New Delhi, Feb 22: The Supreme Court Friday directed chief secretaries and DGPs of 11 states to take “prompt” and “necessary” action to prevent incidents of threat, social boycott and violence against Kashmiris following the Pulwama attack.
It also sought responses from the Centre and the states where incidents of threat and violence against Kashmiris have taken place after the February 14 bombing in which over 40 CRPF personnel were killed.
“The chief secretaries, the DGPs and the Delhi Police Commissioner are directed to take prompt and necessary action to prevent all the incidents of threat, assault, social boycott and other coercive acts against Kahsmiris and other minorities in the aftermath of the attack of February 14,” said a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna.
The bench perused the advisories issued by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to the chief secretaries and DGPs of states from time to time and said that they “shall be reiterated from time to time”.
The court also directed that the police officers, who were earlier appointed as nodal officers to deal with cow vigilantism and lynching incidents, would now be responsible for dealing with the cases of assaults on Kashmiris as well.
The bench asked the MHA to give wide publicity to the details regarding the nodal officers so that Kashmiri people can approach such officials in case of “assault, intimidation, social boycott and threat”.
Besides the Centre, top officials of Maharashtra, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Meghalaya, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Delhi have been directed to prevent incidents of “threat, assault and social boycott” of Kashmiris, including students.
The court was hearing the plea of Tariq Adeeb, a lawyer, alleging that students from Kashmir Valley are being attacked at different educational institutions across the country after the Pulwama attack and authorities concerned should be directed to take action to stop such assaults.
At the outset, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for Adeeb, claimed that 10 more incidents of assaults have taken place in various states after filing of the petition and necessary directions be issued urgently to stop them.
He said that some fresh incidents against Kashmiris have taken place in Punjab and Maharashtra and urged the court to make these two states also parties to the petition, which was allowed by the court.
“The petition was filed in respect of nine states. But since I mentioned it yesterday and until today, 10 additional incidents have come to light, some in two new states of Punjab and Maharashtra,” Gonsalves said.
On being asked as to what relief was being sought for, the senior lawyer said that he wanted a similar order which was passed in mob lynching cases and senior police officers be appointed as nodal officers to deal with such incidents against Kashmiris.
Attorney General (AG) KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre said the ministry has issued the requisite advisory to states and Union territories (UTs) on this issue on February 17 and earlier also, such advisories had been issued.
“Nodal officers have been appointed in all states and UTs and their names and numbers are available. This list was last updated in 2018. The Centre has already issued advisory to all states and UTs on February 17 but we can’t tell the states about their specific actions that can be taken in such cases because law and order is a state subject,” he said.
Taking note of the submission, the bench referred to its earlier decisions in the cases of cow vigilantism and mob violence by which it had asked the states and union territories to appoint a senior police officer as nodal officer in each district to deal with such cases. The bench has now listed the matter for further hearing on next Wednesday.
The PIL has sought a direction to the Centre and other authorities for prosecuting people engaging in hate speech, and to appoint a nodal officer in every state and union territory, including politically-sensitive districts, to prevent acts of violence, discrimination and vigilantism.
It had also sought immediate setting up of a nationwide helpline number and web-site containing contact details of the nodal officers appointed in politically-sensitive districts.
“There is a sudden rise in the incidents of crimes against Muslims and Kashmiris after the Pulwama attack on February 14 in which over 40 soldiers were killed. Immediately after the attack, mobs and vigilante groups engaged in vitriolic hate speech and began attacking, and threatening Muslims and Kashmiris throughout the country,” the petition said.
“These incidents are a part of organised hate campaign against Muslims and Kashmiri, most cases which are fabricated and the hysteria that now surrounds India has been engineered to gain political mileage “The extremist groups have led vigilante mob attacks across the country to enforce nationalism by leaders of various groups who claim to promote and instigated hate crimes,” it added.