Mian Qayoom argues Bar Association’s PIL, says 16,000 people injured by pellets from July 8 to December 2016
Srinagar: The High Court on Tuesday directed the J&K government to file within two weeks its response on paying compensation to pellet victims, with the rider that shall be the last and final opportunity for the government to file its response.
Hearing a PIL filed by the High Court Bar Association (HCBA), a division bench of Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey and Justice Tashi Rabstan directed the government through Additional Advocate General (AAG) BA Dar to file its response with regard to the pleas raised in the PIL within two weeks. The court said that “appropriate orders will follow” if the response is not filed within this given time.
The court also granted a week’s time to the petitioner’s counsel, senior advocate and president of HCBA, Mian Qayoom, for filing a rejoinder to the response of the government if they choose to do so.
Qayoom has 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 by pellets was not known.
In his previous argument, Advocate Qayoom pointed out that as per SKIMS Medical College Bemina, from July 8, 2016, to end of December 2016, 164 pellet victims were received there of which 25 had pellet injury in one eye and three had injuries in both eyes. As per the Director Health Services, Kashmir, 6,221 patients were received in government hospitals during the same period and five of these patients died of pellet injuries. As per the Principal of Government Medical College Srinagar, 1,198 pellet cases were received at hospitals affiliated with it between July 8, 2016, and December 2016.
“If these figures are taken into account, then those patients have not been included who went outside the state for treatment or to private hospitals within the state,” Qayoom pointed out. “From the figures of a few hospitals we cannot conclude that this was the number of persons injured by pellet shotguns in Kashmir.”
Qayoom had pleaded before the court that a high-level committee be constituted to find out the number of pellet victims in Kashmir, as the government figures “are not correct”.
He had said that as per data collected by the HCBA, 98 people were killed from July 8, 2016, to December 2016 by pellets, 565 people lost eyesight in one eye and 65 people lost eyesight in both eyes. About 16,000 people were injured by pellets during this period of less than six months, Qayoom told the court.
He had also argued before the court that the pellet shotgun had caused grievous sufferings across Kashmir, blinding several young men and women, and even the elderly. “It is very important to know what the government has done for the victims of this deadly pellet gun,” he said before the honourable court.
Qayoom had pointed out that the state government had promised compensation, jobs and better medical facilities to these victims. “What has happened to these promises?” he asked. “Have they provided compensation to any pellet victim? The response needs to be filed before this court.”
On December 14, 2016, the Supreme Court of India had said that pellet guns should not be used “indiscriminately” for controlling street protests in Jammu and Kashmir. The Supreme Court said that pellt guns should be resorted to only after “proper application of mind” by the authorities.
A bench headed by then Chief Justice TS Thakur had issued notices to the Government of India and to the 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 the 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 should have waited or called for the report of the expert committee.
The J&K High Court had also declined to accept the HCBA’s plea to prosecute the officers who ordered use of pellet guns and those who actually fired them.