Srinagar: The government has decided to process “for approval of the competent authority” a draft bill that proposes to arm the police with powers similar to those enjoyed by the armed forces in Jammu and Kashmir.
The 74-page Jammu and Kashmir Police Draft Bill-2013 had been posted on the Web site of the home department on February 2013 when the valley was under curfew in the wake of the hanging of Afzal Guru and people had been asked to post their suggestions about it within two weeks, which was later extended.
The legislation empowers the state government to declare any area “disturbed”, set up “Special Security Zones”, treat a police officer “always on duty” and enables the director general of police to set up and arm village defence committees.
“Suggestions have been obtained from different shades of opinion. After the governor’s rule, which lasted for around three months, the new government assumed office on 4 April 2016. The Draft Bill will be processed further for approval of the competent authority,” said chief minister Mehbooba Mufti who, as Opposition leader, had opposed the draft Bill saying “it will convert J&K into a lawless state”.
“Jammu and Kashmir has the dubious distinction of having been reduced to a police state outside the democratic system of the country but the proposed Bill would actually convert it to a lawless state,” Mehbooba had said in the assembly.
The legislation empowers the state government to
Declare any area disturbed
Set up Special Security Zones
Treat a police officer always on duty
Enables: Director General of Police to set up and arm village defence committees.
“It is an attempt to institutionalise the dreaded Ikhwan culture in the state. The police in the state definitely is in need of drastic reforms but many provisions in this bill are undemocratic and anti people,” she had said.
The proposed legislation was prepared by the NC-Congress coalition government in compliance to Supreme Court’s directions asking the states to put in place model police law.
But the proposed legislation, as drafted by the state government, evoked sharp criticism in the state and there were calls for its outright rejection.
“There is no point even discussing this Bill and I endorse the views of Hurriyat Conference (G) chairman (Syed Ali Geelani) and JKLF Chief (Yasin Malik) that it should be rejected,” noted senior lawyer Zaffar Shah had said in his address to a seminar organized by Kashmir Bar Association on the issue.
“We should give a clear message to those who have formulated this Bill that we reject it and it hardly matters whether you make it better, milder or you do not change it at all,” he said.
His views were also endorsed by former Bar president NA Ronga.
President of the lawyers’ body Mian Qayoom said, “Nasty powers, those powers which are otherwise available to army and other Indian forces, are given to police in terms of this proposed Bill.”
In fact, he had termed the proposed legislation contrary to Supreme Court directions on police reforms.
The apex court, Qayoom said, had ordered the police to set up Complaints’ Authority to inquire into complaints against police officer(s) at two levels. The findings of the Authority should be binding on the government.
But the Section 100 of the draft Bill proposes that director general of police’s views would be final, irrespective of findings, Qayoom said.
The Supreme Court had called for constitution of State Security Commission to ensure state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police.
The state proposes SSC to be headed by chief minister as its chairperson and home minister as vice-chairperson.
“When chief minister or home minister is chairperson and vice-chairperson, can we expect they won’t influence it?” Qayoom had said.
On creation of Special security Zones, the Bar president said that it was aimed at “perpetrating Human Rights Violations in Jammu and Kashmir.”
Former general secretary of the Bar GN Shaheen said the Bill was aimed at replacing the AFSPA, which provides armed forces sweeping powers, like shooting a person on mere suspicion.
A prominent civil society group had condemned the attempt of the government “to formally put in place powers and structures the J&K Police have for long enjoyed and employed to carry out systematic human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir.”
“The Government apparently sought to use the situation to formally introduce the abhorrent Draft Police Bill that seeks to turn Jammu and Kashmir into a police state,” it had said.
Then minister of state for Home had claimed that “most of the features in the draft Bill are based on a model Bill prepared by a committee of eminent experts constituted by the government of India and on the directions of the Supreme Court”.