Srinagar: The state government on Tuesday rejected the demand for a probe by a sitting judge of the high court into the killing of five persons in firing by the government forces in Kupwara district following alleged molestation of a schoolgirl in Handwara town on April 12.
Instead, the government said that a seven-member special investigation team headed by DIG north Kashmir constituted for “speedy investigation” of as many as six FIRs would suffice. A total of 30 FIRs have been registered in the incident and its aftermath, the government said.
In its reply to a Public Interest Litigation filed by Kashmir High Court Bar Association, seeking probe by the sitting judge, the government urged the high court to dispose of the PIL by permitting “lawful authorities” to complete the probe and conclude the investigation.
“The respondents (government) along with the common masses fully trust the institutions of government who in no way are asking for an alternative probe. The respondents believe that in the instant case, the state machinery is competent enough to bring all culprits to book even for the slightest crime,” the government said.
It said that the investigation along with the magisterial probe in all cases, be it alleged molestation of a schoolgirl or the subsequent killings of Handwara and Kupwara were under progress and the result on merits will follow.
“The justice will prevail. The allegations against the popular government and against the establishment are otherwise baseless,” the government said, responding to Bar’s plea that there should be an independent probe by sitting judge because government probes are not trusted by public.
In its PIL, the Bar had said that several articles have been written in newspapers that “Indian army is literally lords of every inch of Kashmir and therefore they will shield the culprits at all costs.”
“Army personnel in Kashmir are for the protection of the common people and not for the reasons perceived by the petitioner wrongly. However the allegations are under investigation which is underway,” the government said in response to Bar’s plea that a million Indian soldiers in Kashmir have made the life of people miserable and it is because of their massive presence and the impunity they enjoy that the incidents like Handwara and Kupwara take place.
In reply to Bar’s contention that army shot dead two persons at Handwara after protests erupted following ‘molestation of the girl by a soldier’, the government said: “A case (FIR no 131/16 under section 302 stands registered). The investigation conducted so far reveal that army personnel, posted in a bunker at Main Chowk Handwara resorted to firing on violent mob and its participants were chanting provocative slogans and pelting stones. With the result, several persons were injured and two among them—Javeed Iqbal and Naseem Ahmad –succumbed to injuries. While the investigation of the case it at initial stage, it is needless to submit that army personnel posted in the bunker were about to be lynched by angry mob but same is subject matter of the investigation.”
The government also termed as ‘baseless’ the Bar’s another plea that that minor girl and his father were illegally detained by police. “The allegations (by Bar) are politically motivated and need not to be considered in light of the issue under reference. It is however submitted that they were under protective custody which was provided to them after girl’s father submitted an application about threat.”
Regarding the killing of Jahangir Ahmad Wani, the government said that he was killed after police and paramilitary forces resorted to “mild cane charging and tear smoke shells were used to maintain law and order after mob resorted to heavy stone pelting”.
Regarding the Natnusa firing, the government said that army’s 47 RR was constrained to open fire, resulting in the injuries to some protesters and one among them Arif Mohidin Dar later succumbed to injuries.
“The opportunist separatist (Hurriyat Conference and JKLF) leaders took the advantage of the deteriorating law and order gave a strike call which extended to six days.”
Augmenting demand for rejection of the Bar’s plea, advocate General DC Raina argued before a division bench of Justices Ali Mohammad Magrey and Justice Tashi Rabstan during the hearing of the PIL that “media trial or conclusions” do not form the basis for a concrete view in the case.
In his arguments, advocate Mian Qayoom referred to a judgment of Rajasthan High Court, stating that a judicial probe by a sitting High Court judge can be ordered in a PIL filed on the basis of newspaper clippings.
Questioning the investigation by police, Qayoom said: “How can one trust police when in one application father of the girl has signed an application while in another he has put thumb impression. Is he literate or illiterate?”
“It is not adversary litigation but a PIL. You (government) should not resist it if you are sincere for a fair probe. There is something up to their sleeves,” Qayoom pleaded.
He said that as per the School date of birth certificate- which he produced before the court- the girl is a minor and cannot be placed in a police lock up and even police could not entertain her application.
“Police can’t be trusted as they are not investigating the matter but are acting against Hilal and others. Can they conduct fair probe when there is pressure from higher ups. This is why we are seeking impartial inquiry,” he said, adding, “They talk of a safe custody when the police took away the girl three kilometers away and kept her in the house of a policeman.”
After hearing both the sides, the court reserved its verdict. Meanwhile, it issued a notice to Indian ministry of defence and state government on an application filed by girl’s mother, seeking a probe by Sessions judge Kupwara into creation and circulation of the video.