Shopian Firing: SC to Hear Plea Filed by Army Major’s Father

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear on Monday, 12 February, a plea filed by the father of an Army officer who has been booked as an accused by the Jammu and Kashmir Police in the recent Shopian firing incident, reported PTI.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud considered advocate Aishwarya Bhati's submission that the Army Major’s father’s plea be heard on an urgent basis.

The lawyer said that the FIR has been illegally lodged against Major Aditya Kumar in connection with the firing incident in Shopian.

"We will hear it on Monday," the bench said.

Lt. Colonel Karamveer Singh said in his plea that his son's intention was to save Army personnel and property and the fire was inflicted "only to impair and provide a safe escape from a savage and violent mob engaged in terrorist activity.”

Singh had moved the Supreme Court on Thursday, 8 February, seeking the quashing of the case lodged against his son, as it would “hurt the morale of the Army while discharging duty,” reported the Times of India.

Jammu and Kashmir Police names Major Aditya Kumar in the FIR after it was alleged that he dispersed his gun on a mob, killing three civilians on 27 January. Army sources have, however, claimed that the Major was not present at the spot during the incident.

J&K Police chief SP Vaid had said that registering an FIR against the Army in the Shopian incident was just the beginning of the investigation.

Also Read: ‘No Counter-FIR, Just Army’s Version of Shopian Firing’: CM Mufti

Lt Colonel Karamveer Singh, Major Kumar’s father, who himself fought in the Kargil war, was quoted by the Times of India as saying that the police action symbolises the loss of faith in the legitimacy of the work done by the armed forces.

"Are the life, limbs and property of serving personnel of the armed forces operating in Jammu & Kashmir of no value to the state’s agencies?" - Lt Colonel Karamveer Singh

The petition filed by Lt Colonel Singh through advocate Aishwarya Bhati says, "The petitioner is constrained to file the petition for quashing of the FIR, in view of the extremely hostile situation on the ground, whereby an FIR has been registered by the local police against him, who is an Army officer, and was performing his bonafide duties as directed by the Centre. The manner in which the lodging of the FIR has been portrayed and projected, reflects the extremely hostile atmosphere in the state," according to the Times of India.

"Having served for so long, framing of my son is extremely painful for me personally. It is, therefore, clear that where one small team of soldiers is assigned the responsibility to handle disturbed and unfavourable situations, power to take prudent decision and getting them executed by trained soldiers absolutely devolves upon local commander of the team. In this situation, it is his sense of judgment which plays an important role and, accordingly, various legitimate methods of resolving the dispute or completing the task is carried out. His wisdom and sense of making balance between rights of innocent and right action on delinquents must be measured considering the situation and thus, application of free mind and absence of duress becomes subject of vital importance," the Times of India further quoted the petition.

"Having served for so long, framing of my son is extremely painful for me personally. It is, therefore, clear that where one small team of soldiers is assigned the responsibility to handle disturbed and unfavourable situations, power to take prudent decision and getting them executed by trained soldiers absolutely devolves upon local commander of the team. In this situation, it is his sense of judgment which plays an important role and, accordingly, various legitimate methods of resolving the dispute or completing the task is carried out. His wisdom and sense of making balance between rights of innocent and right action on delinquents must be measured considering the situation and thus, application of free mind and absence of duress becomes subject of vital importance" - The Times of India further quoted the petition.

The Army had reportedly filed a counter-FIR in the case against ‘unspecified persons’, on 31 January. However, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had said, “no counter-FIR has been filed by the Army. It has only presented its version of the incident.”

Mufti had earlier stated that she did not believe the police action would have a demoralising effect on the Army.

Terming the incident a “setback” to the political process, Mufti had also said she had spoken about it to Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman who asked her to take the required action in case there was “carelessness”.

According to the Army’s narrative, which was submitted on 30 January, the force's convoy was attacked by a group of stone-pelters and its personnel resorted to firing to save themselves, the officials said.

The Army has claimed it opened firing in self-defence after seven of its personnel were injured. It has also submitted photographs of the vehicles damaged in the stone pelting.

The state government has ordered a magisterial probe into the incident.

Also Read: Shopian Firing: ‘FIR Naming Army Major Premature,’ Says Commander

(With inputs from PTI)

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