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Find alternatives to pellet guns: SC

Hit hard:A file photo of a youth being treated for pellet injuries at a hospital in Srinagar.AFPTAUSEEF MUSTAFA

Hit hard:A file photo of a youth being treated for pellet injuries at a hospital in Srinagar.AFPTAUSEEF MUSTAFA  

Reminds govt. that a ‘welfare state’ is meant to protect all with harm to none

Reminding the government that it is a ‘welfare state’ meant to protect all without causing harm to none, the Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to come up with alternatives to pellet guns used by security forces against agitators and stone-pelting mobs on the streets of Jammu and Kashmir.

“You are a welfare state. It is your duty to ensure the safety of the people as well as the security forces. Your purpose of being there is not to harm or injure individuals,” a Bench led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar addressed Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi.

Mr. Rohatgi responded that security forces are face-to-face with violent mobs, sometimes used as a human shield by militants who open fire at them. The agitators even throw petrol bombs at the forces. In short, Mr. Rohatgi said security personnel battle for their own lives and use these guns, at the minimum, as a means of self-defence, and at the most, to bring law and order back on the streets.

“We appreciate that... there are lots of pressure. However, what can be adopted should not cause harm to individuals,” Chief Justice Khehar replied.

The court expressed its concern about how minors, students and innocent by-passers of the Valley become collateral damage, sometimes scarred permanently for life, in the battle for the streets between forces and the mobs. For their sake and that of their parents and loved ones, the court asked the government to consider other alternatives to quell the mobs.

The Bench posted the hearing for April 10.

In December 2016, the Supreme Court sought a similar assurance from the Jammu and Kashmir government to avoid the “indiscriminate” use of pellet guns on protesters in the restive State.

The court’s reservations about the use of pellet guns without “proper application of mind” came while hearing a petition filed by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association.

‘Many jawans injured’

The Attorney-General, who was countering the contention of the J&K Bar Association counsel over the death and injuries of protesters besides spectators watching the incidents from their houses, said a total of 1,775 CRPF personnel were injured of whom 79 were grievously injured in the protests held between July 8 and August 11, 2016.

The High Court had on September 22 rejected the plea for a ban on pellet guns on the ground that the Centre had already constituted a Committee of Experts through its memorandum of July 26, 2016 for exploring alternatives to pellet guns.

The High Court had also declined to accept the plea to prosecute the officers who ordered pellet guns to be used and those who shot the agitators.

(With PTI inputs)

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