Police work pending as J&K approves new prosecution wing

Naveed Iqbal

In the wake of the separation of the wing, police work has remained pending since the structural changes brought to the prosecution wing are yet to take shape.

Since November 1, the day after the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir became a Union Territory post the suspension of Article 370, prosecution powers were taken away from the Jammu and Kashmir Police and a separate prosecution wing has been set up for the UT. With close to a lakh trials pending, the setting up of the new wing is expected to accelerate trials in J&K which has a nearly 38 per cent conviction rate.

However, in the wake of the separation of the wing, police work has remained pending since the structural changes brought to the prosecution wing are yet to take shape.

Ahead of J&K's transition as a UT, prosecutors largely operated out of police offices and assisted police with legal advice, vetting of chargesheets and documents ahead of trials. There are approximately 250 public prosecutors available to the wing, of which some come from the J&K bar association.

Syed Ahfadul Mujtaba, J&K's first Director General (Prosecution) told The Indian Express, "Ideally, we would like to have public prosecutors in each district to work with the courts. The rules are yet to be formed. I think it is likely that the pendency, which is at over a 99,000 for 2018 and close to that number for 2019 as well, should go down with the new wing coming into place."

Srinagar district alone is dealing with approximately 15,000 cases. Officials expect that with prosecution powers being separated from the police, more transparency will be brought into the process of "assisting the courts in the delivery of justice".

On October 26, the State Administrate Council (SAC), as it existed before October 31, had approved the establishment of an independent prosecution cadre with a separate Directorate. The SAC approved creation of a separate Prosecution cadre, with members of the existing Prosecution wing as its initial constituents, and establishment of a Directorate of Prosecution to be headed by a Director.

Meanwhile, 12 deputy directors are to be appointed to assist the Director -- six in Jammu and six in Kashmir. It is likely that the office-bearers of the wing will operate out of the deputy commissioners' instead of the SP offices as they previously did. Section 492 of CrPC, as operational in the erstwhile state, provided for prosecution to be placed under police.

In Kashmir, the deputy director will operate from Anantnag, Budgam, Kupwara, Baramulla, Ganderbal, Srinagar; and in Jammu, they will operate from Jammu, Kathua, Poonch, Ramban, Udhampur and Doda. Some districts have been clubbed with others owing to unavailability of Chief Prosecution Officers, based on case load. Like in the case of Anantnag, the Deputy Director will look after cases in three districts -- Anantnag, Kulgam and Shopian.

Additionally, the state administration is also considering hiring retired prosecutors to assist with the large pendency of trials, sources told The Indian Express.

Meanwhile, in a meeting with deputy commissioners "who will supervise the prosecution work", the home department has also asked them to provide office space and other logistical support to the deputy directors within the next 10 days, sources said.