New Delhi: Even as Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti asked security forces to differentiate between stone-pelters/militants and their families, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said pellet guns should not be used "indiscriminately" for controlling street protests in Jammu and Kashmir.
The apex court added that it should be resorted to only after "proper application of mind" by the authorities.
A bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur issued notices to the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir government while seeking their replies on a plea alleging "excessive" use of pellet guns in the state.
The apex court also sought assistance of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi on the issue and asked him to submit copy of the report submitted by the Expert Committee constituted for exploring other alternatives to pellet guns.
"Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi is requested to assist this Court and to place on record a copy of the report, if any, submitted by the Expert Committee, constituted by the Government of India in terms of its Office Memorandum/Order dated July 26, 2016... Needful be done within six weeks from today," the bench also comprising Justice DY Chandrachud said while posting the matter for hearing on January 30.
"All that we want is an assurance that pellet guns will not be used indiscriminately or excessively in the state and will be resorted to after proper application of mind," the bench observed, as per PTI.
The court was hearing an appeal filed by Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association against the High Court order seeking stay on use of pellet guns as a large number of people had been killed or injured due to its use.
The Jammu and Kashmir High Court had on September 22 rejected the plea seeking a ban on use of pellet guns on the ground that the Centre had already constituted a Committee of Experts through its Memorandum dated July 26, 2016 for exploring alternatives to pellet guns.
Taking note of the statement, the High Court had disposed of the petition, saying that no further direction was required since the matter was being looked at by the Centre.
The High Court Bar Association challenged the order, contending that High Court should not have disposed the petition and instead waited or called for the report of the expert committee.
The High Court had also declined to accept the plea to prosecute the officers who ordered use of pellet guns and those who actually fired them.
It had also directed the authorities concerned to ensure that all the injured are extended adequate medical treatment by specialists for whatever injury they sustain.
Try not to use pellet guns: Mehbooba Mufti to security forces
On the other hand, Mufti today asked security forces to restrain themselves from using pellet guns.
"When we have to deal with such situation, we have to use force sometimes and I have no hesitation in saying this. We should all speak truth. We had to use force because we had to protect the lives and properties of all the people of Jammu and Kashmir," she said.
The CM was speaking at the passing-out parade of Jammu and Kashmir Police at Commando Training Centre here in south Kashmir's Pulwama district.
Mehbooba said if force was not used, losses would have been more.
"If we had not done so, there could have been more killings, more losses. But now, our endeavour should be to see towards those people who were confined to their homes because of the situation, strikes and curfew and what they have gone through in these six months," she said.
The CM said now that the situation has improved and the time has come to "change our ways".
"But now I think that when the situation has improved, the time has come to heal the wounds of the people. Now, we have to change our ways. We have to differentiate between the situation as of today and what was four months back. We will have to give special focus to the youth," she said.
She said security forces have to differentiate between offenders like militants and stone-pelters and their families.
"We cannot weigh every youth by the same scale, we cannot see every youth with suspicious eyes, then the situation will not improve. We have to differentiate between militants and their families. We have to differentiate militants from their parents, siblings and children and we cannot weigh them by the same scale. If any youth is a habitual stone-pelter, we will have to differentiate between him and his family. You have to differentiate between an elder person involved in such activities and a student and see how to tackle them," she said.
Mehbooba asked the security forces to exercise restrain while dealing with law and order situations.
"I hope that you will not deject me because I want J-K to prosper again, where guns or pellet guns are not used. I hope that police and security forces try to not use pellet guns. If there is an attack on your camp or police station, then I understand, but if someone throws stones at you, you should try to restrain yourselves till we find an alternative to pellet guns and ban them completely," she said.
As many as 86 people, including two policemen, have been killed and several thousand others injured in the ongoing unrest in the Valley that began on July 9, a day after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter with security forces.
Around 5000 security forces personnel have also been injured in the clashes.
(With PTI inputs)