The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Tuesday asked the government to review use of pellet guns for crowd control in Kashmir, saying "untrained (forces) personnel have made the pellets lethal."
A division bench of Chief Justice N Paul Vasanthakumar and Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar—hearing a related Public Interest Litigation—observed: "You may treat it (pellets) as non-lethal but an untrained person makes it lethal. We hope it is reviewed," the court said. "Can't you employ orthodox methods like water cannons and teargas to disperse the crowds?"
While the government informed the court that 2000 paramilitary CRPF personnel were also injured in the protests since July 9, the court said: "People's protesting does not mean you should render them disabled."
Disapproving the use of pellets, the court observed: "Pellet gun is being used indiscriminately. Maximum people have suffered injuries in eyes and other vital parts of the body."
In response to the court's observation that it will be difficult to treat patients suffering from shrinkage of eyeball after three weeks, the Advocate General Jahangir Iqbal Ganai said "we have best doctors available at SMHS hospital." The court however retaliated: "We don't question the competence of our doctors but are concerned about equipment."
In his status report, the Principal of Government Medical College Srinagar has stated that since July 9, the department of Ophthalmology at SMHS hospital has received 183 patients out of whom 148 have undergone primary repair "under all aseptic measures." Terming the media reports that six patients have lost vision in both eyes as "untrue", the report said: "20 patients have bilateral eye injury out of which three patients are badly injured and are still under treatment/management and it is too early to comment that these patients have lost their vision in both the eyes."
"It is true that one eye of 10 patients was badly damaged at the site of impact due to pellets and accordingly their one eye was eviscerated to prevent sympathetic ophthalmitis in the other eye," the status report said.
The status report revealed that "130 patients, and not 140 as reported in media, need secondary intervention after three to four weeks which includes retinal surgeries."
The court was informed that for speedy disposal of retina patients, the services of internationally-renowned retina surgeon in India, Dr S Natrajan, Director Adity Jyoti Mumbai and his team have been sought from 26-07-2016 to assist the three retina surgeons already existing in the faculty of Government Medical College, Srinagar.
"The department has taken all precautions to provide best possible treatment to these pellet injury patients to prevent shrinkage of eye ball and subsequent visual disability," the status report read.
The government also informed the court that GMC Srinagar has taken steps to treat the pellet injury cases on priority, which also includes conducting retinal surgeries.
"An expert team of retina surgeons from All India Institute of Medical Sciences New Delhi was invited to assess/examine and advice regarding management of these patients and they were satisfied with the treatment provided by the department of Ophthalmology."