Srinagar, July 16: In an ongoing petition in Supreme Court of India, the Jammu and Kashmir police has defended the registration of the FIR against one Army unit over the killing of three civilians in forces’ firing at Ganowpora area of Shopian back in January this year.
The J&K police, in an affidavit filed with the apex Court on Friday, said as per Code of Criminal Procedure, registration of FIRs in cases of cognisable offences was compulsory.
“No person-specific or class-specific exception is carved out in this principle to exclude any individual or class of persons against whom FIR should not be registered in a case where information of a cognisable offence is prima facie disclosed. The concerned police officer is duty bound to register the FIR,” reads the affidavit, a copy of which is with The Kashmir Monitor.
During a hearing before the apex court in March, Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Union government, had said that under Section 7 of the Jammu and Kashmir Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, no FIR can be lodged against Army personnel without the prior sanction of the Union government. The three-judge bench ordered a stay in the investigations, while noting that “Major Aditya is an Army officer and cannot be treated like ordinary criminals by the J&K police.”
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act gives the military sweeping powers to search and arrest, and to open fire if they deem it necessary for “the maintenance of Public Order”, and to do so with a degree of immunity from prosecution.
Responding to allegations that the police was functioning under political pressure, the affidavit states that no material had been presented that could ascertain the police’s lack of fairness in the probe. “It is false and vehemently denied that the police agencies are influenced by extraneous agencies or political entities or were nonfunctioning or that there was voluntary omission or inaction on part of any civil authority,” it said.
On January 27, residents of Shopian’s Ganowpora village clashed with personnel of the Indian Army after the Army sought the removal of flags associated with the Islamic State from the house of a slain militant.
The Army claimed it had opened fire in self-defence. Residents of the village, however, offered a different version of events. They claimed that stone pelting had broken out around 11 am that day, bringing soldiers from a nearby 44 Rashtriya Rifles camp to the spot, and that the soldiers had retreated soon afterwards. Later, residents claim, soldiers returned in greater numbers and resorted to firing from within Army vehicles, killing two civilians. A third man later died of his injuries in hospital.
An FIR filed by the police in January mentioned a Major Aditya Kumar as being head of the unit that opened fire on civilians. The FIR was initially registered under sections dealing with murder, attempt to murder and acts endangering life. After the Army responded with its version of events, the police added sections dealing with rioting with weapons, unlawful assembly, voluntarily causing grievous hurt, mischief causing damage to property, and punishment for attempting to commit offences punishable with imprisonment for life, or imprisonment.
Kumar’s father, Karamveer Singh, moved the Supreme Court against the FIR, invoking the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act. The police now “vehemently denies the unfounded and baseless apprehensions and allegations pleaded in the writ petition claiming that justice will not be done”. It said that Singh’s petition was devoid of merit and deserved to be dismissed.
The affidavit states that the FIR did not arraign Kumar and that an investigation by the police “does not violate any fundamental right of any person, not even that of an accused, much less of a stranger to the investigation proceedings”.
The affidavit also points to observations made by the Supreme Court on Section 7 of the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act in 2012, in the Pathribal fake encounter case. Drawing on that case, the affidavit stated that “even under the AFSPA, the Army Act or under any other law in force, there is no prohibition of registration of FIR against an army personnel or a requirement to seek a sanction prior to registration of a FIR against an army personnel”.
The police also defended its action by arguing: “The registration of FIR is not a determination of guilt against any party. It is merely the starting point of investigation to ascertain the true and correct facts relating to a cognisable offence and to ascertain whether a cognisable offence has actually been committed or not.”
It also argued that not investigating a charges of cognisable offence “would constitute a serious breach of the relevant statutory provisions” as well as violate the victims’ right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
Also on Friday, a separate application filed in the Supreme Court by the Jammu and Kashmir government’s counsel, Shoeb Alam, seeks to make four North Eastern states where the Armed Forces Special Powers Act is in place “parties to the present proceedings”.
“As on date the Armed Forces Special Powers Act is applicable in the states of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Jammu & Kashmir,” the application said. “Reopening this settled issue and the re-examination of the 2012 Judgment will require the aforesaid states to be heard since the powers of the police in these states in regard to registration of FIR against army personnel involved in cognisable offences will be directly affected. The aforementioned states, thus are necessary parties to the present proceedings.”
It then proceeded to suggest that all states in India may be involved in the discussion, “since the powers of the police of all states in regard to registration of FIR against army personnel involved in cognisable offences may be directly affected”.
Kashmir receives fresh snowfall, aerial traffic affected
Srinagar, Jan 17: Kashmir on Wednesday received fresh snowfall affecting the aerial traffic and bringing life to halt.
The fresh snowfall in this morning across the Valley disrupted the normal life in Kashmir with surface traffic remaining suspended for a day while as the Srinagar-Jammu highway remained open despite the snowfall.
Authorities in Srinagar Airport said that the flights to and from Srinagar were suspended in view of the prevailing weather conditions as well as the poor visibility.
Officials said that flights will be operational once the weather conditions and visibility will improve.”Due to bad weather/ heavy snowfall, all flights have been cancelled”.
Meanwhile, the 300-km long Srinagar-Jammu highway was open for one-way traffic as there was little or no snowfall in south Kashmir parts on Wednesday.
“Road Status: #Srinagar-Jammu highway open, Traffic plying from Srinagar to #Jammu; Srinagar-Kargil road Closed; Anantnag-Kishtwar road Closed; Mughal Road closed; Bandipora-Gurez road closed; Kupwara-Karnah, Kupwara-Keran, Kupwara-Machail roads closed. @JmuKmrPolice,” Police tweeted.
Director of Meteorological department (MeT), Sonum Lotus said that the light rains as well as snowfall were predicted by the department earlier. “The reports of moderate snowfall were received from some places in Kashmir today,” he said.
He added that the weather would remain mostly cloudy in Kashmir from Jan 18-19, saying that from Jan 19 evening onwards; there is possibility of light rains and snowfall at isolate places.
Lotus further added that the MeT has predicted highly dynamic weather till Jan 23 in Kashmir. “From Jan 20-23, there is possibility of moderate rains and snowfall across the Valley,” he said, adding that the surface as well as the road traffic would also get affected due to the snow spell.
Meanwhile, the state administration claimed to have adequate measures to ensure basic facilities and road clearance during and in the aftermath of fresh snowfall.
The top officials held a series of meetings so far to finalize arrangements in this regard.
The respective district administrations have also asked the officials to gear up for the fresh snow spell as predicted by the Meteorological department
Meanwhile, the day temperatures across the Kashmir Valley nosedived amid fresh snowfall.
A meteorological department official told that Srinagar recorded a maximum of 1.0 degree Celsius, more than six degrees below normal for this time of the year. The capital city saw 5.4 mm of snow (when converted into rain) from 0830 to 1730 hours.
The famous hill resort of Pahalgam recorded a maximum of minus 1.6 degree Celsius and saw snowfall of 8.5mm.
Qazginund, the gateway town of Kashmir, saw a maximum of 2.2 degrees Celsius while Kokernag, also in south Kashmir, recorded a maximum of 1.1 degrees Celsius. Both these places saw zero or traces of snowfall.
The MeT official said the famous ski-resort of Gulmarg in north Kashmir saw a maximum of minus 2.4 degrees Celsius and it had a snowfall of 15.2 mm during the day.
Kupwara town in north Kashmir registered a maximum of 0.8 degrees Celsius, the official said.
JK showcases tourism potential at Asia’s largest travel show
NEW DELHI, JANUARY 16: Launching its aggressive marketing campaign, the Department of Tourism, participated in the 3-day South Asian Travel and Tourism Exhibition (SATTE) travel show which began here on Wednesday.
SATTE is one of the biggest travel shows in Asia providing platform for travel agents, tour operators, hoteliers, destination management companies, tourism boards to sell their products and network to their potential clients from across the globe.
Besides, J&K Tourism Department, over hundred travel agents, hoteliers, other service providers and heads of the various travel and hotel associations from the Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions are participating in the travel show to showcase the State’s tourism potential.
Secretary Tourism, Rigzin Samphel, Director Tourism Kashmir Nisar Ahmad Wani and Director Tourism Jammu Om Prakash Bhagat along with other senior officers from the Department participated in the travel show.
They had an interaction with the leading travel agents from within and outside the country and apprised them about the State’s tourism products.
“SATTE is one of the largest tourism shows in Asia where we can promote our tourism destinations. The department will provide all the information about the JK’s destinations, products, services to the visitors to attract them to the state,” the Secretary Tourism said.
Over 20000 visitors, including domestic and international sellers and buyers, State tourism officials, heads of international tourism boards, hoteliers, and aviation experts showcased their products and services to the global trade community.
The travel show also provides an opportunity for the state tourism department to conduct business sessions with the visitors during the travel show.
On the first day, the Tourism Department of at its pavilion screened short films on different destinations for the visitors who were mesmerized to see the stunning beauty. It also showcased State’s splendid art, craft and sumptuous traditional food.
A large number of visitors turned up at J&K pavilion to inquire about the State’s tourism products, new destinations and infrastructure development.
The Department informed them about the pilgrim, MICE, heritage, art and craft, food, known and lesser-known destinations of all the three regions of the state.
The Department also distributed comprehensive publicity material in the form of brochures and pamphlets, pen drives containing travel videos of different destinations to the visitors at its pavilion.
During the convention, Secretary Tourism, Director Tourism Kashmir, Director Tourism Jammu along with heads of local travel and hospitality sector will also hold separate meet with media to apprise them about the Kashmir being the safe tourist destination.
The Director Tourism Kashmir said the department has planned series of road shows and shall also participate in travel marts in the next two months.
“We will be visiting major cities in the country for road shows. We have also planned road shows in countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Bangladesh where from we have got a good response from the travellers,” he said.
All election formalities to be completed by Feb end: Sources
Srinagar, Jan 16 : All election formalities in Jammu and Kashmir are likely to be completed by February end after which the Election Commission of India will take a final call on the dates for the conduct of Lok Sabha and Assembly elections simultaneously.
Top sources while disclosing this to Kashmir News Service (KNS) revealed that the Jammu and Kashmir government has fast paced the process of completing election formalities for both Lok Sabha and Assembly elections by February end and the final electoral roles are likely to be published anytime after January 20.
As already reported the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer Shailendra Kumar held video conference on finalization of electoral roles and other election related arrangements with all the district election officers (DEOs) of all the three regions of the state Tuesday this week.
Sources said the authorities in the election commission will work on the suitability of the location of polling booths across Jammu and Kashmir after January 20 and the process is likely to be completed by February 15.
The Election Commission of India, sources said, is likely to take a final call on the dates for the conduct of Lok Sabha and Assembly elections simultaneously earliest by February end and latest by March 15 and the polling in Jammu and Kashmir is likely to be held in the month of April only.
The polling, sources said, is likely to be held in eight phases adding that the polls in south Kashmir however may be held exclusively on the day when polls in no other part of the state will be held keeping in view the volatile situation in four districts of south Kashmir.