Prevent ‘threat, assault, social boycott’ of Kashmiris: SC tells 11 states
Omar, Mehbooba welcome directives
New Delhi/Srinagar, Feb 22: The Supreme Court Friday directed the Chief Secretaries and DGPs of 11 states to take "prompt" action to prevent incidents of "threat, assault and social boycott" of Kashmiris, including students, in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack.
Seeking a response from states where incidents of threat and violence against Kashmiris were reported, a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi also directed that the police officers, who were earlier appointed as nodal officers to deal with lynching incidents, would now be responsible to deal with cases of assaults on Kashmiris.
The states whose authorities were directed to take necessary action were Maharashtra, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Meghalaya, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand. The direction also covered the Delhi Police commissioner.
The bench asked the Union Home Ministry to give wide publicity so that Kashmiri people who are being targeted can approach the nodal officers.
"The chief secretaries, the DGPs and the Delhi Police Commissioner are directed to take prompt and necessary action to prevent the incidents of threat, assault, social boycott etc against Kashmiris and other minorities," the bench also comprising Justice Sanjiv Khanna said.
The court was hearing a plea of Tariq Adeeb, a lawyer, seeking a direction to the Centre and the states to prevent incidents of assaults, threats and social boycott of Kashmiris in the wake of the Pulwama attack on February 14 in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah welcomed the Supreme Court directive.
Abdullah, a top leader of the National Conference, said he was grateful to the Supreme Court for doing what the government at the Centre should have done.
"Grateful to the Hon 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 & a Governor was busy issuing threats. Thank goodness the Hon SC stepped in," Abdullah said in a tweet.
Mehbooba, the chief of Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), said she is relieved at the court order.
"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," she wrote on Twitter.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves appearing for the petitioner in the apex court claimed that at the outset, 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.
Attorney General (AG) KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, said the ministry had issued the requisite advisory to states and Union territories (UTs) on this issue on February 17.
"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," the AG said.
Taking note of the submission, the bench referred to its earlier decision by which it had asked the states and union territories to appoint a senior police officer as nodal officer in each district to deal with cases of mob violence.
It said the police officers will deal with the incidents pertaining to Kashmiris and other minorities in these states in the wake of the Pulwama attack.
The bench has now listed the matter for further hearing next Wednesday.
The plea 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 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 terrorist attack....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 claimed.