The father of an Army officer named in an FIR filed by J&K Police over the death of three civilians, allegedly in firing by the 10 Garhwal Rifles in Shopian last month, moved the Supreme Court Thursday demanding quashing of the report. In the petition, Lt Colonel Karamveer Singh, father of Major Aditya Kumar, said the firing was done to control “a savage and violent mob engaged in terrorist activity”, which had hurled stones at an Army convoy and was allegedly about to lynch a Junior Commissioned Officer.
According to police, two protesters were killed on the spot during the firing on January 27, while a third succumbed to injuries later. “The petitioner is constrained to file the present writ petition for quashing of the FIR… in view of the extremely hostile situation on the ground, whereby an FIR has been registered by the local police against the son of the petitioner, who is a service Army officer and was performing his bonafide duties…,” said the petition filed through advocate Aishwarya Bhati.
“The manner in which the lodging of the FIR has been portrayed and projected by the political leadership and administrative higher-ups of the state, reflects the extremely hostile atmosphere in the state,” stated the petition, which will be mentioned in court Friday.
It stated that Singh was filing the plea on behalf of his son “for protecting the morale of the soldiers of Indian Army, who are facing all odds in performance of their bonafide duties and laying their lives in the line of duty, to uphold the dignity of the Indian flag”.
The petition said the FIR, registered at Shopian police station, related to an Army convoy on bonafide military duty in an area under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
The area was “isolated by an unruly and deranged mob who were pelting the said vehicles with stones causing damage to the military vehicles which are the property of the Government of India as well as placing the lives of the military personnel and military property within the vehicles in grave peril”, it said.
Although the Army requested the mob to disperse, they did not do so and started hurling stones at the vehicles, the petition said.
“The unruly behaviour of the unlawful assembly reached its peak when they got hold of a Junior Commissioned Officer and was in the process of lynching him to death. It was at this moment that warning shots were fired at the unlawful assembly which, as per the said terms of engagement, is the last resort to be taken before opening fire. The unlawful assembly again refused to spare the life of the Junior Commissioned Officer and, therefore, fire was lawfully opened on the unlawful assembly with an aim to disperse the violent mob and protect govt servants and property,” the petition claimed.
Singh said in the petition that “violent mobs” in the state have “frequently obstructed bonafide govt duties and even resorted to lynching and killing of govt officials on duty”. He referred to the lynching by a mob of J&K Police DySP Mohammed Ayub Pandith outside a mosque in Srinagar on June 23, 2017.
Claiming that there was no malafide intent on the part of the soldiers, the petition stated that the intention was to save Army personnel and property. “The fire was inflicted only to impair and provide a safe escape from a savage and violent mob engaged in terrorist activity,” it said.
Questioning why the police had not filed any FIR against members of the mob, the petition said that “the frequencies of such atrocities against serving personnel of the armed forces… operating in the state of Jammu and Kashmir are increasing day by day”.
Describing Singh’s credentials, the petition states that \he participated in the 1999 Kargil war, and received a commendation for his “outstanding contribution”. It states that Singh was a part of UN peacekeeping operations in 2000.
In J&K, an FIR filed by J&K Police counts for little because the armed forces enjoy immunity under the AFSPA. In previous such instances of FIRs being filed, the Armymen charged didn’t have to face the court.
According to AFSPA, prosecution of an armed forces personnel by a civilian court can only take place after sanction is obtained from the central government — Ministry of Defence for Army or Ministry of Home Affairs for paramilitary forces.
On January 1, the central government told Rajya Sabha that from 2001 to 2016, the MoD received 50 requests of sanction for prosecution against Army personnel from the J&K government. The ministry denied sanction for prosecution in 47 cases while the other three cases are pending. Of the 50 cases, 17 pertained to alleged killing of civilians, 16 to alleged custodial deaths, eight to alleged custodial disappearances and four to alleged rape and molestation.