J&K cabinet clears POTO, police in a fix
30 November 2001
The Asian Age
Srinagar: Even as the Jammu and Kashmir Cabinet on Thursday approved several measures for the enforcement of the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance in the militancy-infested state, it reprimanded the local police for sealing a carpet-weaver’s house here under its provisions earlier this week. The police action sparked off widespread protests across the Kashmir Valley, which also observed a near total shutdown on Wednesday against the Ordinance. The Cabinet’s censuring of the over- enthusiastic Kashmir police came hours after an agitating crowd broke off the seal of Gulam Muhammad Dar’s house in the congested Malik Sahib locality of Safa Kadal area amid shouting of “down with state terrorism.” Subsequently, a section of the crowd, led by human rights activist Muhammad Ahsun Ontoo, escorted Mr Dar’s family back to its house. The family had been putting up at a neighbour’s house after its forcible eviction by the police on Sunday. But soon gun-wielding policemen arrived at the scene and gave a severe thrashing to whosoever came their way. Mr Dar’s aged mother, wife, two sons and an unmarried sister were once again pulled out of their house, which was later occupied by the police. Mr Dar is among a dozen local residents arrested by the police last week on charges of providing shelter to the militants belonging to the pro-Pakistan Al-Badar outfit. The police also claimed that the outfit chief commander, Hafiz Ahsan Ali alias Dr Nayeem, would occasionally operate from Mr Dar’s house and that a pistol with 37 rounds of ammunition and two wireless sets were recovered from there. Hafiz was among the two militants shot dead by the police at Chiterhama in the outskirts of Srinagar recently. The Cabinet, which met in the state’s winter capital, Jammu, with chief minister Farooq Abdullah in the chair, expressed concern over the highhandedness of the police and reprimanded the officers responsible for the same. “The Cabinet expressed concern over the reported police action in Safa Kadal area under the provisions of the Poto and reprimanded the officers responsible,” chief secretary Ashok Jaitly said on the decisions taken at the crucial Cabinet meeting. “The Cabinet viewed seriously the action taken by the Kashmir police and instructed that in future the authorities concerned under this law will ensure that the provisions of Poto are not misused or violated,” he added. The chief minister is reported to have ordered immediate restoration of the house to Mr Dar’s family after proper verification. Mr Jaitly said the Cabinet decided to form competent and designated authorities, a review committee and constitute special courts as envisaged in the ordinance. He said while approving the implementation of Poto, the Cabinet specifically emphasised that safeguards under the law should be adhered to fully. “Since the matter is before the Parliament, whatever changes are incorporated in the law would also be made applicable to Jammu and Kashmir as was decided by the Cabinet,” he said. He said under the Poto, promulgated by the President, 23 organisations in the country have been statutorily declared as terrorist organisations as per the provisions of Section-18 and outlines in the schedule to the Ordinance. These include five militant organisations operating in Jammu and Kashmir namely Jaish-e-Muhammad (also known as Tehreek-ul-Furqan), Harkat-ul- Mujahedin (also known as Harkat-ul-Ansar and Harkat-ul Jihad-e- Islami), Hezb-ul-Mujahedin (also known as Hizb-ul-Mujahedin Pir Panjal Regiment), Al-Omar Mujahedin and the Jammu Kashmir Islamic Front. The chief secretary said the principal secretary (home) shall be the competent authority for the purpose of Section 36 of the Ordinance while divisional commissioners of Kashmir and Jammu will be the designated authorities for their respective divisions for purpose of various other sections relating to the forfeiture and attachment of property. As regards the constitution of a review committee under the Ordinance, he said the retired high court judge chairing the state advisory board constituted under Section 9 of the Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988, Section 9 of Jammu and Kashmir Prevention of Black Marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1988, and Section 14 of the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978, and the two members will be notified as chairman and the members of the review committee as envisaged in Section 59 of Poto. He said the existing designated courts, constituted under Tada, will be notified as special courts as envisaged under Poto for the purpose of Section 23 of the Ordinance. He pointed out that the Ordinance provides several safeguards against misuse of its provisions, which inter alia, include a stipulation that investigations under it will have to be carried out by an officer not below the rank of deputy superintendent of police. It also awards two years’ imprisonment with or without fine for any police officer who exercises powers corruptly or maliciously. Besides, it awards compensation by special courts to innocent persons proceeded against under the Ordinance corruptly or maliciously and the award amount is to be paid by the authority- officer found guilty.