Srinagar: Use of pellet guns as a means of crowd control is “inappropriate” under the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), Kashmir’s lawyers’ body contended Monday and asked the Jammu and Kashmir high court to ban its use in the state.
“The SOP is on the assumption that fire arms have to be fired below the knees. In the case of the pellet guns, this SOP is inappropriate. Why? Because pellets don’t go in a single direction and they are about 600 in number and they go in all directions. The diameter when it comes out of the gun is about six meter wide. Thus, this concept that you fire it below the knees is inappropriate,” senior advocate Zaffar Shah argued before a division bench of Chief Justices N Paul Vasanthakumar and Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey.
He was responding to the state’s contention that the SOP allows use of the pellet guns as fire arms as it included a 12 Bore Pump Action Gun, the formal name of the pellet guns.
The SOP is provided by Bureau of Police Research and Development and gives detailed account of when and how to use force for dispersing the crowds and restore peace.
Shah, who was representing the Kashmir High Court Bar Association, also referred to legal provisions under section 127 to 132 CrPC to highlight that the “people have to be dispersed by the use of force not shot at”.
He also rejected the contention by the government that high court, while dismissing clubbed PILs in 2013, allowed the use of the pellet guns.
“The high court in 2013 dismissed the ‘half hearted’ petitions but did not approve the use of pellets because the expert report (referred by the court) pertained to Oleoresin grenades and not pellets,” he said.
He also urged the court to order the Indian Home Ministry to furnish the report by the expert committee constituted last month to suggest the alternative to the pellets.
“Will the pellet guns will continue or have been replaced by something known as PAVA grenades or will both will be used now. While it is to be seen whether chilli PAVA is more dangerous, the question is whether they will use both. As far as media reports suggest, government says that it will use pellets in rarest of rare case. Who will decide it? Even judges find it difficult let alone a police constable,” he said and urged the court to direct the home ministry led by Rajnath Singh to specific mention whether they are using or not discounting the pellet guns.
To question by the bench, Shah challenged the advocate general to provide a single instance in the past two months where a person has died due to stone.
“Police is well protected. They have head gear and other body protections but we get killed by the pellets,” he said.
He said that while advocate general is at pains to indicate how the state has suffered and 3777 policemen and paramilitary forces personnel were injured “but nowhere he indicates that about 11000 civilians have been injured, over 600 are hit in the eye, partially or fully blinded, under treatment for years now. How many people have been killed and maimed.”
President of the lawyers body, Mian Qayoom, also contended in support of banning the pellet use.
“We will pass (interim) orders inside (the chamber),” the court said.