New Delhi: The Supreme Court of India has listed on September 9 the clubbed petitions by state government and Indian army, challenging the J&K High Court orders on investigations and compensation to the Kunan Poshpora mass rape and torture victims of 23/24 February 1991.
“Await the return of service of notice already issued to all the respondents,” apex court’s Registrar Rajesh Kumar Goel.
Last month, the army filed the special leave petition more than 18 months after the state government challenged the high court orders asking it to pay compensation to the victims.
These orders were passed by the High Court in a petition filed by five survivors the infamous incident.
The army has contended before the apex court that the allegations of rape and torture are “a hoax orchestrated by militant groups…part of a cleverly contrived strategy of psychological warfare…to discredit the security forces by indulging in false propaganda with a view to jeopardize the conduct of counter insurgency operations in the Valley”.
In December 2014, the state government had challenged the High Court orders before the Supreme Court on the issue of compensation, and got a stay on the orders. Army through government of India had chosen not to respond to the petition despite being given time and opportunity to do so by the apex court. There are three other petitions pending before the High Court related to the case.
One by the survivors, seeking investigations and prosecution, and second by the army, against the implementation of the State Human Rights Commission’s recommendations and, against the police investigations ordered by the Judicial Magistrate, Kupwara, on 18 June 2013. To date, six victims of rape and torture have died.
Among others, the respondents in the SLPs include former Kashmir Divisional Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah and former Press Council of India member Vikram Rao.
Besides ordering compensation in favour of the victims, the 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 this year 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.