Indian Army Major wins battle in Supreme Court: Stay on FIR over civilian deaths

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Major Aditya’s father, Lt Col Karamveer Singh, outside the Supreme Court on Monday .

The Hush Post: The Supreme Court has put a stay on criminal proceedings against an army officer posted in Jammu & Kashmir. The FIR was registered against personnel of 10 Garhwal Rifles, including Major Aditya Kumar, under Sections 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder) of the Ranbir Penal Code. The FIR refers to an alleged January 27 firing by Indian forces in which three civilians were killed when a stone-pelting mob in Ganovpora village in Shopian turned violent and attacked the Army personnel.

The Bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice DY Chandrachud asked the state government to file its response to the plea within two weeks. Interestingly, J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had raised the matter of the FIR being taken to its logical conclusion.

As an interim measure, the apex court directed the state government not to take any ‘coercive steps’ against Army officials. The order means that the officer cannot be summoned by the J&K police for interrogation or be asked to participate in investigations into the incident until further orders. ,The petitioner, Major Kumar’s father, Lt Col Karamveer Singh, had said in his plea that he wanted the FIR quashed on the grounds that his son was performing his duty and had been “wrongly and arbitrarily” named. Lt Col Singh’s plea said the soldiers opened fire “only to impair and provide a safe escape from a savage and violent mob engaged in terrorist activity”.

The petition also 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. The petition has also sought registration of FIR against people involved in terrorist activities which had caused damage to property of the government. Arguing for Lt Col Singh, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi submitted that it was a serious issue, particularly since military operations were going on in the Valley.

The SC had heard the Army Major’s father’s plea on February 9 earlier. The army had on February 1 submitted its version of events to police, saying the soldiers had fired on protesters in “self defence” to prevent the lynching of an officer, snatching of weapons by protesters, and burning of their vehicles.

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