The Supreme Court on Monday directed that no coercive action be taken against Major Aditya Kumar, named in an FIR by the Jammu and Kashmir police regarding last month’s civilian killings in Shopian.
Directing that no coercive action would be taken against the Army Major in pursuance to the FIR, a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud sought the response from the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir government and put an interim stay on any criminal proceedings against the Major.
Major Aditya Kumar and other personnel of the Army’s 10 Garhwal Rifles are accused of opening fire near Ganowpora village in Shopian district on January 27, resulting in the death of three civilians.
Local residents have contested the Army’s claim that it fired in self-defence after a stone-pelting mob had attacked a convoy. Following outrage over the killings, the police had filed a criminal case against the Army.
The father of the accused Major, Lt. Col. Karamveer Singh, had petitioned seeking quashing of the FIR.
The father contended that registration of FIR and the consequent proceedings would adversely impact the morale of the armed forces fighting militancy in the state.
The court asked for a copy of the petition to be served on the office of the Attorney General K.K. Venugopal.
Senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for the petitioner, urged the court to stay the FIR.
“The manner in which the lodging of the FIR has been portrayed and projected by the political leadership and administrative higher-ups of the state, reflects the extremely hostile atmosphere in the state,” the petition said.
“In these circumstances, the petitioner is left with no other viable option but to approach this Court under Article 32 of the Constitution of India for protection of valuable Fundamental Rights of his son and himself, enshrined under Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India,” the plea said.
It said that Major Aditya Kumar was wrongly and arbitrarily named as the incident relates to an Army convoy on bonafide military duty in an area under AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act), which was isolated by an “unruly and deranged” stone-pelting mob.
The intention of the Major was to save Army personnel and property, and the fire was inflicted only to impair and provide a safe escape.
“The unruly mob was requested to disperse and not to obstruct military persons in the performance of their duties and not to damage government property…”
The unruly behaviour of the unlawful assembly reached its peak when they got hold of a Junior Commissioned Officer and was in the process of lynching him.
“It was at this moment that warning shots were fired… which as per the said terms of engagement is the last resort to be taken…,” the plea said.
It also sought directions to issue guidelines to protect the rights of soldiers and adequate compensation.