‘Govt figures not correct’
Srinagar: A high-level committee must be constituted to find out the number of pellet victims in Kashmir as government figures “are not correct”, senior advocate Mian Qayoom told the High Court Monday.
The court was hearing a petition filed from High Court Bar Association regarding pellet victims.
Qayoom, who is also the HCBA president, submitted before the court that since 2010 – when pellet shotguns were introduced in Kashmir for crowd control – to the present year the number of people injured till date was not known.
Qayoom pointed out that as per SKIMS Medical College Bemina, 164 pellet victims were received there in which 25 patients had one eye injury and three patients had injuries to both eyes. As per Director Health Services, Kashmir, 6221 patients were received in which five patients of pellet injuries died. Also as per Principal Government Medical College 1198 pellet cases were received. “If these figures are taken into account then why those patients have not been included who have gone outside for treatment or within the state private hospitals. From the figures of few hospitals we cannot conclude that this number of persons were injured by pellet shotguns,” Qayoom said.
He said as per the data collected by HCBA, 98 people were killed from July 8 to December 2016, 565 people lost eyesight in one eye and 65 people lost eyesight in both eyes. Around 16000 people were injured and 12000 were arrested and put behind bars.
The division bench of Acting Chief Justice Alok Aradhe and Justice Dhiraj Singh Thakur directed Additional Advocate General (AAG) B A Dar to file response and counter affidavit within two weeks.
On previous hearing, Qayoom had argued before court that the pellet shotgun has caused grievous sufferings across Kashmir, blinding several young men and women, and even the elderly suffering bodily damages. “It is very important to know what the government has done for the victims of this deadly pellet gun,” he had said.
Qayoom had also pointed out that the government has promised compensation, jobs and better medical facilities to these victims. What has happened to these promises, he had asked.
“Have they provided compensation to any pellet victims? The response needs to be filed before this court,” he said.
On December 14, 2016, the Supreme Court had said that pellet guns should not be used “indiscriminately” for controlling street protests in Jammu and Kashmir, and that they should be resorted to only after “proper application of mind” by the authorities.
A bench headed by the then Chief Justice TS Thakur had issued notices to the Government of India and to J&K government seeking their replies on a plea alleging “excessive” use of pellet guns in the state.
The top court had also sought assistance of the Attorney General on the issue and asked him to submit a copy of the report submitted by the Expert Committee constituted for exploring alternatives to pellet guns.
The Supreme Court had passed these directions after hearing an appeal filed by Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association against the J&K High Court’s refusal to order a ban on the use of pellet guns. On September 22, 2016, the J&K High Court had rejected the Bar Association’s plea seeking a ban on use of pellet guns on the grounds that the GoI had already constituted a committee of experts through a memorandum dated July 26, 2016, for exploring alternatives to pellet guns.
The High Court had disposed of the petition, saying that no further direction was required since the matter was being looked at by the GoI.
The Bar Association challenged the order, contending that the High Court should not have disposed the petition and instead waited or called for the report of the expert committee. The High Court had also declined to accept the plea to prosecute the officers who ordered use of pellet guns and those who actually fired them.