Directs Centre, states, UTs to stop incidents of violence, assault, threats; Omar, Mehbooba hail decision
The Supreme Court Friday directed chief secretaries and police chiefs of states and union territories to take “prompt” and “necessary” action to prevent incidents of threat, social boycott and violence against Kashmiris following the Pulwama attack.
It also sought responses from the government of India and 11 states where incidents of threat and violence against Kashmiris have taken place after the February 14 attack in which over 40 central reserve police force (CRPF) personnel were killed.
“The chief secretaries, the DGPs of all states and union territories (UTs) including the commissioner of police, Delhi, are directed to take prompt and necessary action to prevent incidents of assault, threat, social boycott and such other egregious acts against Kashmiris including students enrolled with the institutions in the respondent states and the UTs and other minorities in the wake of the attack of February 14,” said a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna.
The bench perused the list of top police officers, who have been appointed as nodal officers in states and UTs and said their details be given wide publicity by the ministry of home affairs (MHA) so that Kashmiris can approach them in case of assault, intimidation and threat.
It said the nodal officers, in addition those who may have already been appointed by Jammu and Kashmir, as per the list placed by the AG before this court, “would take necessary steps to prevent acts of violence, discrimination and other coercive acts against Kashmiris”.
Details like name, address, telephone numbers, and email ids of these officers should be given wide publicity by the MHA in all the states “for prompt and timely action”, the court said in its order.
The bench perused the advisories issued by the MHA to the chief secretaries and DGPs of all states and UTs from time to time and said, “the advisories of the kind already issued be reiterated”.
It also directed that the police officers, who were appointed as nodal officers to deal with cow vigilantism and lynching incidents, would now be responsible for dealing with the cases of assaults on Kashmiris.
Besides the Centre, top officials of Maharashtra, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Meghalaya, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Delhi have been directed to prevent incidents of “threat, assault and social boycott” of Kashmiris, including students.
The court was hearing the plea of Tariq Adeeb, a lawyer, alleging that students from Kashmir are being attacked at different educational institutions across the country after the Pulwama attack and authorities concerned should be directed to take action to stop such assaults.
At the outset, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for Adeeb, claimed that 10 more incidents of assaults have taken place in various states after filing of the petition and necessary directions be issued urgently to stop them.
He said that some fresh incidents against Kashmiris have taken place in Punjab and Maharashtra and urged the court to make these two states also parties, which was allowed.
“The plea was filed in respect of nine states. But since I mentioned it yesterday and until today, 10 additional incidents have come to light, some in two new states of Punjab and Maharashtra,” Gonsalves said.
On being asked as to what relief was being sought for, the senior lawyer said that he wanted a similar order which was passed in mob-lynching cases and senior police officers be appointed as nodal officers to deal with such incidents against Kashmiris.
AG KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, said the ministry has issued the requisite advisory to states and UTs on this issue on February 16 and earlier also, such advisories had been issued.
“Nodal officers have been appointed in all states and UTs and their names and numbers are available. This list was last updated in 2018.The Centre has already issued advisory to all states and UTs on February 17 but we can’t tell the states about their specific actions that can be taken in such cases because law and order is a state subject,” he said.
Taking note of submissions, the bench referred to earlier orders in cases of cow vigilantism and mob violence by which it had asked the states and UTs to appoint a senior police officer as nodal officer in each state to deal with such cases.
The bench has now listed the matter for hearing on Wednesday when “further orders” would be passed.
The PIL has sought a direction to the Centre and other authorities for prosecuting people engaging in hate speech, and to appoint a nodal officer in every state and union territory, including politically-sensitive districts, to prevent acts of violence, discrimination and vigilantism.
It had also sought immediate setting up of a nationwide helpline number and a website containing contact details of the nodal officers appointed in politically-sensitive districts.
“There is a sudden rise in the incidents of crimes against Muslims and Kashmiris after the Pulwama attack in which over 40 soldiers were killed…Immediately after the attack, mobs and vigilante groups engaged in vitriolic hate speech and began attacking, and threatening Muslims and Kashmiris throughout the country, the petition said.
Former J&K chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah welcomed the Supreme Court’s directive.
“Relieved about the SC order to ensure Kashmiri students based outside J&K are not harassed or face social boycott. Shameful that the honourable judiciary took decisive action where others conveniently turned a blind eye (sic),” Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti wrote on Twitter.
National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah said he was grateful to the Supreme Court for doing what the government at the Centre should have done.
“Grateful to the Hon (honourable) Supreme Court of India for doing what our elected leadership in Delhi should have been doing. The union HRD minister was busy living in denial and a governor was busy issuing threats. Thank goodness the Hon SC stepped in,” Omar said in a tweet.