HC refuses to give interim protection from arrest to Kishwar

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court today refused to grant interim protection from arrest to activist Madhu Kishwar, against whom a non-bailable warrant has been issued by a Srinagar court in a criminal defamation case.

Justice Vinod Goel questioned her for approaching the Delhi High Court when the Supreme Court had entertained her plea to participate in the court proceedings at Srinagar through video-conferencing from a Delhi court.

She submitted that an NBW warrant was issued against her despite the apex court's July 24 order permitting her to participate in the court proceedings in Srinagar through video conferencing in a defamation case filed by Kashmir-based journalist Syed Shujaat Bukhari.

The high court asked Kishwar's counsel as to what steps have been taken by them following the Supreme Court's July 24 order permitting her to participate in court proceedings at Srinagar through video-conferencing from a Delhi court.

"Why protection? What steps have you taken? You want to avoid the trial. No interim protection," the judge said, adding that she wanted to delay the trial and also avoid video conferencing.

"Have you filed an application before the Srinagar trial court. Give a copy of the Supreme Court order to the Srinagar trial court and, if you fail to get relief from there, move Jammu and Kashmir High Court.

"You go and make a representation to Jammu and Kashmir High Court and inform about the Supreme Court order. You want to avoid video conferencing," the court said.

Kishwar, in her plea, sought quashing of the NBW issued against her by the Srinagar trial court on August 26 in the defamation case and said if the NBW is not stayed, the apex court order will be defeated.

Advocate Ravi Sharma, appearing for Kishwar, submitted that considering the situation prevailing in Kashmir valley, the apex court had exempted Kishwar and her counsel from personally appearing before the Srinagar trial court and directed the trial court to conduct the proceedings through video conferencing.

He argued that the trial court issued NBW disregarding the apex court order and said if the court connects Kishwar through video conferencing, she was ready to appear before the Srinagar court any moment.

The counsel, who claimed they have placed a copy of apex court order before Srinagar court, said the trial court issued NBW for September 16 and Kishwar could be arrested, if not provided interim protection from arrest or the warrant is stayed.

Additional standing counsel of Delhi Police, Nandita Rao, opposed the plea saying the apex court has given liberty to the petitioner to organise video conferencing from Delhi court to Srinagar court and they should approach the registrar general and get it done.

"Through video conferencing, she can file an application for cancellation of NBW before the Srinagar court. Indirectly, they are seeking anticipatory bail from this court and stay on the matter. Even the Supreme Court had refused to transfer the case from Srinagar court. She can move Jammu and Kashmir High Court for any relief," the Delhi Police counsel argued and submitted a status report in the court.

The judge also questioned the activist for not impleading the complainant journalist as a party in this matter, saying he would be taken by a surprise if this court passes any order.

The court listed the matter for October 13.

Kishwar, in her petition, claimed that on the basis of a "few tweets" posted by her on her Twitter handle regarding the state of the media in Kashmir, a complaint was filed by Syed Shujaat Bukhari, the Editor-in-Chief of a daily published from Srinagar, alleging that these tweets were defamatory.

She had approached the apex court challenging the May 24 order of Jammu and Kashmir High Court dismissing her plea seeking transfer of the criminal defamation complaint against her from a court in Srinagar to Jammu.

The apex court had allowed her to participate in court proceedings at Srinagar through video-conferencing from a Delhi court.

It had said if video-conferencing facility was not available in the Srinagar district court where the matter is pending, then the proceedings may take place at any appropriate place or court as per direction of the Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.

It, however, had clarified that it would be open to the trial court to make any appropriate modification in this arrangement to ensure that trial is not delayed and that "this order will be subject to the proceedings not being obstructed in any manner".

Kishwar had claimed that the apex court should consider the "continuing surcharged atmosphere in the Kashmir Valley, where even policemen are being lynched and security forces face murderous attacks every day".

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