Supreme Court puts probe into Shopian firing case on hold

Supreme Court puts probe into Shopian firing case on hold
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New Delhi, Mar 5: In a big U-turn, the Jammu and Kashmir government on Monday told the Supreme Court that Major Aditya Kumar’s name was not mentioned in the FIR filed against Army personnel involved in the Shopian firing.
The apex court was listening to the plea of Lt Col (retd) Karamveer Singh’s plea seeking to quash the FIR against his son Major Aditya. The J&K government submitted in a status report to the court that the Army officer had not been named when the police lodged an FIR to investigate the firing incident, rendering the cause for Singh’s petition moot.
A three-judge bench stayed the investigation into the Shopian firing, and by extension Major Aditya’s role or lack thereof in it, till the next date of hearing on April 24.
“Major Aditya is an army officer and cannot be treated like ordinary criminals by the J&K police,” the SC said.
“Let the matter be listed for final disposal on April 24. In the meantime, there shall be no investigation on the basis of FIR till then,” the bench said.
Though J&K government told SC that the FIR does not name Major Aditya as an accused, the bench said because his name is mentioned in the narrative of the FIR, he could be roped in at any time.
Last month, the top court had restricted the Mehbooba Mufti-led government from taking any “coercive steps” against Army officers, including Major Aditya Kumar, accused in the case.
In its report, the Mufti government complained that the Army does not respond to its letters and asked “Are they above the law?” and “Whether Army has a license to kill?”.
The bench, comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, had asked Lt Col Singh’s counsel to share the copies of his petition with the office of attorney general K K Venugopal and the J&K government.
In his plea, Singh stated his son, a Major in 10 Garhwal Rifles, was “wrongly and arbitrarily” named in the FIR. He said the incident relates to an Army convoy that was on bona fide military duty in an area under the AFSPA and was isolated by an “unruly and deranged” mob pelting stones, causing damage to military vehicles.
The Army, too, contends that Major Aditya of the 10 Garhwal Rifles was leading the “administrative convoy” and was some distance away from the site where the firing occurred at Ganwapora in late January.
Singh further claimed that his son’s intention was to save Army personnel and property and the fire was inflicted “only to impair and provide a safe escape from a savage and violent mob engaged in terrorist activity”.
The unruly behaviour of the “unlawful assembly” escalated and they got hold of a Junior Commissioned Officer and were in the process of lynching him when warning shots were fired to disperse the violent mob and protect public property, Singh said.
Three civilians were killed when Army personnel fired at a stone-pelting mob in Ganovpora village in Shopian, prompting the chief minister to order an inquiry into the incident.
It was previously reported that the FIR was registered against personnel of 10 Garhwal Rifles, including Major Kumar, under sections 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder) of the Ranbir Penal Code.
The petitioner has sought directions for guidelines to protect the rights of soldiers and adequate compensation so that no Army personnel is harassed by initiation of criminal proceedings for bona fide actions in exercise of their duties.