Rashid Paul

HC asks Govt to spell out facility status of pellet victims

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Srinagar July 23: J&K High Court on Tuesday directed the government to inform it within two days about the facilities, if any, available to pellet gun victims in the state including the ones who lost their eyesight to the weapon termed as non lethal by the government.

A division bench while hearing a petition seeking ban on use of pellet guns by state forces for crowd control in Kashmir, directed the government to place before court within two days the details of facilities (if any) available to the victims. The information should also include the measures (if any) for empowering the persons blinded or rendered visually impaired by the use of pellet guns by the forces, directed the court.

It also asked the government to furnish details of rehabilitation of persons who have suffered visual impairment for any other reason.

During the course of hearing, the court found that though the state government has been made a party respondent in the matter through secretary, Department of Home Affairs. “It would be appropriate to array the state through secretary Department of Health and Medical Education as well as the secretary Department of Social Welfare as party respondents”, it said.

A petition was filed before the J&K High Court in 2016 by a Kashmir based lawyers association seeking ban on use of pellet guns citing a large number of people had been killed and injured due to its use.

The court rejected the plea on the ground that government of India had already constituted a Committee of Experts for exploring alternatives to pellet guns.

The state government forces however continue to use the pellet guns to curb violent protest demonstrations where the protestors throw stones on the forces.

The global human rights body Amnesty International in one of its reports – Losing Sight in Kashmir: The Impact of Pellet-Firing Shotguns – has called for a complete ban on the use of pellet guns in Kashmir.  The report depicts the plight of 88 victims of pellet guns in Kashmir whose eyesight was damaged in one or both eyes by pellets fired by J&K Police and Central Reserve Police Force CRPF.

While addressing the Legislative Assembly in 2018, former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti had informed the house that pellet guns had injured 6,221 people in Kashmir between July 2016 and February 2017.

The lawyers Association challenged the High Court order, contending that J&K High Court should have waited or called for the report of the expert committee.

The High Court had in its order also declined the plea seeking prosecution of the officers who ordered use of pellet guns and those who actually fired them on the civilians.

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