Jammu And Kashmir Militant Outfits All Lawful?
22 September 2000
The Times of India
Law Kumar Mishra
Srinagar: It is official. None of the marauding militant outfits operating in Jammu & Kashmir are, legally speaking, unlawful. Once they were. The J & K Liberation Front, for example, is a perfectly legitimate body. So are similar other outfits. Thanks to an oversight on the part of the government, all these organisations can function legitimately, as long as they don''t kill, maim, destroy or otherwise act illegally. Until February 17 this year, they were, however, all unlawful and did not have the right to even exist as per a Union government order of February 18, 1996. That was valid for two years and the government extended it for another two years just before its expiry. The extended ban lapsed on February 17 this year. A ban cannot be slapped at the drop of a hat. First, a tribunal requires to be set up. Such a tribunal has also to see if there is sufficient ground for a ban. Not that a move for extending the ban was not initiated. The state home department had suggested declaring five militant organisations -Jamaat-e-Islami, Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, besides JKLF - as unlawful under the J&K Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1953. It even presented a memorandum on this to the state cabinet, which is sitting tight on it. Sources say the Union home ministry''s J&K cell also raised some objections and sought clarifications from the state government. In 1996, the state government decided to declare the Jamaat-e-Islami, Hizbul Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Ansar (now Harkat-ul-Mujahideen) as unlawful after the US declared the third outfit as a militant organisation following the kidnapping and killing of an American tourist in Pahalgam. But the state government was stymied because no tribunal to consider this could be set up and these outfits continue to be lawful.