New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association to respond to the issues raised by the Centre while defending the use of pellet guns to quell stone-pelting mobs in Kashmir valley, stressing that the lawyers' body cannot take sides.
The apex court sought the Bar's response after the Centre explained to the Supreme Court the circumstances under which security forces use measures like pellet guns.
The apex court told the Bar it has to play a very important role in assisting the court in evolving a solution and cannot take sides.
The Bar is neither on the side of the security forces nor on the mob's side, the court said and gave two weeks time to the lawyers' body to come out with its submission so that a solution can be found and asked it to file an affidavit. The matter has now been posted for April 28.
The apex court noted the submission of Attorney General (AG) Mukul Rohatgi that the security forces try to use minimum forces to avoid any damage to life and property and eventually use pellet guns and live ammunition in the final stage when the mob comes in immediate proximity to the security forces.
The bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar also took into consideration the submission made by Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association, Srinagar which contended that the Centre was not coming out with a clear-cut scenario and expressed its willingness to assist the court.
The bench also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and S K Kaul said that the Bar was in an effective position to bring out true factual position to assist the court in giving directions which will be meaningful.
The bench reminded the Bar body that it has to play a very important role in assisting the court in evolving the solution as the lawyers in the Bar were privileged people.
At the outset, the Attorney General, in response to the last hearing, placed before the bench confidential documents about the deliberations undertaken to evolve options other than the use of pellet guns for tackling mobs which resort to stone-pelting and attacks by petrol bombs, acid bombs and other deadly weapons.
The apex court had on March 27 expressed concern over the pellet gun injuries suffered by minors who indulged in stone pelting in Jammu and Kashmir and asked the Centre to consider other effective means to quell the protests as it concerns "life and death".
It had conceded that though the use of pellet guns by the security forces was not a judicial issue, it can intervene in the matter to find a solution acceptable to parties concerned.
The court had given two weeks time to Attorney General to ponder over the suggestions to look into effective alternatives to the pellet guns.
It had said that it is not the subject that has to be decided by the courts nor can there be a judicial redressal as it is a delicate situation.
The court had suggested to the Attorney General to consider other technology-based measures like microwave to disperse the protesters and water which tastes and smell awful that will make people go away.
The AG had said he will speak to the committee of experts which has prepared an interim report on the use of effective measures in October 2016 and get back to the court after two weeks.
During the last hearing, the bench had expressed its concern over minors indulging in stone pelting and suffering injuries during protests.
It had asked the Centre to find some alternative measures to deal with such situations so that kids do not get injured.
On December 14 last year, the apex court had said pellet guns should not be used "indiscriminately" for controlling street protests in Jammu and Kashmir and be resorted to only after "proper application of mind" by the authorities.
It had also sought assistance of the Attorney General on the issue and asked him to submit a copy of the report submitted by the expert committee constituted for exploring other alternatives to pellet guns.
The court was hearing an appeal filed by Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association against the high court order seeking stay on the use of pellet guns as a large number of people had been killed or injured due to their 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 of 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.