The Supreme Court on Monday stopped the Mehbooba Mufti-led Jammu and Kashmir government from initiating any coercive action against Major Aditya Kumar, named in the FIR registered by state police in connection with the death of three people in Army firing in Shopian on January 27.
Issuing notice to the state and Centre, a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra ordered, “As an interim measure, it is directed that no coercive steps shall be taken on the basis of the First Information Report No. 26/2018 dated 27.1.2018 registered at P.S. (Police Station) Shopian under Sections 336, 307, 302 of Ranbir Penal Code against Major Aditya Kumar.” The court was hearing a petition filed by Kumar’s father, Lieutenant Colonel Karamveer Singh, a serving Army officer, seeking quashing of the FIR.
The bench gave the J&K government two weeks to file its reply and asked Attorney General K K Venugopal to assist it. “Let a copy of this petition be served on Mr Shoeb Alam, standing counsel for the State of Jammu & Kashmir, who shall file a reply within two weeks. A copy of the petition be served on the office of the learned Attorney General, who shall represent the Union of India and put forth its stand,” the court said.
The court also issued a notice on another petition which sought a direction to the Centre to set up a committee of experts for conducting a preliminary inquiry before a case is registered against Army personnel, and direction to the state government not to withdraw cases against stone-pelters. Appearing for Lt Col Singh, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi said it was a “serious” matter and that “currently an operation was going on”.
Singh contended that the Army personnel were forced to fire at “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. 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 military personnel and military property within the vehicles in grave peril,” the petition said.
Claiming that there was no mala fide intent on the part of the soldiers, the petition stated, “The fire was inflicted only to impair and provide a safe escape from a savage and violent mob engaged in terrorist activity.” Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, a rights group, described the apex court order as “irregular”, saying that it “appears to favour the accused at the cost of the victims”.