Govt to challenge army's stand on manhandling case
PRESS TRUST OF INDIA
Leh, Oct 4: The Jammu and Kashmir government has taken a strong objection to the Army's claim that police could not proceed against its officers in a manhandling case.
According to the state government authorities, civilian and police officials were allegedly manhandled by armymen while they were returning after demolishing an "unauthorised" structure of the army at the picturesque Pangong lake in Ladakh region of the state.
Countering the claims in an affidavit filed in Jammu and Kashmir High Court, the state government had readied its reply which pointed to "gross irregularities" in the Army's claim that its officers could not be prosecuted by the state police as Ladakh region fell within the ambit of Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
The state government will now be informing the High Court on October 15, the next date of hearing, that Ladakh district is not within the ambit of AFSPA and that no one was permitted to violate the law, official sources said.
The dispute erupted as police secured a non-bailable warrant against three army officers, including a Major General, from Chief Judicial Magistrate in Leh for allegedly manhandling civilian officials who were returning from Pangong lake after demolishing the alleged illegal structure erected by the Army in 2005.
Army, while seeking a stay on the non-bailable warrant against the three officers, had informed the High Court that section four of AFSPA barred the state police from taking any action against them until permitted by the Centre.
No one from the Army was willing to comment on the subject saying that the matter was sub-judice. However, the Army confirmed in a written reply that Armed Forces Special Powers Act was not applicable to Ladakh region of militancy-hit Jammu and Kashmir.
In an email questionnaire, the Army spokesman was asked whether Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir was covered under Armed Forces Special Powers Act, to which he replied "no".
The lake, situated at 13,900 ft and 168 km from here, is frequented by hundreds of foreign and domestic tourists. It became centre of a legal battle between state administration and the Army over its ownership after the state planned to encourage tourism near the lake.
The Chief Judicial Magistrate of Leh had issued non- bailable warrants against Major General Manvendra Singh (the then Brigadier), Colonel M P Erray and Major S Dabbas earlier this year for allegedly manhandling the then Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Nyoma Ali Raza and two other officials, prompting the Army authorities to take a stay order from the High Court besides moving an appeal for quashing of FIR.
The Army, in its affidavit, claimed that the state government officials had damaged various sensitive equipments including the Night Vision Device.
However, the state government officials said the "illegal" structure was well within 45 kilometres of Line of Actual Control with China and even generation IV Night Vision Device could not see beyond 1.2 kilometres.
The entire case became a bone of contention when the area sub-divisional magistrate Ali Raja, upon his return to Leh, had filed a complaint with the police which registered a case against the three officers under section 34 (common intention), 109 (punishment for abetment), 186 (obstructing a public officer from performing duty), 341 and 342 (wrongful restraint) and 506 (criminal intimidation).
An Army spokesperson had earlier said, "The land in question has been an operational location of the Army since 1962. There was a difference of opinion on the fencing of a certain portion of the land between the local civil administration and military authorities.
"Unfortunately, the issue could not be resolved despite efforts by the local military authorities with their civil counterparts and led to an impasse."
The SDM, in his complaint, had said they had visited Pangong lake to demolish a shed erected for army officers on a land that belonged to the state tourism department. However, upon their return, the army officers, deployed in 114 Infantry division, detained the officials for nearly 12 hours.
The SDM claimed that he was kept standing on the road along with two of his officials and the Army officers allegedly took away the debris of the demolished structure with them.
Repeated summons by the police to ensure presence of these Army officers failed to yield any results following which a non-bailable warrant was issued.
Pangong Lake is situated at a height of about 4,250 m (13,900 ft). It is 134 kms long and extends from India to China. Two thirds of the length of the lake lies in China. During winter, the lake freezes completely, despite having saline water.
An Inner Line Permit is required to visit the lake as it lies on the Sino-India Line of Actual Control.
Lastupdate on : Sun, 4 Oct 2009 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 4 Oct 2009 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 5 Oct 2009 00:00:00 IST
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