Why This ‘manufactured Outrage’ Over Police Bill? Asks Omar

Why This ‘manufactured Outrage’ Over Police Bill? Asks Omar

26 February 2013
The Daily Excelsior


Srinagar: Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said today that he had ordered the Home Department, which is held by him, to put the draft of Police Reforms Bill in the public domain in the first instance to get feedback from all sections of the society to prepare a better legislation even as Home Secretary Suresh Kumar said the bill was still at the ‘base level’ and “we are open to any suggestions’’ by the people. Reacting strongly to criticism of draft bill albeit without naming the Opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), separatists and some members of Kashmir’s civil society, who had been claiming that the bill would give AFSPA like powers to police in Special Security Zones, Omar tweeted that the bill was at its initiation stage and public feedback would be incorporated in it. “Public feedback will be incorporated. Law Department will vet (it). I will clear it. The Cabinet will approve it. Both Houses of Legislature will vote on it’’, he said allaying apprehensions voiced from some sections of the society including the Opposition parties from Kashmir, separatists and others that the law would given unbridled powers to police, leading to lawlessness in the State. “Even after passing these stages (Cabinet and Legislature approval), the bill would go to the Governor for his signature before being implemented finally. So there is no chance of bad legislation passing scrutiny’’, Omar said after public outcry against the draft bill. Excelsior had on February 14 exclusively reported contents of the draft bill, which had been put on the website of General Administration Department (GAD) for suggestions and objections by the cross-section of society for a period of one month before being introduction in the Legislative Assembly. Questioning “manufactured outrage’’ over the draft bill, the Chief Minister observed that the bill hasn’t passed public scrutiny let alone been seen by me and the Cabinet. “Why this “manufactured outrage’’ regarding the draft police bill’’? he questioned in his tweet. Asserting that he had himself directed the Home Department of the Government to first ascertain public views over the police draft bill, Omar said: “I had ordered the Home Department to put this (the draft bill) in the public domain at the first instance so that feedback would lead to better legislation’’. Omar’s response on police draft bill came after campaign by the Opposition PDP, other political parties, separatists and some members of the Civil Society in the Valley especially on the provisions related to Special Security Zones and powers to Village Defence Committees (VDCs). Meanwhile, addressing a press conference this afternoon at the Civil Secretariat, Principal Secretary (Home), Suresh Kumar said the police draft bill was at its “initial stage’’ as it has been put up on the Government website for inviting objections and suggestions. “It is not that we have implemented anything or were going to introduce the bill in the Legislature without incorporating the public opinion’’, he said, adding that the State has picked up various provisions of police draft bill from Kerala, which is known as most progressive State and where Human Rights Violations are a very big issue. Moreover, Mr Kumar said, the draft bill is not a final thing. “Its not that the bill is going to be implemented in the next few days. There were various stages for passing the bill. This is just the first stage wherein we had invited objections and suggestions. After this, the bill would go to the Cabinet and only after clearance, it has to be introduced in the Legislature, where also it can go to Select Committee etc’’, he added. On powers of the VDCs, the Home Secretary said that in the previous Police Act also, there had been provision of ‘thikri para’ depending on the need. However, he added, “let us seek public opinion on all issues’’. To a question on magisterial powers shifting to Police Commissioners as per the draft police bill, Mr Kumar said, there was a provision of regulation by the District Magistrate. “Its not that the District Magistrate would be out of picture. He has a role’’, he added. He pointed out that Model Police Act had been drafted by a high level Committee at the Centre, which comprised Soli Sorabjee and was being implemented on the directions of the apex court. He said the timing of objections and suggestions for the draft bill has been extended beyond a period of one month. On threat perception to Sarpanchs and Panchs especially after the killing of another Sarpanch by the militants on Sunday, the Home Secretary said security forces were doing the area domination patrolling while local level officers were in touch with the people, who felt threatened by the militants. To another question on alleged threats to Panchayat members in Kishtwar, he said he was not aware of the incident.