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Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Ailing Kashmir businessman, arrested in militant financing case, moved out of jail but put under house arrest

Kashmiri businessman Zahoor Watali, arrested by the National Investigation Agency in 2017 in a militant financing case, has been moved out of jail and put under house arrest to facilitate treatment for a terminal disease.

A special NIA court earlier this month rejected Watali’s application for a regular bail but took a compassionate view of his illness and allowed him to avail treatment from the house but in judicial custody.

Taking into consideration the advice of doctors from a private hospital as well as those from the AIIMS, the special NIA court said Watali’s bail application deserves dismissal as it has been rejected by the Supreme Court.

However, till further orders, the court said, Watali could be moved to a house from where he shall be allowed to visit the hospital for his treatment or diagnostic center for the test.

“During the period of house arrest of the accused, except his immediate family members and the lawyer, nobody shall be allowed to visit the accused,” the court order said.

The court said the accused is aged and his health condition is precarious and he needs to be treated immediately as well as given assistance for his daily activities, for which he needs to be outside the jail.

“But the seriousness of the offense precludes me from granting him regular bail. Thus, I find that it is a fit case for immediate removal of the accused from jail and put him in judicial custody under house arrest,” the judge said.

The counsel for the accused had opposed his house arrest on the plea that his grandchildren would form an adverse opinion about him as they were not aware of him being in custody.

Understanding the anxiety expressed on behalf of the accused, the judge said, “The children will have to be confronted with the truth but the fact that taking the accused out of the jail can save his life outweighs the disadvantage of breaking the news of his custody to his grandchildren.”

The NIA said in its charge sheet that the probe was based on scientific and oral evidence, which had “conclusively established that for carrying out all these militant and subversive activities, the gang of the accused persons is receiving funds from Pakistani agencies through hawala conduits such as accused Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali and others and also raising funds by generating illegal profits from LoC barter trade by doing under-invoicing and cash-dealings”.

Watali had been granted bail by the Delhi High Court, which was turned down by the Supreme Court, saying “ample material has been collected to show the linkages between the Hurriyat leaders of the Jammu and Kashmir and militant organizations and their continuous activities to wage war against Government of India”.

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