The Supreme Court on Monday stayed investigation into the death of three civilians in Army firing in Shopian on 27 January in pursuance of a First Information Report registered by the Jammu and Kashmir Police, accepting the Centre's submission that the state police could not move on the case without its prior sanction.
The court seemed none too pleased with the state police's attempt to treat Army men in face-offs with stone-pelting mobs as "ordinary criminals" as it stayed the investigation into the Shopian firing involving Major Aditya Kumar.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, which on 12 February had stopped the state police from taking any coercive step against the major on a petition filed by his father, Lt Col Karamveer Singh, who sought quashing of the FIR, completely stalled the investigation into the Shopian FIR on Monday.
Three civilians were killed when Army personnel fired at a stone-pelting mob in Ganovpora village of Shopian on 27 January this year, prompting the chief minister to order an inquiry.
''Let the matter be listed for final disposal on 24 April, 2018. There shall be no investigation on the basis of FIR lodged till then,'' a bench ordered.
The J&K police had registered the FIR under sections 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder) of Ranbir Penal Code following an uproar over the incident at Ganawpora village in Shopian. The dead were identified as Javaid Ahmad, Suhail Ahmad and Rayees Ahmad. The Army had said they opened fire in ''self-defence'' to prevent ''lynching of a Junior Commissioned Officer and burning of vehicles'' by a mob. Seven security personnel were injured in the incident.
Appearing for the state, senior advocate Shekhar Naphade and additional advocate general M Shoeb Alam clarified that the FIR did not name Maj Aditya of 10 Garhwal Rifles as an accused and hence there was no need for any further orders apart from the one issued by the SC on 12 February.
But the bench was not convinced by J&K's claim. "As per the narration in the FIR, it is stated that Major Aditya Kumar was leading the convoy which resorted to firing on coming under heavy stone-pelting and arson by the mob. This means even if he is not shown as an accused, police can at any point of time rope him in as an accused. He is an Army officer. Do not treat him as an ordinary criminal," the bench said.
The court's comments provoked Naphade to say, "The Army has not been responding to several letters written by the state (on the Shopian FIR) as if they are above the law. Is there a licence to kill for the Army?"
Appearing for the Centre, attorney general K K Venugopal raised preliminary objection about the legality of the FIR and said, "No prosecution, suit or any legal proceeding can be instituted against an Army man without prior permission from the Centre."
According to official accounts, the major was not at the site of the incident involving a group of Army personnel who were separated from the rest of the convoy.