Omar Abdullah’s Proposal Sparks New Row28 November 2011
Srinagar: Separatists are bracing up for a major showdown with Jammu and Kashmir government over chief minister Omar Abdullah’s suggestion to restore the applicability of the controversial sections of criminal procedure code (CrPC) in the state to provide legal safeguards to the army in lieu of the revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Omar had recently suggested to amend the law and restore controversial CrPC sections in J&K to give legal protection to the troops fighting militancy when the AFSPA is removed from certain areas of the state. Under the special status of J&K enshrined in the Article 370 of the constitution, certain sections of CrPC have not been applied in the state. Particularly section 45 and 197 (A) of the CrPC, which call for prior sanction from the central government before the arrest or prosecution of a soldier of public servant respectively, are not applicable to the state. “The proposed amendment 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. The Bar Association shall resist such a sinister design”, said GN Shaheen, general secretary of J&K High Court Bar Association. Separatist, too, have joined the chorus threatening agitation against the controversial proposal. Leading the charge are the Hurriyat hardliners led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who have warned the government of serious consequences in case the amendments are made in the law. “In case the amendments in the laws are made (to restore the controversial sections), we will not remain silent. It will have serious repercussions and people will resist and protest this move at all levels”, said Ayaz Akbar, spokesman of the hard-line Hurriyat. Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) went further accusing Omar Abdullah of making AFSPA a permanent feature in the state laws to “prove their loyalty to India”. “The proposal to amend the laws to make AFSPA permanent feature in the legal system tantamount to treason”, said Bashir Ahmad Bhat, officiating chairman of the JKLF. Leader of the opposition in J&K and president of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Mehbooba Mufti said APSPA has to go sooner or later but Omar’s diabolical suggestion to incorporate its essence into the local Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) amounts to introducing a virtual martial law in the state on a permanent basis. “After making this offer of amending Ranbir Penal code (RPC) to replace APSPA, Abdullahs can no more blame Delhi for erosion of states special status. It is they who primarily have been instrumental in erosion of autonomy of the state”, she said.