Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) on 24th November 2014 through Right to Information had asked the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) of the government of India and the Jammu and Kashmir Police Department to share the information and relevant documents regarding the Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) for the armed related to combat operations (encounters, arrests and search).
“Jammu and Kashmir Police Headquarters vide letter no: KZ/CR/2014/359-64/34267-68 dated: 22/12/2014 has informed that “the information sought by you about the SOPs relating to combat operations falls under section 8(1) (a) of the Act (JKRTI Act 2009) and is also not in the largest interest of the Public,” a statement by JKCCS said on Saturday.
“The Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India vide letter no: III-11039/30/2014-G dated: 18/12/2014 that as the information regarding the “combat operations concerns the security, strategic and scientific interests of the Nation. Therefore, in terms of provisions of Section 8(1) (a) of the RTI Act, the requisite information cannot be disclosed,” the statement added.
“This secrecy strengthens the impunity to the armed forces and police personnel who are accused of carrying out fake encounters, disappearances, torture, custodial killings, rapes and other forms of human rights violations while claiming to be fighting insurgency. If at all the SOPs regarding the combat operations exist, the people of Jammu and Kashmir have the right to know the guidelines approved by the government for the armed forces and police and if there are mechanisms within these SOPs which will ensure the protection of the human rights. These SOPs are by all means a public document, which people should be aware about for knowing how to protect their human rights. The denial of information pertaining to SOPs for combat operations is against the principles of transparency and accountability, which is the core of Right to Information Act,” CCS said.
The statement further said, “this denial is not surprising and not the first of its kind. It is consistent with the previous denial of information in several other RTI requests pertaining to cases of enforced disappearances, mass graves and unmarked graves, monetary rewards and awards for anti-militancy operations, information related to militants killed, interrogation centers, Village Defence Committees (VDCs), Special Police Officials (SPOs) and many more. Such RTI responses further expose the system and context in which politically motivated court-martial convictions [example: the Machil case] take place.”