Seeks report from GOI on using alternative methods by April 10
By Aqib Ahmad
Srinagar: Observing that use of pellets concerns life and death, the Supreme Court on Monday asked the government of India to consider effective means other than use of this ammunition to quell protests in Jammu and Kashmir.
A division bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar also expressed concern over injuries suffered by minors involved in protests in the Kashmir Valley and asked the government what action has been taken by it against their parents.
The top court asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to file a detailed reply on what alternate effective steps could be taken to deal with such situation in the state. It posted the hearing for April 10.
Earlier as the hearing started at around noon, the Attorney General provided in a sealed cover the copy of an ‘interim report’ by the expert committee constituted last year by the Indian home ministry to suggest alternative to the use of pellets guns. The court’s observation and direction followed the perusal of the report which home ministry claimed would not be in the national interest if its contents are made public.
In this regard, the Home Ministry had moved an application before the apex court last month, claiming privilege from disclosing the report under the Evidence Act, 1872.
“It is a considered decision of the Government of India, Ministry of Home affairs, that it is not in the interests of safety, security and sovereignty of the country to place the interim report as part of the record of proceedings before the court,” the application reads.
The interim report, it said, is an unpublished government record relating to affairs of the state and “it belongs to a class which demands protection from disclosure”.
For “limited purposes,” the Government of India had expressed willingness to place the report in a sealed cover for the perusal of the judges only.
On December 14 last year, the Supreme Court had said pellet guns should not be used “indiscriminately” for controlling street protests in Jammu and Kashmir and be resorted to only after “proper application of mind” by the authorities.
The court had issued notices to the GoI and the J&K government while seeking their replies on a plea filed by Kashmir High Court Bar Association.
The court had also sought assistance of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi on the issue and asked him to submit copy of the report submitted by the Expert Committee constituted in July last year by Home Ministry for exploring other alternatives to pellet guns in Valley.
In the special leave petition, the lawyers’ body has challenged the rejection of its plea by high court, calling for ban on pellet guns.
The High Court had cited the ground situation and observed that as long as there was “violence by unruly mobs”, use of force was inevitable.
“It is manifest that so long as there is violence by unruly mobs, use of force is inevitable. What kind of force has to be used at the relevant point of time or in a given situation or place, has to be decided by the persons in-charge of the place where the attack is happening,” the high court had said, underlining that it cannot, without any finding rendered by the competent forum or authority, decide as to whether the use of force in particular incident was excessive or not.
The high court on September 22 had also declined the Bar’s plea to prosecute the officers who ordered use of pellet guns or fired them even as it directed the authorities to provide adequate medical treatment to the injured by specialists in or outside the state.
At least ten persons have already lost life due to the pellets while more than six hundred have been rendered blind, partially or fully. Thousands of others have suffered other multiple injuries, mainly due to munitions, during the uprising following the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani on July 8 last year. —(with inputs from PTI)