AFSPA Not To Protect Criminal Acts: Omar

AFSPA Not To Protect Criminal Acts: Omar

7 February 2012
Greater Kashmir
Sumit Hakhoo

Jammu: Citing the Supreme Court's recent observation, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who has been pitching for partial revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the State, Tuesday said the statute was not aimed at protecting acts of crime. “AFSPA is for legitimate protection and not for protection of the acts of crime. And that is something we have always maintained,” Omar told reporters here. The Chief Minister, who was reviewing restoration work at the erstwhile Dogra power centre - Mubarak Mandi heritage complex in Jammu, said, “AFSPA protection is given to the personnel so that they not become victims of the law while rendering their (anti-militancy operational) duties.” Omar said, “I do not think the armed forces have to commit rape, murder or any other such activities in order to perform their duties. Therefore the observation of the Supreme Court is correct.” Questioning the extent to which the army can claim blanket immunity under AFSPA, the Supreme Court had said rape and murder committed by its personnel should be considered a “normal crime”, and that there is 'no question of sanction' from the government before prosecution of offenders in such cases. Under AFSPA, prior approval is required before prosecution or any other legal action can be initiated against armed forces personnel operating in areas declared 'disturbed' by the government. 'You go to a place in exercise of AFSPA, you commit rape, you commit murder, then where is the question of sanction? It is a normal crime which needs to be prosecuted, and that is our stand,' an apex court Bench of justices B S Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar had remarked. The court said AFSPA gave 'very limited protection' confined to action in 'discharge of duty'. The court was hearing the CBI challenge against the army's invocation of AFSPA against prosecution of eight officers chargesheeted in the Pathribal fake encounter in March 2000. While the five men were identified as “Lashkar-e-Toiba mercenaries” by the army, they had turned out to be locals from nearby villages of Brariangan, Halan and Anantnag (Islamabad). MHA REJECTS PROSECUTION SANCTION IN 42 CASES Meanwhile, a Delhi-based newspaper Tuesday reported that in the past four years, Union Home Ministry has rejected at least 42 requests to sanction prosecution of military personnel found by the police to have engaged in crimes such as murder, homicide and rape in Kashmir. According to the report, 31 cases in which sanction was denied relate to rape, culpable homicide or murder. The others involve a wide variety of crimes, ranging from criminal trespass to illegal confinement. In not a single case had sanction been granted, the report said. The report quoting instances said the cases in which sanction was denied involve victims unconnected with militancy. In 1991, for example, the police established that an unidentified body floating in the Dal Lake was that of Muhammad Ayub Bhat, a Batwara resident with no record of involvement in terror. Brigadier Gulshan Rao, then in charge of Srinagar's Field Ordnance Depot, was charged with his murder. The Ministry rejected the request for sanction on March 3, 2009, it said. Likewise, the report said, local resident Muhammad Ashraf and a Major-rank officer were found responsible for an attempted rape of a Beerwah woman in 1997. The case - initially closed and then reopened in 2001 after fresh evidence of the officer's identity emerged - was rejected by the Ministry on September 12, 2011. In 1997, investigators charged troops of the 3 Kumaon Regiment with beating up Ganderbal resident Abdul Khaliq Wani, resulting in his death. Adjutant Yoginder Mohan was held responsible by the police - but the request for sanction of his prosecution was denied on June 3, 2011, the report said. According to the report, the Army insists that it has court-martialled dozens of personnel for human rights violations, but will not release trial records or names, making it impossible to verify whether any of the alleged perpetrators were tried.