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Ganowpora killing: JK defends filing of FIR against Army

Monitor News Bureau

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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”.


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Lok Sabha passes bill to empower NIA in fight against ‘terrorism’

UPA repealed POTA for vote bank politics: Amit Shah

Agencies

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New Delhi, Jul 15: The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill 2019 after uproar by the opposition parties on the floor of the House.
The bill empowers the central anti-terror agency to investigation offences committed outside India as well as mandates the setting up of special courts for such cases.
Batting for the Bill in Lok Sabha, Union Home Minister Amit Shah urged members of opposition parties to remain united in passing the same.
Addressing the Lok Sabha, the Home Minister said that rationale behind the bill was to ensure speedy trial in terror-related cases. He further called for voting on the bill, saying it would classify as to who stood against terrorism and who stood for it.
“Terrorism is neither right wing nor left wing, terrorism is terrorism. This is a BJP government and it works as per the provisions of law,” said the Home Minister.
Later, Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy said that “it is the duty of the government to fight terrorism” and hence passing the bill was imperative for the country.
“Hamari ‘chowkidar’ ki sarkar hai. Yeh sarkar desh ki raksha karne ke liye aage rahegi (We have a government of ‘chowkidar’. This government is committed to ensure safety and security of the country). It is the duty of the government to fight terrorism.”
Parliament also witnessed verbal dual between Shah and AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi when Satya Pal Singh of the BJP alleged that TADA and POTA were used unfairly by the previous governments.
Earlier, several opposition members, including N K Premachandran and Saugata Roy, questioned the government’s decision to push for a discussion amid the ongoing budget- related debates but Speaker Om Birla ruled that a debate can start.
Reddy said the NIA has been doing a good work and secured conviction in over 90 per cent of cases. It has so far registered 272 cases out of which judgement has been delivered in 52, he added.
Appropriate punishment to the accused at times is not meted out to criminals involved in human trafficking, he said, pitching for the NIA to probe these cases.
With terrorism having international dimensions, he said it is imperative that the NIA is empowered to probe incidents of terrorism targeting Indians, the Indian embassy and other assets abroad.
Tewari said India’s founding fathers have given primacy to civil liberties as they had seen that many criminal laws were brought in by the British to keep Indians suppressed.
When investigation agencies are seen as being misused for political vendetta, then there is a fundamental problem with a bill that seeks to empower a probe body, he said. Tewari though added that his allegation is not aimed at any particular government and is generic.
He also demanded a separation between investigation and prosecution wings for a fair probe.
He accused the government of seeking to turn the country into a police state, and said its ramifications will last beyond its tenure.

UPA repealed POTA for vote bank politics: Amit Shah

New Delhi, Jul 15: Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday said that the decision of UPA government to repeal POTA in 2004 was a mistake and was taken for the sake of “vote bank politics”, which led to rise in the incidents of “terrorism” between 2004 and 2008.
Intervening in the debate on the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Shah said that BJP government had no intention to misuse the amendments being proposed to strengthen the NIA.
“It (POTA) was repealed to save the vote bank politics. It was helpful in protecting the borders of the country,” he said.
He said that the decision to repeal the POTA, taken by the first UPA government in its first Cabinet meeting, was a “political decision”.
Shah said the opposition members can do their politics but should not use the parliament for this.
Home Minister Shah, who faced some interruptions from opposition members, said the decision to repeal POTA was wrong and the view was also shared by security agencies.
“There was such rise in terrorism between 2004 and 2008 that the UPA had to bring the NIA Bill,” he said, adding that if there were POTA, Mumbai blasts could have been prevented.

Congress calls it attempt to turn India into ‘police state’
Agencies
New Delhi, Jul 15: The government asserted on Monday that a Bill to broaden the National Investigation Agency’s powers is part of its policy of zero tolerance against terrorism and is in national interest, as Lok Sabha took up a discussion on the proposed legislation.
While Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy sought support of all parties for the passage of the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Manish Tewari of the Congress accused the government of trying to turn India into a “police state.”
Tewari opposed the Bill, saying probe agencies are misused for “political vendetta” and “inspired media leaks” from them have turned the maxim of “innocent until proven guilty” on its head.
He also claimed that the constitutional validity of the NIA Act, which led to the investigation agency’s formation, is still not settled as pleas challenging its validity are pending in different courts.
Earlier, several opposition members, including N.K. Premachandran and Saugata Roy, questioned the government’s decision to push for a discussion amid the ongoing budget- related debates but Speaker Om Birla ruled that a debate can start.
Tewari said India’s founding fathers have given primacy to civil liberties as they had seen that many criminal laws were brought in by the British to keep Indians suppressed.
When investigation agencies are seen as being misused for political vendetta, then there is a fundamental problem with a bill that seeks to empower a probe body, he said. Mr. Tewari though added that his allegation is not aimed at any particular government and is generic.
He also demanded a separation between investigation and prosecution wings for a fair probe. He accused the government of seeking to turn the country into a police state, and said its ramifications will last beyond its tenure.

 
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KEG led alliance sweeps Kashmir Press Club polls

Shuja elected first Prez, Moazum VP, Tantray GS, Farooq treasurer

Monitor News Bureau

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Srinagar, Jul 15: Shuja ul Haq of India Today was elected first president of Kashmir Press Club for which the elections were held on Monday.

Shuja won by one vote in the closely fought polls. He polled 92 votes while his nearest rival Haroon Rashid of Nida-e-Mashriq got 91 votes. Zulfikar Majid, who was also contesting for the post of president, got 46 votes.

Except President, Kashmir Editors Guild led alliance swept the Kashmir Press Club polls.
Moazum Mohammad of The Kashmir Reader was elected vice president. Wasim Khalid and Syed Tajamul, who were contesting for the post of Vice President, got 24 and 74 votes respectively. Three votes were rejected.

 

Riyaz Ahmad Malik, Ishfaq Ahmad Tantray and Hakeem Irfan were fighting for the post of General Secretary. Ishfaq Tantray of The Tribune emerged winner by bagging 102 votes followed by Reyaz Malik 95 and Hakeem Irfan 28 votes.

There were two contestants for the post of treasurer. Farooq Javeed Khan polled 178 votes while Arshid Rasool got 44 votes.

Seven executive members, who emerged winners, include Habib Naqash with 150 votes, Arshid Hussain with 122 votes, Shafat Kira with 105 votes, Nisar Bhat with 122 votes Gowhar Geelani with 106 votes, Auqib Javeed with 99 votes and Altaf Baba with 86 votes.

252 journalists were eligible to cast their votes for four posts and seven-member executive committee. . However only 231 turned out to vote.

Much excitement was witnessed since morning as scores of journalists assembled to cast their ballots.

In a run up to the polls, candidates tried hard to woo voters through a fierce poster, social media and video campaigns.

Social security, exigency funds, free legal support and other issues were some of the poll promises made by the candidates during canvassing.

An eight member team led by Manzoor Anjum was part of election commission that conducted polls. The elections were conducted under the observation of two lawyers from High Court Bar Association– Bashir Sidiq and Mohammad Ashraf Bhat.

Press club of Kashmir was established last year. Later the erstwhile information directorate building at Polo View was handed over to the journalists. Since then ad hoc body of journalists was running the affairs of Press Club.

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Assembly Elections: Political parties get into campaign mode in Kashmir

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Jul 15: Political parties have kicked off the process to woo the voters even as the Election Commission is yet to decide on the schedule for the Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir.

Jammu and Kashmir is without an elected government since June 19 last year when the then Mehbooba Mufti government collapsed after BJP pulled out of the PDP led alliance.

Though the EC successfully conducted the parliamentary polls in May this year, it did not announce any schedule for the assembly polls.

 

Hopes however rekindled last month when Union Home Minister Amit Shah told the parliament that the assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be held “in a democratic, free and fair manner as soon as the Election Commission announces the dates”.

Sensing the possibility of early assembly polls, political parties have now switched into a campaign mode to woo the electorate in the state.“We are busy holding district level conventions. Our main focus is on unity. We urge people to unite for the sake of Jammu and Kashmir,” Ali Muhammad Sagar, General Secretary, National Conference, told The Kashmir Monitor.

Sagar said the party has been holding at least three conventions daily in south Kashmir region to put across their agenda. “We are now concentrating on Baramulla, Bandipora and Kupwara districts. We are holding corner meetings with people. We have given instructions to our workers to ensure that our message reaches to the people at grassroots,” he said.

People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which lost all the three parliamentary seats in Kashmir, has also reached out to their workers and core supporters for assembly polls.“We have held meetings in South and Central Kashmir. So far people have been busy with agriculture and tourism. Now our president Mehbooba Mufti will visit every constituency to garner support for upcoming election,” said Rafi Ahmed Mir, chief spokesman of PDP.

Mir said there are challenges of vote division before the party, but the party is working out a strategy to woo the voters. “We are activating our workers,” he added.

Similarly BJP, which claims to have over 3.35 lakh members in the valley, has asked its Panchs and Sarpanchs to accelerate the membership drive.“Every Panch or Sarpanch has been asked to enlist at least 500 new members in order to benefit party in the elections,” a party leader said.

Congress too has gone into a campaign mode to woo the voters before polls.

State Congress president G A Mir has held several meetings with former ministers and ex-Legislators to work out a strategy for polls. On Sunday senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad too chaired a meeting of Congress leaders to review the party functioning.

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