Security Forces, Police Under Supreme Court Scanner In J&K

4 May 2008

Jammu: Describing the fake encounters “devilishly planned acts”, Supreme Court has questioned the moral grounds for giving gallantry awards and out-of-turn promotions to the officials of the security forces and police involved in branding innocent people as terrorists and killing them in fake encounters in Jammu and Kashmir. Supreme Court has described the fake encounters as cold blooded murders and expressed surprise over the gallantry awards being given to the officials who indulge in killing innocents after branding them as terrorists. It has expressed serious dismay at the disobedience of its direction with regard to conducting a through probe into every killing for which officials are expected to get rewards and promotions. These observations have come at a time when the state police and security forces are facing serious charges of indulging in fake encounters for getting rewards and promotions. It has also come at a time when national and international organisations are seeking a thorough probe into the alleged discovery of more than 1,000 unmarked graves in border villages near Uri in District Baramulla. A human rights organization has expressed fears that the graves may be of those people who have been killed in fake encounters by the security forces and later buried secretly in this remote village. Supreme Court has, in its observation, sought adoption of a transparent mechanism for rewarding the officer claiming of killing terrorist in anti-militancy operations. The observations were made by Justice Aftab Alam and Justice G.S. Singhvi while hearing an appeal filed by one Swami Shraddananda, who was held guilty of murdering his wife Begum Shakereh Namazi, who belonged to the erstwhile royal family of Mysore. The appeal was being heard by a bench of three judges. Justice B.N. Agrawal was the third judge on the bench. Justice Aftab Alam, who has served as acting Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court for six months, while hearing the appeal observed “Just for getting a gallantry award, innocent people in Jammu and Kashmir are termed terrorists and killed.” He went on and said “This is a cold-blooded murder but we give them (Police and Security Forces) gallantry award.” Justice Singhvi vehemently supported the observation of Justice Alam and said “It is also being done by the police and it is happening throughout the country.” Using the term “so-called encounters”, Justice Singhvi added “In the so-called encounters, the justification offered is if we (Police) don’t kill them, they (terrorists) will kill us.” Elaborating further, Justice Singhvi said that the fake encounters are devilishly planned acts, perpetrated by the security forces and police for getting gallantry awards and out-of-turn promotions. “Fake encounters are for gallantry awards and for getting out-of-turn promotions. The whole thing is devilishly planned,” Justice Singhvi observed. The judges expressed dismay over the non-seriousness of the state towards the insistence of the Supreme Court for carrying in-depth investigations into the allegations of fake encounters and custodial killings. “It is a precious life which is lost in an encounter if it is fake and devilishly planned. No compensation can undo the loss suffered by the family of the deceased,” said Justice Aftab Alam in an oral observation during the course of arguments being heard by them over the appeal of the godman. The observation holds further significance in the wake of the fact that Supreme Court in the recent past, while delivering judgement in the case titled Masooda Parveen vs. Union of India, rejected a writ petition under Article 32 (Right to Constitutional Remedies) and 21 (Protection of life and personal liberty) filed by the wife of one Ghulam Mohiudin Regoo who died in Army custody, on the ground that the deceased was a militant. Supreme Court shifted the burden of proof of innocence on the accused while allowing the state to get away with false charge sheets, incomplete post mortem reports and lost files. The present observation has affirmed that judiciary has joined the civil society in condemning the fake encounters and custodial killings in Jammu and Kashmir. In reaction, mainstream leaders are finding this observation extremely significant. “This observation of the Supreme Court makes it mandatory for the state to punish the accused under the law of the land and withdraw benefits given to them forthwith,” said National Conference leader Abdul Rahim Rather. He added that encounter killings have been made possible because there is no mechanism to ensure accountability in the functioning of the security forces and police.