Srinagar: The J&K High Court on Wednesday directed the police to complete investigation into all the ‘117’ killings allegedly by government forces during the 2010 unrest in Kashmir within eight weeks.
“The (police) admittedly have registered 37 cases regarding 117 killings in question. In a few cases investigation has been concluded and chargesheet (filed). Let the investigation in other cases be completed within eight weeks and result of such investigation placed before the competent court,” a division bench of Chief Justice N Paul Vasanthakumar and Justice Hasnain Masoodi said while closing a Public Interest Litigation originally filed by JKLF chief Yasin Malik.
It also directed the police to register a proper FIR in all those cases where a report is lodged but an FIR, for one reason or the other, has not been registered. In another direction, the court asked the government to implement the recommendations once made by the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) headed by Justice (retd) ML Koul.
“The Commission is expected to look into all the concerns set out in the petition, like ways and means to prevent such deaths in the future, the extent of force to be used in response to public demonstrations, the circumstances attending the death of 117 persons between January to December 2010, the methodology to be followed and precautions taken while dealing with public demonstrations and, in particular, opening fire on demonstrators. The Commission of inquiry is on the job and is expected to submit its recommendation to the state Government,” the court observed and ordered the government to act on the recommendations once made by the CoI. The one-man Commission was constituted vide SRO 283 on 29 July last year to enquire into the circumstances leading to deaths by firing or otherwise in the Kashmir Valley during 2010.
On June 26, 2010, the government had appointed two former judges of the High Court, Justice (retd) Syed Bashir-ud-Din and Justice (retd) YP Nagrota, asking them to probe the killing of 17 youths by police and CRPF firing. The Commission, appointed (vide notification SRO-283) had a lifespan of three months from the date of issuance of the notification and it expired on October 29, 2010. The term of this Commission was not extended and its purview remained restricted to the 17 killings—out of more than 100 such killings at the hands of police and CRPF.
This CoI, as per the government, had come to a halt as Justice Bashir-ud-Din demitted office of Chairman SHRC on June 24, 2011, while Justice Nagrota tendered his resignation as member of the Commission with effect from August 21, 2011, expressing “inability to continue as its member because of his assuming office as chairman of the State Accountability Commission.”
Later, in July 2013, the Director General of Police filed a compliance report before the J&K High Court during the hearing of a PIL stating that the CoI stands expired and “no useful purpose would be served by constituting it afresh.”
The PIL was filed by the JKLF chief in 2010 but the government sought its dismissal alleging that Malik was trying to draw political mileage out of it. But the court rejected the government’s demand even as it substituted Malik’s name with that of Advocate Imtiyaz Ahmad Sofi as the petitioner.
The PIL had sought directions to the police to register cases wherever deaths occurred but FIR(s) were not registered and directions to police and other government forces to desist from firing on peaceful demonstrations as well as those involving stone pelting. The PIL had also demanded that the investigation be monitored by the High Court in cases where FIRs have been registered to ensure proper evidence is collected and the probe is taken to its logical conclusion.
It also sought direction for constitution of a high-level committee comprising men of eminence for suggesting ways and means to prevent such deaths and laying down norms to be followed by armed personnel before they open fire on demonstrators. The PIL had also pleaded that the Court may declare that in the event of any armed personnel found guilty of any act of omission and commission, attracting penal provisions, they would not be entitled to immunity under provisions of the Armed Special Powers Act (AFSPA) or any other statute.