Srinagar: The state government is yet to serve a notice, issued by the Supreme Court 13 months ago, seeking response from former Kashmir Divisional Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah and former Press Council of India member Vikram Rao in the Kunan Poshpora mass rape.
The J&K government had challenged before the Supreme Court the High Court orders asking it to pay compensation to the Kunan Poshpora mass rape and torture victims of 23/24 February 1991.
These orders were passed by the Srinagar High Court in a petition filed by five survivors the infamous incident.
“To date, the government has ensured delay in this matter by the manner in which it has served the other parties in the case,” spokesperson of Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society said in a statement issued here.
On Friday, apex court’s Registrar Pawan Dev Kotwal heard the SLP and noted that Wajahat Habibullah and Vikram Rao have not been served the notice by the government.
Meanwhile, the registrar granted nine officers of the 4 Rajputana Rifles, who are party to the petition, four more weeks to file their response.
Indian defence ministry has failed to file its response in the case and no further opportunity will be provided to do so as per the Registrar’s earlier orders of 30 September last year. The case has been listed again on August 12 before the registry.
The survivors of Kunan Poshpora have at every forum – including the Supreme Court – emphasized the urgency for fair and independent investigations. But, the government of J&K has chosen to take the issue of compensation before the Supreme Court in a clear attempt to completely stall investigations that were otherwise being pursued before the Srinagar bench of the High Court, the JKCCS said.
“To date, six victims of rape and torture have died but it is clear that J&K government and the army have no concern for the victims and are hoping to frustrate them through the legal process itself,” it said.
Besides ordering compensation in favour of the victims, high court was monitoring the investigation ordered by a judicial magistrate and subsequently upheld by Sessions Court in Kupwara.
However, a single bench of the high court on January 15 granted the stay on the army petition, which requested the court to annul both the orders—one passed on June 18, 2013 by judicial magistrate (directing re-investigation into the case) and another passed on August 8 by sessions judge Kupwara who had upheld it.
On February 23 this year, the division bench had questioned Union of India and the army’s approach leading to the stay of investigation into the infamous mass rape.
“Why did you go to the single bench when you knew that division bench is seized of the matter?” the division bench had asked soon after it was informed about the stay orders passed by the court’s single bench.
“Have you stated in your petition before the single judge that the division bench is monitoring the investigation?” the bench said while observing the “first virtue of humanity is justice.”
“Justice cannot be defeated by adopting such tactics. Try to do justice. There is a court above us all,” the bench had said.
Regarding the compensation, the state government on August 13 2014 had informed the court that it was ready to pay compensation but took a u-turn on the issue.
The high court had ordered payment of compensation in tune with the recommendations by the State Human Rights Commission.
In 2007, some victims of the mass rape knocked the SHRC, and the Commission in 2012 recommended re-investigation, payment of Rs 2 lakh as ex-gratia to victims and action against then Director Prosecution for closing the case in 1991 as untraced.