Srinagar—The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Wednesday granted state government three more weeks for the response to a Public Interest Litigation, seeking direction to make public the report by the one-man Commission of Inquiry (CoI) headed by Justice (retd) M L Koul into the killings during 2010 unrest.
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation, a division bench of directed the Chief Secretary and the Commissioner Secretary Home to file response within the three weeks even as additional advocate general B A Dar sought four weeks more for filing the response.
Appointment by former NC-Congress government, Justice (retd) Koul had submitted the report to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on December 30 last year, few days ahead of the last concluded budget session of the state’s legislature.
Besides making the report public, the PIL also seeks the directions to the state government to implement the recommendations of the Koul Commission including those regarding grant of compensation to the victim families. It also seeks directions to the government to submit the action taken report with respect to findings of the Commission before the Court.
The Commission was appointed on 20 June 2014, little over a month after then ruling alliance suffered drubbing in Lok Sabha elections with all its candidates losing race to Indian parliament.
The CoI was tasked to enquire into the circumstances leading to deaths by firing, or otherwise, during “maintenance of law and order in different districts of valley, during 2010”
Besides, it had been asked to find out the adequacy, or otherwise, of the force used; fix responsibility, wherever excessive force has been used; suggest measures to avert the recurrence of such incidents in future; and recommend the action to be taken against person(s) or authorities.
The PIL has been submitted by Peoples' Forum through its General Secretary M. M. Shuja and he has referred to media reports, suggesting that the report has “pin pointed” the responsibilities apart from making several recommendations to redress the grievance of the victim families, kin of whom were either killed or injured during the unrest.
The recommendations also include strict guidelines for crowd control and award of compensation to the families of those killed in action of government forces, he says.
“A portion of the report has been leaked to the media but the State has not till date made the report public and none of the recommendations have been implemented,” Shuja says in the plea filed before the court through advocate Shafqat Nazir.
“The state has not so far either made the report public or disclosed as to what action it has taken or contemplated to be taken to mitigate the sufferings of the victims with the result that the society at large carries an impression that constitution of such commission is an exercise in futility. Such impression is not only detrimental to the peace and security in the state but also speaks volumes about the transparency and accountability of the system and of those managing the system,” he says.
The state government, he says, was under a constitutional obligation to make the report public so that any lapse pointed out in the report was taken note of. “By keeping the public at large in dark the state is indulging in gross abuse of process of law and trying to shield those who may have been held guilty by the commission,” he says.
More than 120 people, mostly bystanders, were killed by police and paramilitary CRPF personnel in Kashmir Valley in 2010.
“Had the report been filed on time and the recommendations implemented, the unrest of 2016 and the continuing disturbance in the Valley could have been averted,” he said.
The Commission was asked to submit its report to the government within three months from the date of issuance of the formal notification—June 20, 2014.
Justice Koul commission was appointed, superseding the CoI headed by two former judges of High Court, Justice (retd) Syed Bashir-ud-Din and Justice (retd) YP Nagrota for probing the killing of 17 youth in police and paramilitary CRPF firing. The Commission, appointed (vide notification SRO-283 on June 26, 2010) had a life span of three months from the date of issuance of the notification and it expired on October 29, 2010.
The term of Commission was not extended and its purview remained restricted to 17 killings—out of more than 120 deaths of unarmed protesters and bystanders at the hands of police and CRPF.
The CoI, as per government, had come to a halt as Justice Bashir-ud-Din demitted office of chairman SHRC on June 24, 2011 while Justice Nagrota tendered resignation as member of the Commission with effect from August 21, 2011 “expressing inability to continue its member because of his assuming office as chairman of State Accountability Commission.”
Later, in July last year, Director General of Police in a compliance report before J&K High Court stated that the CoI by two former judges stands expired and “no useful purpose would be served by constituting it afresh.”