The Other OPTION

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s idea of offering impunity to the central security forces in state’s routine penal code has angered people, parties and lawyers pushing the high court bar association for a strike and symbolic protest. They believe the idea is aimed at perpetually protecting the central armed forces stationed in Kashmir.

After failing to partially withdraw AFSPA, Omar offered army legal safeguards within the state’s penal code. “The Army has pointed out that it enjoys protection under the CrPC in other states which was not applicable under J&K’s RPC. We are ready to amend the RPC to give the Army all powers enjoyed under the CrPC as far as the operational safeguards (are) concerned,’’ Omar said. Though criminal procedure code (CrPC) of the state and rest of the country is same, but there are slight differences between the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC), which is operational in J&K.

“The proposed amendment, it was stated, shall have the effect of incorporation of APSFA in the legal system of the J&K to create a permanent role for army in the polity of the state,” a statement issued by the Bar spokesman said.

JKLF leader Bashir A Bhat sees a conspiracy in the idea. “To prove his loyalty to New Delhi, (Oamr) Abdullah is making AFSPA a permanent feature by making amendments to the Criminal Procedure code,” he said. He sees it a copy of the tactic in which PDP founder Mufti Sayeed merged dreaded Special Operations Group (SOG) into the police.

Former law minister Muzaffar Hussain Beig compares the situation with the age old adage – ‘from the frying pan into the fire’. “Protection under AFSPA is different than protection under CrPC and it is dangerous,” he said. Terming the idea ‘dicey’, Beig said the change will help Army to become “part of local law and order machinery.” Adds another noted lawyer Zafar Ahmad Shah: “We are trying to deprive army from shooting under the cover of a law, that is AFSPA, and now you are saying they will still shoot you but not under AFSPA but RPC, it’s just a change of nomenclature.”

The opponents of the idea are referring to the possible changes in the section 197 RPC that takes care of the CrPC. One report suggested that while enacting the CrPC, J&K government had deliberately skipped mentioning army and other central security forces, which may now be included. Another report suggests the idea was actually discussed in one of the meeting of the Unified Headquarters on the request of CRPF.

But a senior law ministry officer says the debate is misplaced. “Almost everybody is saying for last many months that do away with Disturbed Areas Act and the AFSPA will go automatically,” the officer said. “But nobody knows that DDA has lapsed eight years back.”

The officer says: “The fact is that all the servants of the state (central or state governments) are protected under section 197(a) already. But there is only one problem it is available to only gazetted officers which has a possibility of being extended to every employee if and when the government thinks.”
Interestingly, this impunity is being availed by officers to fight corruption cases against them. But never ever have the courts given them this concession. “Even the former Punjab chief minister Prakash Singh Badal sought concession under this CrPC provision which the apex court denied saying his official duty did not permit him to resort to corruption,” the officer said.

A Commissioning Take OFF
Former Supreme Court Judge H S Bedi, heading the one-man Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the mysterious death of Haji Yousuf, an NC fixer, returned back to Delhi within four days of his arrival. Reason: He is waiting for the outcome of the petition that Panthers Party patron Bhim Singh has filed seeking CBI Investigation. A court in Srinagar has already turned down this request made by Haji’s family.

Once back to Hari Niwas where Bedi has set up his office, the judge will obtain and examine material evidence. It includes CCTV footage of Chief Minister’s residence, post mortem report prepared by doctors of Police Hospital and Department of Forensic Medicine Government Medical College Srinagar, forensic opinion prepared by Forensic Science Laboratory besides the text of FIR filed by Crime Branch, newspaper reports and press conferences of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and senior government functionary like Principal Secretary of Home, B R Sharma, and Director General of Police, Kuldeep Khoda. The Commission had hired people from both Judiciary and civil administration for running the office.

The commission is supposed to submit its report in six weeks as a simultaneous probe into the alleged criminal activities of the deceased will continue with the crime branch.

Haji’s death triggered a political storm and stalled assembly proceedings forcing chief minister to assert that he will depose before the propsed commission. After the commission came into being, the government said he would depose before the one-man Commission of Inquiry (CoI) only in case he is called to record the statement. “Unless summoned, Chief Minister won’t depose voluntarily before the Commission,” Law Minister Ali M Sagar was quoted saying.

While indications suggest the commission may actually deliver a report, the opposition and the family of the deceased are apparently pessimistic. The family termed the inquiry ‘just a formality’ and PDP, state’s principal opposition, called it ‘eyewash’. Former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed says that Justice (retd) as head of the one-man Commission of Inquiry has nothing to prove into the case, which has put the ruling National Conference in the dock vis-?-vis political corruption.

The Clergy CALLING

Clergy continues to be in the conversion trance. Last week, Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) asserted that schools run by Christian missionaries should stop recitation of morning prayers and distribution of literature that goes against Islamic teachings and principles. It also asked Kashmir University, Board of School Education and other examining bodies to allow Friday congregational prayers and not to hold examinations on Fridays. The issue of conversions came to fore after a video made rounds of internet showing Kashmiri boys and girls being baptized at a local church.

The declaration came after the MMA formed a committee Tahafuz-e-Iman Committee (TIC), an outcome of the MMA that has representation of almost the entire political and religious party operating in Kashmir. The committee led by Mirwaiz with Moulana Rehmatuallh as its main functionary would look into the issues related to apostasy and functioning of various NGOs and missionary schools operating in the valley. MMA has asked people to set up Bait-ul-Maal at the local levels to help the needy and suggested the clergy to raise awareness during Friday sermons and religious gatherings in their respective areas. The alliance has not ruled out the possibility of interacting with the government functionaries if need arises.

A Japanese Guide To KASHMIR

A book by a Japanese Kazushi Hirose, titled “Kashmir: Killed in Valley-Between India and Pakistan” was released in Japan. Perhaps the first book on Kashmir in Japanese, the author is hawking it on the social networking sites. “The title comes from English newspaper headline in Kashmir,” Kazushi said in his message on a site. “You know that “Killed in the valley” was appeared there usually with numbers. Everybody knows about these “killed”, however, nobody tells it in outside world. It’s open secret,” he said. Especially focusing on the human rights issue, Kazushi says the book intends to shed light on the people who are buried in the darkness from darkness.  

Daluja v/s ROEMITRA

Media in Jammu is in perpetual crisis. The recent major issue was the alleged involvement of at least two of the newspaper owners in land deals and betting. Now a much larger battle seems to have started between the owners of daily Excelsior and a newcomer State Times. For the last few months, stories were appearing against each other in these publications but now the frequency has gone up. Nobody in Jammu knows what the crisis is all about but the gossip suggests that it is either land or the wine business.

The gap between the two publications is too huge, locals suggest. Excelsior has reported that Raj Daluja is a non-state subject and it claims it has access to the documents that prove it. It has said that he wanted to get a police guard at his residence but police officials, at one point of time, did not only said the he lacks a security threat but also said criminals can not be guarded. Interestingly, however, he is a protected person now who is guarded round the clock.

It has also claimed that in a case of beating a government employee, Daluja sent one of his relatives to the court who impersonated him that triggered another case against him. The newspaper has also claimed that the family forged the signatures of a collector for shifting the venue of a wine shop. Daluja is on bail in the case, the newspaper said. It has even claimed that Daluja is in illegal possession of 48 kanals of state land at Janglote. State Times has reported that it is filing a case against Excelsior for resorting to unethical and defamatory reports against him. But what is the bone of contention?

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is supportive of retail businesses being opened for foreign direct investment. But given the reactions, he seems to be the only one supporting the idea in J&K. Jammu business had already a day long strike against the idea. Principal opposition PDP has made its opposition to the idea clear. Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Association has also made its opposition to the decision public.

Communist leader Yusuf Tarigami was the first to oppose it and was supportive of the strike call against it. “The decision will destroy the livelihood of crores of small retailers countrywide,” Tarigami said. “J&K will also bear the brunt in view of its vast chain of retailers operating across its towns and villages.”

FDI in retail will give consumers access to is good for consumer to walmart, Tesco and Carrefour but it is bad for the market. J&K will get a major brunt because it is a surging consumer market. Prime Minister has already ruled out the possibility of undoing the decision.
Now what can happen? J&K retains its rights, as it is a different state with certain privileges in the union. Can Omar Abdullah prevent the entry of these retailers into the state by law?


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