“IF Handled Well, NIA Can Break Separatists‘ Backbone“-Justice R S Sodhi

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Rupinder Singh Sodhi, appointed as a Delhi High Court Judge in July 1999 , served till 2007. During his tenure as a High Court Judge, he handled several high-profile cases, including three sensational murder cases – Jessica Lall, Naina Sahni (Tandoor) and Priyadarshini Mattoo including Shashi Nath Jha murder (Involving former Union minister Shibu Soren) and Lalit Suneja murder (Involving underworld don Babloo Srivastava). Earlier, as a senior practising Supreme Court lawyer, he had defended various criminal cases, which include those involving Satwant Singh, assassin of Indira Gandhi, Siukha-Jinda ( Assassin of Salined Army Chief General Vaidya). And a very significant case he defended was of Ahmad Omar Seed Sheikh, a British National of Pakistan origin responsible for killing Daniel Pearl, Wall Street Journal Journalist in Pakistan.

In an exclusive Interview with R C Ganjoo, Justice(Retired) R S Sodhi said, “If investigation continues systematically and scientifically by NIA , there is every possibility and chance of cracking the backbone of nefarious activities of the separatists.” EXCERPTS

Q: How would you describe the National Investigation Agency (NIA) operations being conducted against terror funding sources in Jammu & Kashmir?

A: Looking at the totality of the situation as it has assumed in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, no government or country can sleep over what is happening. NIA is doing a good job . They have been able to get to the root of the problem. The local vested interests are to my mind more dangerous than external threat posed by Pakistan. Any external threat can be handled easily but the internal sabotage by own citizens is causing concern and has to be dealt with in accordance with the law of the land.

Q: Legallly what sort of stringent actions need to be taken to nail sources of terror funding?

A: It is the duty of the state to maintain rule of law. You can’t permit anybody to be above law. Separatist leaders are furthering their vested interest. And that vested interest is easy money and India is a free country and Kashmir is a part of India as a free state. They have everything available as free citizens. I don’t know how do they ask for “freedom from freedom”.

Q: As a lawyer how would you represent them as a defecnce counsel and what would be your approach and as a Judge what could have been your observeation?

A: As a lawyer, I would defend them by playing procedural illegalities if any. But as a judge all arguments can very easily be set aside on a simple analysis. Any incriminating material capable of being converted to evidence, even if wrongly collected, would be admissible.

Q: Are our laws sufficient to punish the people involved in terror funding?

A: The existing laws are sufficient to deal with any situation, be it terrorist movement, be it abetment to terrorism or sympathiser of terrorism. Laws are also sufficient to meet exigencies which are not terrorist in nature but violative of existing laws. There is sufficient law to meet any exigencies. I have read book by a very senior RAW officer who proudly claims that he had been part of funding operation to the separatist movement but the money was used to buy peace. If this was the national policy of “corrupting the corrupt “, I am afraid it has miserably failed. It has exposed the policy of appeasement which India has been adopting for over half a century and poured in crores of rupees to finance a venture that allowed and tolerated illegal activities detrimental to national interest by allowing the separatist to feather their nests.

Q: Will such raids being conducted by NIA yeild fruitful results?

A: The present raids which have been conducted by NIA have already yielded material which is extremely incriminating and can be used against the accused persons. I am of this opinion that if investigation continues systematically and scientifically, there is every chance of cracking the backbone of nefarious activities of the separatists. What happened previously, I think was the result of national policies which investigated in a half-hearted manner and ultimately decided not to bring any body to book. The policy has been to fund the leaders to remain within particular frame-work and thereby, we have already made them leaders by giving undue publicity and funding to continue their controlled nefarious activities. This, I think, has stopped . And the present investigation is likely to bring forth positive results, exposé the lavish living style of separatist leaders who have used the innocent, unemployed Kashmiri youth to commit acts, of violence.

Q: Will not Pakistan’s ISI agency change its strategy after the exposure of the exposure of their funding sources to keep Kashmir and other parts of India in turbulent states?

A: Espionage to unsettling a neighbouring country are tactics known internationally. ISI is not a new agency. The ISI as is an intelligent agency bound to find alternative routes to continue chanelising money and funds into Kashmir by creating new leaders and exploiting senseless unemployed and highly surcharged aimless youth into believing that they are victim of circumstances and would be better off joining Pakistan than remaining in India.

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