The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the probe launched against Major Aditya Kumar for his role in the killings of three civilians by army firing in Shopian district in Jammu and Kashmir.
The SC bench consisting of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud said that no investigations could be carried out until the next hearing scheduled for 24 April. The top court was hearing a petition filed by Major Aditya’s father, Lt. Col. Karamveer Singh, also a serving officer of the Indian army, who has sought the quashing of the FIR against his son. Lt. Col. Singh had said in his petition that his son was not even present at the spot during the firing that killed three civilians. He said that the FIR against his son will have a ‘numbing effect’ on the morale of the armed forces.
While setting the hearing for the next month, Chief Justice Misra observed, “After all, it is a case of an Army officer, not an ordinary criminal.”
During Monday’s hearing, Attorney General KK Venugopal told the apex court that Jammu and Kashmir Police could not file an FIR against Major Aditya Kumar or other army personnel serving in the disturbed area without the central government’s approval because of the provisions under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Venugopal, according to a report by IANS, cited the top court’s own verdicts in 2006 and 2014 to support his arguments.
This was opposed by senior counsel Shekhar Naphade, who is appearing for Jammu and Kashmir, saying that the registration of FIR and even filing of charge-sheet did not amount to taking cognisance of the offence and thus no prior permission of the Centre was required. Naphade also informed the court that Kumar had not even been named as an accused in the FIR.
Jammu and Kashmir is governed by BJP-PDP alliance and the police reports to the state’s elected government. However, the BJP had raised objections to the state government’s sanction to file an FIR against army personnel. The state’s chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti, had later claimed that the decision to file an FIR was taken in consultation with Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
This had prompted the BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP, Subramanian Swamy, to ask Prime Minister Narendra Modi to seek an explanation from Sitharaman on claims made by Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
Three youth were killed in Ganowpora village of Shopian district in south Kashmir on 27 January, when security forces opened fire after an army convoy reportedly came under a stone pelting attack. Two of the victims were identified as Javaid Ahmad and Suhail Ahmad. The third civilian, identified as Rayees Ahmad Ganai, had died after being admitted in hospital for treatment.