In High Court, Govt justifies use of pellet guns, calls it ‘modern method’ of crowd control

HCBA PIL | Says court doesn’t recommend how law and order situations are handled, explains how these ‘non-lethal’ weapons are used

D A RASHID
Srinagar, Publish Date: Sep 6 2016 11:45PM | Updated Date: Sep 6 2016 11:45PM
In High Court, Govt justifies use of pellet guns, calls it ‘modern method’ of crowd controlFile Photo

The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on crowd control is not ‘applicable’ to firing of pellets as these spread up to a diameter of six meters when fired, the Kashmir Bar Association argued on Tuesday.   

“The expression ‘below the knee’ is not appropriate. It is not practicable to contain pellets to knees when fired. The  pellets can spread up six meters in all directions,” senior advocate Zaffar Shah argued before the High Court, while seeking its intervention for banning use of pellets in crowd control.

“SOP is the assumption that firearms have to be fired below knees.  In case of pellet guns, the SOP is inappropriate. Why, because pellets don’t go in a single direction and these are about 600 and spread in all directions, when fired. The diameter, when pellets, come out of the gun, is about six-meter wide. Thus, this concept that you fire it below the knees is inappropriate,” Shah said, pleading on behalf of the Bar that has approached the High Court—through a Public Interest Litigation—seeking directions to avoid use of pellets for crowd control for “being lethal.” 

In an apparent reference to indecision by the government whether it will discontinue use of pellet guns, Shah told the Court:  “Are there pellet guns or PAVA shells or both now. It is to be seen whether chilli-filled PAVA shells are more dangerous, and will the government use both of them.”

“As far as media reports suggest, government says it will use pellets in ‘rarest of rare’ cases. They should specifically mention whether they are using or not using the pellet guns. You compare non-lethal with lethal on what criteria? One causes death and other does not. What about pellet gun?” Shah pleaded. “It is not a war, it is unrest. The bigger question is if lethal weaponry (should) be used in response to stone-pelting.”    

In response to a query by the bench that stone too can kill a person, Shah said: “Give a single instance in the past two months where a person has died due to a stone. Police is well protected.”

Referring to a PIL dismissed by the High Court in 2013, Shah pleaded that when the Court dismissed “half-hearted” petitions, it did not approve use of pellets because the expert report pertained to oleoresin grenades and not pellets.  

In its objections to the Bar PIL—while justifying use of pellet gun in quelling protests—the government has stated that “pellet gun is a modern method to deal with crowd, particularly agitating mobs who resort to heavy-stone pelting, rioting, arson, at the instigation of militants and separatists with the intention of causing loss to life of police personnel and those of security forces, besides the public and private property.”

Explaining what pellets are, the government said: “The pellet gun, technically known as 12 Bore Pump Action Gun, is used to fire cartridges which contain shots (pellets) of various sizes, measured on scale BB and 1-9. While shot marked as BB is the largest in size, shot No 1 is smaller than shot BB and Shot No. 9 is the smallest one. Depending upon the size, the number of shots in a cartridge varies.”

“While the number of shots of size cartridge would be least number of shots in a cartridge increases with the decrease in size. Accordingly, the number of shots of size 9 in a cartridge would be more.”

“The pellet gun (12 Bore Pump Action Gun) is sparingly used, when all other modes of crowd control like teargas, oleoresin grenades, stun grenades fail to yield any desired results. J&K Police is presently using Shot No 9 which is smallest in size, to deal with violent protestors and agitated unruly mobs,” the government said in its response.

The government has contended that the law enforcement agencies—police and security forces personnel—start with lathi-charge, teargas shells, stun grenades and when these methods fail to disperse the “mob”, the force is proportionately increased “to prevent the unruly agitated mobs from causing further damage to the life and property of security personnel as well as peace-loving and law-abiding citizens.”

“When these methods fail to yield the desired results, the use of 1.2 Bore Pump Action Gun is resorted to before firing from the regular rifles Proper drill is maintained while using force to ensure least damage to life of even members of the unruly mobs,” the government has claimed.

“Lethality or otherwise of a weapon is to be gauged by the effect of such weapon when that is put to general use, while maintaining the proper drill. Viewed thus, lathi, which is a completely non-lethal weapon, can become lethal if a vital organ of a body is hit. Similarly, when 1.2 Bore Pump Action Gun is used with proper drill and while maintaining proper distance (as prescribed/ recommended), its effects are non-lethal,” the government has pleaded. 

Underlining that the method required to be given effect to control law and order “has to be left to the State”, the government has further pleaded: “Court cannot guide the law enforcing agencies to act in a particular way/manner. The court being not an expert does not recommend as to how the law and order situations are to be controlled.”

 

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