HC stays acquittal of Godman accused of raping

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Srinagar, Mar 4: Jammu and Kashmir High Court has stayed the acquittal by a trial court of 'godman' Gulzar Ahmad Bhat, accused of raping girls in his religious seminary in Budgam district of the Valley.

Directing the police to lodge the accused in judicial custody, a division bench of the High Court yesterday said "perusal of prosecution witnesses made out a strong case in the plea at hand to issue directions". The state government had appealed in the High Court against the trial court decision in which the accused 'godman' was acquitted of rape charges.

HC stays acquittal of Godman

The bench, comprising Justices Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Ali Muhammad Magrey, observed that the girls who were subjected to sexual assault have "given graphic details in the manner they were trapped and subjected to sexual assault". "After perusal of the statements of the prosecution witnesses, more particularly of those minor girls who have been subjected to sexual assault, a very strong case is made out for issuance of interim directions," it said.

The court also observed that it was "prima-facie of firm opinion" that an extraordinary case is made out at this stage to intervene. Bhat, who had set up a residential seminary for orphans at Budgam, was arrested in May 2013 on charges of raping minor girls.

Bhat was released immediately after Principal Sessions Judge Budgam Syed Tauqeer Ahmad acquitted him of rape charges on February 12. However, Bhat was re-arrested immediately under preventive laws following public outcry against his release.


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