Srinagar: The J&K High Court Tuesday directed Special Investigation Team to conclude “with reasonable dispatch” the investigation into 1991 Kunan-Poshpora mass rape, even as the state government toed the line of army to oppose monetary ‘compensation’ to the victims.
As the hearing of a petition, filed on behalf of the victims, started before a Division Bench of Justices Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Dhiraj Singh Thakur, Additional Advocate General R A Khan informed that the state government has decided to challenge the court orders regarding ‘compensation’ to the victims before the Supreme Court of India.
Even though the challenge has not been made hitherto, Khan said, the government will soon file a Special Leave Petition and inform the bench about the orders by the apex court.
The fresh statement of the government is in contrast to its earlier stand that it was not averse to payment of monetary ‘compensation’ to the survivors of the mass rape incident that changed Kashmir forever. At least 30 women were gang raped on the night of February 23/24, 1991 by troops of army’s 4 Rajputana Rifles in the twin villages of Kunan and Poshpora in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district. Police had closed the case in 1991 as untraced; the case was reopened last year on the directions of a magistrate.
Last month, the government had last month sought time to comply with the orders by the court, submitting that the delay was caused on account of the devastating floods in the Valley.
In 2012, the State Human Rights Commission recommended re-investigation into the case, payment of Rs two lakh as ex-gratia to victims and action against then Director Prosecution for closing the case in 1991 as untraced.
In its objections to petition, the government of India has already stated that the grant of ‘compensation’ at this stage would implicitly imply that the state government also approves of the finding of SHRC and blames the army personnel for the mass rape.
Meanwhile, the head of magistrate-appointed SIT, SP Kupwara, Mohammad Rashid Bhat, filed the status report stating that he joined on October 18 and that he has taken up the issue with the army Brigadier concerned to bring the investigation to its logical conclusion. Subsequently, he sought more time for concluding the investigation.
At this stage, advocate Parvez Imroze, counsel for the petitioners, submitted that reinvestigation in the case was pending for a long time and that the SIT was only buying time without making substantial progress in the case.
Imroze argued that the delay has infringed the fundamental right available to the petitioners guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
“The SIT is duty bound to take all necessary steps in law to ensure that investigation is concluded with reasonable dispatch. It is not only statutory requirement but is inherent in the Constitutional guarantee contained in Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” the court observed and directed the officer heading the SIT to take all necessary steps in accordance with law and conclude the investigation with reasonable dispatch.
“He must take a stand by filing further status report as to how much time it would require him to conclude the investigation,” the court said and granted three weeks more time to the SIT for taking further steps in the investigation of the case.
On next date of the case on December 8, the court said it would consider the army’s objection to the maintainability of the petition and has asked parties to address arguments about it.