The much-hyped and infamous Armed Force Special Power Act (AFSPA) has once again regained its strength in Kashmir after the Supreme Court of India in its latest decision restrained the Jammu and Kashmir Police from carrying out any further investigation against the Army officer, Major Aditya Kumar in the case of killing of three civilians by the Army while trying to disperse a stone-throwing mob in south Kashmir’s Shopian district. Favouring Major Aditya, Attorney General K K Venugopal told the Supreme Court that the mere filing of the complaint against an army personnel serving in the disturbed area was barred under Section 7 of AFSPA without prior sanction of the Government of India. The court judgements of 2006 and 2014 in support of his contention that without GoI’s sanction, even a complaint against a serving army officer operating in the disturbed area was prohibited under the law.
The decision has shattered hopes of hundreds of families who lost their dearer ones in the firing by the armed forces during past three decades. These families were waiting with a hope that they would get justice sooner or later by setting the armed forces accountable for the killing of innocent civilians. Besides, the court decision has made a mockery of the probes ordered by the J&K government against the killing of civilians at the hands of the armed forces. This is not the first time when the State government ordered any probe against the civilian killings. In fact, during the current and the previous regimes including the NC-Congress and the PDP-Congress regimes, dozens of probes have had been ordered against the armed forces for fake encounters, custodial disappearances, and civilian killings but not a single probe has reached its logical conclusion.
The court decision raised eyebrows and evoked strong reaction among various sections of the society. Mainstream politicians, separatist leadership and civil society termed the decision mockery of the justice. The separatist leadership said the decision had pierced the balloon of the so-called accountability and justice. Chairman Hurriyat Conference (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said the armed forces enjoy complete immunity from any accountability or legal prosecution under the cover of AFSPA.
Even the PDP-BJP government has taken a U-turn after the court decision by saying that the name of Major Aditya is not mentioned in the FIR. One of the PDP members, Firdous Ahmad Tak said India was a country where Army had the license to kill and political institutions were being demonised in the name of collective conscious.