SC warns ‘ill-trained’ police force in Kashmir

Court also asks protesters not to misuse their right to move freely

Updated - November 17, 2021 05:12 am IST

Published - August 14, 2016 01:37 am IST - NEW DELHI:

Kashmir has been the victim of separatists’-driven protests, but abuse by an ill-trained police force exacerbates violence and triggers public anger, the Supreme Court said on Friday as the State reels under armed stand-offs between civilians and police since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in July.

The apex court warned protestors to not mistake their right to assemble and move freely as unlimited freedom to indulge in violence. In the same tone, the court turned to the police and cautioned the force against “indulging in excesses which become barbaric, not halting even after controlling the situation”.

“A distinguishing feature of any democracy is the space offered for legitimate dissent. One cherished and valuable aspect of political life in India is a tradition to express grievances through direct action or peaceful protest. Organised, non-violent protest marches were a key weapon in the struggle for Independence...” a judgment by a Bench of Justices A.K. Siri and R.K. Agrawal observed on August 12.

The judgment was based on a petition filed by several persons, including activists, alleging that they were brutalised by the State Police when their protest espousing the case of Jammu migrants led to a clash with the police in 2007.

The judgment, authored by Justice Sikri eloquently recalled the history of legitimate dissent in the “land of Salt Satyagraha, fast-unto-death and do or die”.

The apex court then points to how demonstrations have been twisted out of shape by religion, ethnicity, caste and class divisions — all of which have been “frequently exploited to foment violence whenever mass demonstrations or dharnas, etc, take place”.

“Unruly groups and violent demonstrations are so common that people have come to see them as an appendage of Indian democracy,” the judgment said.

The court points to how violence triggers more violence from the police, who use excessive force to control the mob. But this brutality of the police drives citizens away from the State.

“This in turn exacerbates public anger against the police. In Kashmir itself there have been numerous instances where separatist groups have provoked violence,” the Supreme Court observed.

The apex court urged police personnel to restore calm with “utmost care, deftness and precision” so that no harm is caused to human life and dignity. It has to be seen that “on the one hand, law and order needs to be restored and at the same time, it is also to be ensured that unnecessary force or the force beyond what is absolutely essential is not used”.

The court said the State cannot hide behind the defence of sovereign immunity when there is a “patent and incontrovertible” violation of fundamental rights through brutality, torture and custodial violence.

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