The Kashmiri Civil Society has opposed the introduction of a new JnK Police Bill that seems to alter the very criminal law system giving more impunity to the Police officials to commit much more rampant human rights offences. A link of their statement against the bill is given below here.
Now the Following note should be read in conjunction with the statement of the Kashmiri Civil Society which is mentioned above.
The JnK Police bill, 2013 has been put in public domain for discussion. The currrent bill stems from the Supreme Court’s judgement titled Prakash Singh and Ors v Union of India WP (Civil) No. 310 of 1996. In this case the petitioner challenged the non-implementation of police reforms as recommended by the National Police Commission in 1981. In this case Court finally gave directions to make the police accountable in accordance to the rule of law. The recommendation of the Supreme Court are, in brief, as follows:-
1. Creation of a watchdog committee that oversees the policy guidelines of the police department which should be according to the Constitution and rule of law.
2. Proper selection of DGP, IG and other officers
3. Separation of investigating officers and law and order officers to, inter alia, improve rapport with the people
4. Establishment of Police Boards which shall regulate the transfers, posting, promotion, and other service related matter and reduce arbitrary actions in such matters.
5. Police Complaints Authority.
Now it is another question that how the State Government of Jammu and Kashmir can actually make a draconian law from the above recommendations. But be that as it may, the Current bill is introducing changes which empowers the local police with more impunity, and strengthens the culture of structural violence in Kashmir. The Act is reducing procedures for example the appointment and scope of SPO(Special Police Officers) and VDC(Village Defense Committee)(Section 62 and 63), and increasing the powers of the police officers on duty by allowing them to work in full secrecy [section 10(1)] and legitimately reward informers (section 33). Apart from the above some other key areas of changes hints towards a criminal system that is desperately trying to de-politicize the people of Kashmir. The bar of police officers to take part in any demonstration [section 96(2)] and then the same police are to control every other demonstration, protest and meetings which are of a “potential to disturb the law and order” [section 81(4)]. This clearly shows that the State is trying to create the Police as a distinct group within the Kashmiri society that would continue to coerce the Kashmiri people to be silent about their political issue of Azaadi. So far such acts were done by the army in conjunction with the police.
The bill is also contrary to the recommendations of the Supreme Court’s judgment in so far as the Police are given wide powers to coerce the general public to co-operate with them (section 14). The police specifically got powers to question anyone and the only ingredient of such power of the police is that there should be “sufficient reason” to do so. Thus it shows the vague language of the bill will also enhances the powers of the police to an extent that it goes directly in contradiction to the aforesaid Supreme Court’s judgment and the right to privacy as understood from Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
Another important aspect of this bill is that the bill seeks to keep Kashmir in a permanent state of emergency and thereby invoking martial law. There could not be a bigger evidence than this which says that the State is clearly trying to keep Kashmir by the barrel of the law and does not want the question of Azaadi to emerge. Ujjwal Kumar Singh in his book writes about this existential threat as a defining character in which the raison d’etat (reason of the state) transforms criminal activity into acts of moral virtue as the State is being defended by it. He further states that the two stages that the State identifies are state of normalcy and state of exception whereas in this case one can see that the exception is really becoming the normalcy, ie by introducing this police bill draconian provisions, which were justified as a temporary measure to tackle terrorism, are now being transformed into regular criminal jurisprudence and this is done precisely to further choke the question of Azaadi which becomes pivotal in understanding Kashmiri problem.
So even if AFSPA is repealed, in future, the question of impunity would still remain as then the local laws would function in the same as AFSPA. This is an important aspect to understand the policy behind enacting these laws especially in Kashmir. Thus it is equally important to engage in the political question along with the cry for removal of these draconian laws.