Kashmiris criticise the apex court order not to investigate crimes against Pandits during militancy

Srinagar: The Apex Court has dismissed a petition filed by a non-government organization seeking investigations into killings of Kashmiri Pandits in Jammu and Kashmir.

Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), local human rights group in a statement here on July 25, said that the order passed by the Court on July 24 appeared to be based only on the reason that 27 years have passed since the crimes in question and “no fruitful purpose would emerge, as evidence is unlikely to be available at this late juncture”. The statement added that the order is a complete departure from established law that “crime never dies” and there exists no time limitation for justice under Indian and international law with regard to serious crimes such as murder. “Further, the order is based, it appears, on an absolutely unsubstantiated presumption that no evidence is likely to be available after the passage of time.”

JKCCS emphasized that killing of Kashmiri Pandits, other minorities and other violence-related incidents have never been fairly and credibly investigated. The state, according to the statement, has faced widespread and systematic violence that has resulted in an estimated 70,000 killings, 8000+ enforced disappearances and numerous cases of torture and sexual violence, resulting in 7000+ unmarked and mass graves.”

Despite the presence of evidence, virtually no prosecutions have been conducted against armed forces personnel in civilian courts. This deep and pervasive impunity will be further strengthened and supported by the recent Supreme Court order.

Crucially, the Supreme Court order exonerates the State and its agencies that have chosen to protect the perpetrators of crime and have not allowed fair and credible investigations, thereby deterring families wishing to approach courts. The delay is not attributable to victim families, many of whom have consistently sought to use all available forums to struggle for justice. Some victim families have not pursued cases due to real fear and danger that seeking justice involves.

It is the State, of which the judiciary is been a part, which has ensured delay and denial of justice,” said JKCCS in its statement, adding that the Apex Court order ignored the global struggles for justice waged irrespective of the passage of time and numerous other obstacles. For example, Spain has enacted a special legislation to investigate crimes committed during the Spanish Civil War despite the passage of over 80 years. Bangladesh continues efforts to seek justice for crimes of 1971. International institutions such as the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice recognize this history of struggle in their founding statutes where there exists no time limitation for the pursuit of justice. The Supreme Court of India has itself recently taken a pro-active approach in, for example, the case of the 1984 Sikh killings where the court is reviewing the closure of cases by a special investigation team, the statement added.

The order, the statement added, does not merely set a dangerous precedent for other courts, including the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir, but in fact mirrors the past and continuing approach of the judiciary with regard to human rights violations in the state. “This order is essentially a re-affirmation of the understanding that the Indian State in unwilling to provide justice to victims of violence in Jammu and Kashmir.” JKCCS stressed the need for international institutions to intervene and urgent need for credible international organizations to investigate crimes that have been – and continue – to be committed.

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