheen while speaking in a seminar asked the self-styled separatist leadership to shun their differences and fight unitedly for seceding J&K from Union of India,” the investigation has revealed. It said that during the Amarnath Shrine Board land row in 2008, Ronga played an active role in provoking people. He also threatened advocates for appearing before courts during the Hartal call given by the HCBA, it added.