The controversial Police Bill is unlikely to be tabled in the budget session of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislature. Facing criticism from political parties and civil society, the Omar Abdullah-led coalition government is extending the deadline for seeking feedback on the draft, making it clear that all “anti-people content” will be removed before the Bill is moved.
Seeking to introduce drastic changes in police administration, the government put the draft of the Bill, to be known as the Jammu and Kashmir Police Act 2013, on the Home Department’s website on February 15, when the Valley was reeling under a shutdown and curfew imposed after the execution of Afzal Guru. It asked the public to come up with their suggestions within the next two weeks — setting off speculation that the Bill would be tabled in the budget session, beginning on February 28.
With nobody responding to the criticism of the Bill by the separatist and mainstream Opposition, an impression has been created that the government was planning to grant the police “AFSPA-like draconian powers.”
Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti believes that the Bill would revive a counter-insurgent “Ikhwani state.”
The draft envisages a host of controversial provisions like creation of ‘Special Security Zones’ and arming non-regular militias, and also carries extensive chapters on an unprecedented mechanism for addressing complaints against police officers, proposing penal punishment to delinquent officials, outsourcing tasks to outsiders, encouraging informants and making the independent Prosecution Wing a subordinate constituent of the police organisation.
“We are losing almost all court cases because of non-cooperation from the prosecution. The courts have already acquitted a number of dreaded killers and militants, including those who admitted to having murdered scores of civilians,” a senior police official said.
After keeping silent for some days, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who reacted to the criticism through his posts on Twitter late Tuesday, said: “Why this manufactured outrage regarding the draft police bill? It hasn’t passed public scrutiny, let alone been seen by me & the cabinet.”
He added: “Public feedback will be incorporated, Law Dept will vet, I will clear it, Cabinet will approve it, both Legislative houses will vote on it.”
“This is why I ordered the Home Dept to put this in the public domain in the 1st instance so that feedback would lead to better legislation,” he clarified.
Advocate-General Ishaq Qadiri maintained that neither his office nor the Law and Parliamentary Affairs Ministry had knowledge of the Bill. “I’m sure, Law Minister [Mir Saifullah, who is currently on Umrah in Saudi Arabia] and the Law Secretary too haven’t seen the draft. To the best of my knowledge, it has been drafted by a committee of officials constituted by the Home Department.” Mr. Qadiri said he had seen a copy of the draft only on the website.
Minister of State in-charge Home Sajjad Ahmad Kichloo told The Hindu that the deadline for feedback was being extended by a couple of weeks. “We have received diverse reactions. We are fully open to a debate and would proceed further only after studying all suggestions and concerns carefully.”