SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Monday asked for the response of J&K’s Chief Secretary and Commissioner Secretary (Home) to public interest litigation (PIL) that seeks to make the Koul Commission report public.
The one-man Commission of Inquiry (CoI) was appointed on 20 June, 2014, little over a month after then NC-Congress coalition suffered a drubbing in Lok Sabha elections with all its candidates losing the race to Indian parliament. Headed by Justice (retd.) M L Koul, the commission submitted its report to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on December 30, 2016.
A division bench of Chief Justice Badar Durez Ahmad and Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey directed the government to file the response after the ensuing summer vacations and posted the plea for further consideration next month.
Besides making the report public, the PIL also seeks directions to state government to implement the recommendations of the commission, including those regarding grant of compensation to the victim families. It also seeks directions to the government to submit the action taken report with respect to findings of the commission.
The CoI was tasked to enquire into the circumstances leading to deaths by firing, or otherwise, during “maintenance of law and order in different districts of valley” in 2010.
Besides, it had been asked to find out the adequacy, or otherwise, of the force used; fix responsibility, wherever excessive force has been used; suggest measures to avert the recurrence of such incidents in future; and recommend the action to be taken against person(s) or authorities.
The PIL that seeks its implementation has been submitted by Peoples’ Forum through its General Secretary M M Shuja. The litigation refers to media reports suggesting that the commission’s report pin points the responsibilities apart from making recommendations to redress the grievance of the families of victims.
The recommendations also include strict guidelines for crowd control and award of compensation to the families of those killed in action of government forces, the plea says, adding, “a portion of the report has been leaked to the media but the State has not till date made the report public and none of the recommendations have been implemented”.
“The state has not so far either made the report public or disclosed as to what action it has taken or contemplated to be taken to mitigate the sufferings of the victims with the result that the society at large carries an impression that constitution of such commission is an exercise in futility. Such impression is not only detrimental to the peace and security in the state but also speaks volumes about the transparency and accountability of the system and of those managing the system,” the PIL says.
The state government, the PIL says, was under a constitutional obligation to make the report public so that any lapse pointed out in the report was taken note of. “By keeping the public at large in dark the state is indulging in gross abuse of process of law and trying to shield those who may have been held guilty by the commission”.
More than 120 people, mostly bystanders, were killed by police and paramilitary CRPF personnel in Kashmir valley in 2010. “Had the report been filed on time and the recommendations implemented, the unrest of 2016 and the continuing disturbance in the Valley could have been averted,” the plea says.
Justice Koul Commission was asked to submit its report to the government within three months from the date of issuance of the formal notification on June 20, 2014. The commission was appointed, superseding the CoI headed by two former judges of High Court, Justice (retd) Syed Bashir-ud-Din and Justice (retd) YP Nagrota, for probing the killing of 17 youth in police and paramilitary CRPF firing.