Proposed controversial police Bill 2013 that seeks enormous powers for the over 100 thousand strong force has already set a raging debate across the state. It has raised many viewpoints from different stakeholders. Bilal Handoo Reports.
The guardian of state political executive, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah took his time to comment on Police Bill. And when it (Bill) set the debate in motion, so he tweeted: “Why this manufactured outrage regarding the draft police bill? It hasn’t passed public scrutiny let alone been seen by me and the cabinet. Public feedback will be incorporated, Law Department will vet, I will clear it, cabinet will approve it, both legislative houses will vote on it. It will THEN go to Governor for his signature & amp; FINALLY it is implemented so there is NO chance of bad legislation passing scrutiny.”
If PDP president, Mehbooba Mufti is to be believed, then the controversial Police Bill is all set to institutionalise the dreaded “Ikhwan culture” in the state. “If this Bill is allowed to pass in its present form we will have an Ikhwani state,” she said.
Mehbooba said if this Bill is passed then a person can be jailed for wrong parking, cleaning furniture in a public place, urinating on the road side, not caring for pets, overtaking and breaking a queue for essential supplies.
“It also has ring of an effort to appease the muscular nationalists in Delhi with an argument against AFSPA by morphing it into a ‘non-military’ AFSPA that is supposedly willed by ‘the peoples’ of our state,” PDP president maintained.
The firebrand National Conference (NC) leader while commenting on the Police Bill draft maintained that it is an attempt by the ruling government to make “policing” people-friendly. “I think it (Police Bill) is a step from government to strengthen the overall law and order scenario in the state,” Kamal told Kashmir Life.
Known for making “controversial” statements, Kamal said NC will support the Bill in case it has been drafted by keeping common man in perspective.
He also spared some words for PDP president, Mehbooba Mufti who said that Police Bill will revive Ikhwani culture in the Valley. “I want to tell her that it was her own father, Mufti Mohammad Syed who as a union home minister send Jagmohan as governor to J&K and subsequently paved a way to AFSPA. They are the ones who created a worst situation in state than we did!”
Valley’s chief clerk and Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq termed the draft bill as an effort to institutionalize the lawlessness in Jammu and Kashmir. “The passing of the Police Bill by the government would mean arming forces with legal impunity,” Mirwaiz, who was put under house arrest soon after returning from Delhi, said. He said if the bill is passed, it would leave the Kashmiris on the mercy of civil militia like Ikhwan and VDC’s.
“People are already suffering due to the draconian laws like AFSPA, DAA, and PSA and the current Police Bill will be a further addition to these repressive laws and it would thus increase the woes of the people,” he said. “The people would vehemently oppose the current Police Bill and if they needed would come on roads to protest it.”
Even one half of state coalition government couldn’t hold itself to draw flak to Police Bill. And when criticism was mounting on the said Bill, thus speak state Congress president, Saifuddin Soz, who termed some provisions in the bill as “indecent and improper” for the society at large. “Some provisions may be good in the draft, but yes some clauses are unacceptable,” Soz said, adding, “We would like to read all contours of the bill threadbare before it is tabled in the state assembly for discussion and debate.”
There might be “raging” debate going on the much-talked Police Bill, but things appear in order for minister of state for home, Sajad Kichloo. Apparently, that is what it seems from his comment on Bill when he said that the Police Bill is the brainchild of legal luminaries. “Most of the features in the draft Bill are based on a model Bill prepared by a committee of eminent experts constituted by the government of India and on the directions of the Supreme Court. They would consider the suggestions received on it,” he said.
Dr Javed Iqbal (Political Commentator)
This valley based political commentator termed the draft of Police Bill as “outrageous”. While referring Section 13, 23 and 23 of the Bill that talk about information seeking by police, he said: “This is virtually prying on our life which police would have accessed to.”
“Suppose you have left information with your chartered accountant regarding the tax on your income and he cannot withhold that information from the police,” he said while rebutting chief minister Omar Abdullah’s statement who termed the critical reactions to Bill draft as “manufactured rage”.
“I believe it is an ‘outrageous political vocabulary’ which he has used. How can chief minister say that he has asked home minister to circulate the Police Bill when he is the home minister himself. As a political executive, he is answerable to the public.” While sensing a “political fallout” in case the Bill is passed, he said it will lead to widening of “security net” to an extend where people will feel strangulated of free thinking and expressions.
This soft spoken, but sound arguing legal expert and academician of the Valley termed the Police Bill in its present form as a law aimed at legalizing human rights violations in the state. “Police is supposed to be subservient to the civil administration but the problem in the Bill is that it directs the civil administration to be subservient to the police,” Dr Shiekh Showkat said.
While identifying SPO’s and VDC’s another issue in the proposed Bill, he said that it (Bill) will legitimize their recruitment perpetually. “They (SPO’s and VDC’s) are not the part of police and not regulated by police manual. And we have witnessed in past how serious offences they have committed against the civilians,” he said.
Terming the provisions to create special security zones as an ‘ultra virus’, he said, “Under the draft, if passed, police can declare on their own any area as Special Security Zone. It’ll deprive the people of various rights and it can discriminate with the people of that area from the other areas.”
While dismissing the criticism of the Bill, former state law minister-Ali Muhammad Sagar, dubbed the debate over the Bill as “unnecessary” and too early in the day. “It is just a draft. It has to go through the cabinet and the state assembly. People don’t need to worry as it will go through stringent scrutiny,” said Sagar, presently state minister for rural development and panchayati Raj.
Peoples’ Conference led by Sajad Lone termed the proposed Police Bill 2013 as a covert attempt by the state government to impose “Marshal Law” in the state by putting civil liberties and rights into permanent abeyance.
“I wonder how the chief minister has the audacity to make such a ridiculous proposal while he pretends to oppose AFSPA,” Sajad said, adding, “What is the difference between AFSPA and the J&K Police Bill 2013? The J&K Police Bill is in fact a potential validation and incorporation of AFSPA into the state’s legal and law and order machinery and raises serious concerns about NC led government’s stand on draconian laws in the state.”
After some officials in state law ministry maintained that Police Bill draft is an exercise done in haste, state top-cop and director general of police, Ashok Prasad said “suggestions from public would be taken into consideration.”
“This is not final. It has yet to pass through many phases before it becomes an Act,” he said. “Let the people suggest changes and without any delay their suggestions would be scrutinized.”
The state police chief said that there is no mention of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the bill. “AFSPA like powers are given to only to security forces not to police,” he said.
Noted human rights lawyer Parvez Imroz while commenting on the Bill said that it is an attempt to allow the police and its functionaries-the SPOs to enjoy absolute and unaccountable power within special security zones.
“It allows for a different standard operating procedure within these zones, without specifying the limits to these powers. The government is seeking to formalise practices that have resulted in structural police violence in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.
While confirmed that he is going to register his protest over the Bill in coming session of Assembly, independent MLA Langate, Er Rasheed said, “Police Bill is not people friendly and the government should see what the VDCs have done in Doda, Reasi and Rajouri in the Jammu province,” he said. “The VCDs have been found involved in many innocent killings in these areas and if the bill gets passed in the assembly, it is only to patronize the VCDs to make their killings legal.”
This NC parliamentary member from South Kashmir’s Pulwama area has also vehemently opposed the Police Bill and alleged that police already enjoyed unbridled powers and shares the infamy of the allegations of fake encounters.
“If this is the state of affairs, their children may not, but the grandchildren of those who vote for the Bill, will definitely curse them. I am against any more powers for the police. Worst is the proposal to legalise VDCs, that too after same militias in other parts of country have been declared illegal,” alleged Ratanpuri, whose “tumbakh naari nachaya” comments went viral in social networking sites recently.