By Abhishek Jha:
In a detailed report released by Amnesty International yesterday, it has recommended that both the Government of India and that of Jammu and Kashmir take “immediate steps” for trial of human rights violations by Indian security forces and the police in the valley.
The report, which is based on extensive research and interviews with family members of victims of human rights violations by the armed forces, throws light on several aspects of the draconian law. “Denied: Failures in accountability for human rights violations by security force personnel in Jammu and Kashmir” is divided into eight chapters and discusses the historical and legal context, the use of the sanction process to deny justice to the victims, and the obstruction of investigations by security forces and the J&K police.
Section 7 of the contentious act, similar to section 197 of the IPC and the RPC (the penal code for J & K), which requires a sanction from the Central Government for the prosecution of armed personnel is tantamount to granting immunity to them from any criminal offence, the report argues. ‘The classification of Jammu and Kashmir as a “disturbed area” has allowed for the broad interpretation of the phrase in Section 7: “anything done or purported to be done in the exercise of the powers conferred by this Act”,’ it says. Apart from the report by the B P Jeevan Reddy committee on AFSPA, comments of P. Chidambaram, Vice-President Hamid Ansari, etc, it also cites the report of the recent Verma committee set up after the 2012 Delhi gang-rape incident. “The committee said that sexual violence against women by members of the armed forces or uniformed personnel should be brought under the purview of ordinary criminal law. To ensure this, the committee recommended the AFSPA be amended to remove the requirement of sanction to prosecute from the central government for prosecuting security force personnel for crimes involving violence against women,” the report adds.
These sanctions required for prosecution imply that India violates not only international conventions that it has signed but also its own constitution which “guarantees to all persons equality before law and equal protection of the law.” The report explains that “torture is currently not punishable as a specific offence under the RPC (or the Indian Penal Code). Allegations of torture are instead registered as “voluntarily causing hurt,” or “voluntarily causing grievous hurt.” The definitions of grievous hurt are not in line with the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which India signed in 1997 but has yet to ratify.” Similarly, India also signed the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2007, but has not ratified the same.
The report also claims that the MHA and MoD refused to reveal details of alleged violations in cases sent to it for sanction. The families of the victims, according to the report, are also intimidated and harassed to withdraw cases against armed personnel. Monetary compensation is used to leverage the families into withdrawing those cases sometimes.
This intimidation does not, however, stop there as one researcher who worked on the report has written on The Hindu in a personal account. She was detained allegedly due to her work that puts India’s armed forces and its government in a bad light. While this report does not reveal anything that most of us did not already know, its strong voice is what the country needs to prevent its government and army from violating human rights.