New Delhi: Hearing a petition filed by three Kashmiri migrants, who had planned to take out a peaceful protest march up to Delhi demanding redressal of their grievances in 2007 but were assaulted by the Jammu and Kashmir Police, the Supreme Court on Friday ordered the payment of compensations of rupees two lakh to one petitioner and rupees one lakh each to two others within a period of two months.
The court a compensation of Rs. Two lakh to Anita Thakur, a general secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP), and Rs 1 lakh each to the party’s secretary and a senior journalist, who were beaten up by the police on August 7, 2007 during a protest.
Delivering the judgment, the court observed three prerequisites that must be satisfied before a magistrate could order use of force to disperse a crowd – first, there should be an unlawful assembly with the object of committing violence or an assembly of five or more persons likely to cause a disturbance of the public peace; second, an executive magistrate should order the assembly to disperse; and third, in spite of such orders, the people do not move away.
“We find that initially it was the petitioners/ protesters who took the law into their hands by turning their peaceful agitation into a violent one and in the process becoming unruly and petting stones at the police. On the other hand, even the police personnel continued the use of force beyond limits after they had controlled the mob.
“In the process, they continued their lathi charge. They continued to beat up all the three petitioners even after overpowering them. They had virtually apprehended these petitioners making them immobile. However, their attack on these petitioners continued even thereafter when it was not at all needed. As far as injuries suffered by these petitioners are they must be compensated.”
“Keeping in view the totality of the circumstances of the present case and finding that even the petitioners are to be blamed to some extent, as pointed out above, the only relief we grant is to award compensation of Rs.2,00,000 to petitioner No. 1 and ?1,00,000 each to petitioner Nos. 2 and 3, which shall be paid to these petitioners within a period of two months,” the court ordered.
Terming the recent happenings in J-K “unfortunate trend”, the apex court observed, “Recent happenings show an unfortunate trend, where such demonstrations and protests are on increase. It is also becoming a common ground that religious, ethnic, regional language, caste and class divisions are frequently exploited to foment violence whenever mass demonstrations or dharnas etc take place.
“It is unfortunate that more often than not, such protesters take to hooliganism, vandalism and even destroy public/ private property. In process, when police try to control, the protesters/mob violently target policemen as well. Unruly groups and violent demonstrations are so common that people have become to see them as an appendage of Indian democracy. All these situations frequently result in police using force. This in turn exacerbates public anger against the police.”
Stating that in Kashmir itself, there have been numerous instances, where separatist groups have provoked violence, the apex court said, “In this scenario, task of the police and law enforcing agencies becomes more difficult and delicate. In curbing such violence or dispersing unlawful assemblies, police have to accomplish its task with utmost care, deftness and precision. Thus, on the one hand, law and order needs to be restored, and at the same time, it is also to be ensured that unnecessary force or the force beyond what is absolutely essential is not used.”
Observing that policemen are required to undergo special training to deal with these situations, the apex court said, “Many times the situations turn ugly or go out of control because of lack of sufficient training to the police personnel to deal with violence and challenges to their authority. There are various documents in the form of police manual and even international covenants, proscribing unnecessary use of force and mandating that force should only be used when it is absolutely necessary. And, even when used, it should be minimum and proportional to the situation, and its use should be discontinued as soon as the danger to life and property subsidised.” (ANI)