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Kashmir man jailed for saying he didn’t have much faith in Indian administrative officers at Janta darbar

A 50-year-old political activist from the Ganderbal district has been kept in “preventive custody” for being a threat to peace, police said on Tuesday.

Sajad Sofi, a resident of Wani Mohalla in the Safapora area of the central Kashmir district was booked under section 153 of the Indian Penal Code for speaking his mind during a public interaction with one of the advisors of Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha.

Sofi, who led a delegation of about half a dozen people to a public ‘darbar’ of advisor Baseer Ahmad Khan on Thursday last week, told him that people could have expectations from local officials like him and seek answers from them but what could he hope from officers who belong to outside the region.

“I can have expectations from you because you are a Kashmiri and you can understand us. I can grab you by the collar and seek answers. But what expectations can I have from officers who are outsiders?” he told Khan, according to the police report.

Sofi’s reference apparently was towards Ganderbal’s Deputy Commissioner Krittika Jyotsna — an IAS officer of the 2014 batch of the Uttar Pradesh cadre.

She was sent to J-K on inter-cadre deputation in February this year for a period of two years along with her husband Rahul Pandey, who is also an IAS officer and is the Director of Information Department.

The activist’s remarks reportedly angered the deputy commissioner.

The police report said that Jyotsna stood up from her seat and “strongly objected”.

“The circumstances of the incident and from the statements, a crime under 153A of the IPC is made,” the report said.

After the public hearing — darbar — was over, Sofi was booked under section 153-A of the IPC and arrested.

Section 153- A of the IPC deals with ‘promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language etc’ and ‘doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony’.

Sofi was granted bail by a local court here on Saturday, saying “bail is a rule and its rejection is an exception”.

Right of bail in non-bailable crime cannot be refused without assigning strong reason although bail is a discretion of the court and discretion of bail cannot be exercised arbitrarily.

“The allegedly committed crime attributed to the applicant does not carry life imprisonment or death penalty debarring this court to exercise discretion of bail in favour of the applicant. As such, this court has a sufficient reason to exercise discretion of bail in favour of the applicant,” the court said.

However, even after Sofi was bailed, the police took him into custody.

Police said he is in “preventive custody” for being a “threat to peace”.

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