India’s Supreme Court blocks further probe against army major by J & K Police

Lt. Col. Karamveer Singh — a serving army officer and father of Major Aditya Kumar — is seeking the quashing of the FIR against his son

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday restrained the Jammu and Kashmir Police from carrying out any investigation in pursuance to FIR registered against Major Aditya Kumar in the wake of the death of three civilians as the army tried to disperse a stone-pelting crowd in Shopian district in Kashmir.

Restraining the Jammu and Kashmir Police from carrying out further investigations, a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud directed the further hearing on the petition by Lt. Col. Karamveer Singh on April 24.

Lt. Col. Karamveer Singh — a serving army officer and father of Major Aditya Kumar — is seeking the quashing of the FIR against his son.

At the outset of the hearing, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal told the court that the mere filing of the complaint against an army personnel serving in the disturbed area was barred under Section 7 of Armed Forces Special Powers Act without the prior sanction of the Centre.

Attorney General cited top court judgements of 2006 and 2014 in support of his contention that without Centre’s sanction even a complaint against a serving army officer operating in disturbed area was prohibited under the law.

However, this was opposed by senior counsel Shekhar Naphade, who is appearing for Jammu and Kashmir, saying that the registration of FIR and even filing of charge sheet did not amount to taking cognisance of the offence and thus no prior permission of the Centre was required.

Attorney General Venugopal took exception to Naphade telling the court that Section 7 of the Armed Forces Disturbed Area Act could be read as a licence to kill people.

“Is there a licence to kill under Section 4 and Section 7 of the Act,” Naphade said with Attorney General taking exception to the words “licence to kill”.

Naphade told the court that Major Kumar has not even been named as an accused in the FIR.

In the last hearing of the matter on February 12, the court had restrained Jammu and Kashmir Police from taking any coercive action against Major Kumar.

Lt. Col. Karamveer Singh is father of Major Aditya Kumar. The petitioner father has contended that registration of FIR and the consequent proceedings would adversely impact the morale of the armed forces fighting militancy in the trouble-torn states.

Major Kumar and other soldiers of 10 Garhwal Rifles have been accused of opening fire on a stone-pelting mob which had attacked an army convoy near Ganowpora village in Shopian district on January 27.

The firing resulted in the death of three in the stone pelting crowd.

“The manner in which the lodging of the FIR has been portrayed and projected by the political leadership and administrative higher-ups of the state, it reflects the extremely hostile atmosphere in the state,” reads the petition by Lt. Col. Karamveer Singh.

“In these circumstances, the petitioner is left with no other viable option but to approach this Court under Article 32 of the Constitution of India for protection of valuable Fundamental Rights of his son and himself, enshrined under Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India,” it adds.

It said that Major Kumar was wrongly and arbitrarily named as the incident relates to an Army convoy on bona fide military duty in an area under the AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Acts), which was isolated by an “unruly and deranged” stone-pelting mob.

The intention of the Major Kumar was to save Army personnel and property, and the fire was inflicted only to impair and provide a safe escape.

“The unruly mob was requested to disperse and not to obstruct military persons in the performance of their duties and not to damage government property …

“The unruly behaviour of the unlawful assembly reached its peak when they got hold of a Junior Commissioned Officer and was in the process of lynching him to death.

“It was at this moment that warning shots were fired … which as per the said terms of engagement is the last resort to be taken …,” the plea has said.

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