During electioneering last year, the emphasis was more on withdrawing criminal cases against “stone pelters” than on issues like autonomy, Self Rule, the AFSPA, and Article 370. Education minister, Naeem Akhtar, who was then the spokesperson of the PDP, had promised such cases would be withdrawn were his party to be voted to power. The National Conference, on the other hand, had taken an opposite line, with its additional secretary general, Dr Mustafa Kamal, making it clear that it would take no such step. Akhtar’s promise had lured many a youth to the polling booths.
The government, legal experts believe, has the authority to withdraw criminal cases. This has been done in the past as well. In 1984, a criminal case (jail break) was withdrawn against Muhammad Maqbool Bhat and his associates. Similarly, a criminal case of a serious nature was withdrawn against Al Umar chief, Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar, to secure the release of passengers of a hijacked plane. Zargar was flown to Kandahar by the then Foreign Minister, Jaswant Singh. But can the government do it this time to fulfill a poll promise? Legal experts see no problem in this, but political experts say that the state government would have a lot of explaining to do, especially after Masarat Alam’s release, a decision that triggered a debate across India, with some television channels linking it to the security of the state.
It is pertinent to mention here that most youth with cases pending against them have been booked under Section 307 of the RPC. This section deals with attempted murder which happens to be a serious offence. There are a few cases where stone pelting has caused death. What will happen in such cases? The government alone can explain. But the PDP has to do something to stay relevant in the Valley. Withdrawing cases against “stone pelters” could earn it a lot of goodwill, and its coalition partner, the BJP, is likely to oppose such a move (withdrawing cases) tooth and nail.
A coalition works when partners accommodate each other by making adjustments here and there. The PDP allowed the Bill on 8 per cent reservations for scheduled castes to be dumped to please the BJP. Similarly, the BJP can be asked to help in withdrawing cases against youth booked for stone-pelting.