Why not court-monitored SIT in Kunan-Poshpora ‘mass rape’, HC asks govt

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Tuesday issued a notice to the state government to show-cause why the plea by survivors and torture victims of the Kunan-Poshpora ‘mass rape’ of 1991, is not accepted.
A division bench of Chief Justice M M Kumar and Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar passed the orders on a petition filed by five survivors of the alleged rape, seeking constitution of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by SSP-ranked officer and its monitoring by the High Court.
The court also asked the state government to file status of the ongoing investigation by SP Kupwara as well as the reason for deciding ‘averse’ to the recommendations of Rs two lakh to the rape victims by State Human Rights Commission.
The directions were passed by the bench after hearing advocate Parvez Imroz who represented the petitioners. The petitioners said that on the night of February 23,24, 1991, troops of 4 Rajputana Rifles “committed mass rape of 32 women, of all ages and conditions, pregnant, deaf-dumb, mentally-ill, elderly (up to 70 years) between 11 pm and 4 am in the twin villages of Kupwara during a cordon-and-search operation.”
In his submission, Imroz took the court through the history of the case in the High Court, the SHRC and the Kupwara courts. He informed that bench that after some victims approached SHRC in 2007, the Commission had recommended action against then Director Prosecution for closing the case in 1991 as untraced, re-investigation of the matter and payment of Rs two lakh as ex-gratia to victims.
Referring to an RTI reply, Imroz submitted that an empowered committee, constituted for the purpose has decided against paying ex-gratia to the survivors.
The RTI reply, he said, states that as the incident occurred in 1991, there was no policy or rule providing for compensation relief to the victim of the crime.
“The ex-gratia rule in vogue was for (kin) of any deceased person who suffered during militancy-related operation. The state government has recently notified victim compensation scheme which provides compensation to victims of different crimes including rape. In view of the lack of policy (in 1991), recommendation for ex-gratia cannot be accepted,” the committee has concluded as per the RTI reply.
On June 18 last year, Imroz said that a magistrate—Sub-judge Kupwara—after declining to accepted a closure by police had directed SP Kupwara to hold the investigation.
However, Imroz said, there was no headway as the police officer is seeking extension after extension from the magistrate instead of properly carrying out the investigations.
Subsequent to the submission, the court issued the ‘show-cause’ notice which was accepted by Advocate R A Khan, Additional Advocate General, on behalf of the state respondents— Commissioner Secretary Home, Deputy Commissioner Kupwara, Director General of Police and SSP Kupwara.
The division bench directed that the response to the notice as well as to directions regarding status of the investigation and the reason “as to why the decision adverse to the petitioners has been taken” be filed by July 1.
The bench also issued notice to other respondents including government of India, Colonel K.S Dalal and eight personnel of the 4 Rajputana Rifles, B.G Verghese (former member of the Press Council of India) and Wajahat Habibullah (then Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir).
The victims are seeking directions to them to cooperate with SIT. Besides, they seek directions to Deputy Commissioner Kupwara to ensure that necessary relief as per relevant rules as well as SHRC recommendations is paid to them.
In May last year, the High Court had closed a PIL filed by a group of at least 50 civil society members comprising students, teachers and professionals. However the petitioners were left free to approach the court as and when any final decision is taken by the Magistrate.
On June 18, 2013, responding to a closure petition by the police 22 years after the investigation of the case was closed, the Judicial Magistrate had directed further investigation “to unravel the identity of those who happened to be the perpetrators of the alleged crime”.
The investigation was to be carried out within three months.