Farce of Democracy: Condemning the Draft Jammu and Kashmir Police Bill, 2013

March 11, 2013

Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisations (CDRO)

Press Release

Farce of Democracy: Condemning the Draft Jammu and Kashmir Police Bill, 2013

CDRO denounces the draft Jammu and Kashmir Police Bill 2013, prepared by senior police officers of the Home Department of J&K. The Draft Bill was put up for public comments on February 14, 2013, for a fortnight, at a time when the Kashmir valley was reeling under curfew and bandh following the secret hanging of Afzal Guru. The contents of the draft Bill tend to suggest that the idea was to ensure a truncated debate and serve a fait accompli by surreptitiously rushing through the Bill.

Although the state government claimed that the draft bill was in compliance with the Supreme Court order from 2006 and supposed to be in line with the a guideline/model bill framed by a committee constituted by the apex court. The fact is that tucked inside the 76 page draft are provisions which enhances the power and authority of the police far beyond what the even the apex court imagined.

By putting out the draft, without any qualification that the state government does not endorse the draft, shows that the coalition state government voices the demand for piecemeal withdrawal of AFSPA from J&K simultaneously lending legal sanctity to ‘police raj’ that operates in J&K.

CDRO draws attention to some of the draconian features of the Bill such as S 14 which authorizes ‘any’ police officer to demand and accept services of “any able bodied adult person” and “no person shall disobey without reasonable cause”. Such a police officer will also decide whether there is ‘reasonable’ cause or not. S 62 also allows the DG of Police powers to “constitute as many Village Defence Committees” as he may deem necessary. Read against the context of the dastardly role played by the VDC’s especially in the district of Doda which went on to train and arm Hindutva extremists under the garb of VDCs or the lawlessness that prevailed due to constitution of VDCs this power is ominous. S63 in fact furthers this when it empowers thje DG of Police to “engage” any able bodied and willing person as SPO. S 67 goes on to suggesting the setting up a State Security
Commission with the CM as the presiding deity. However, because the powers of the state government already stand truncated under the auspices of “internal security” where the state does not have powers to either remove army, withdraw the notification on disturbed area, even AFSPA from areas where it operates or even in appointment of senior police officers it is likely to make the police even more powerful.

If there were any doubts they are put to rest by S82, 83 and 84 which create “Special Security Zone” were there to be any threat to security
and to set up an administrative structure “which shall integrate administrative and developmental measures with police response”. S142 then ensures that no legal proceedings can ensue without sanction against the Government or any police officer “for anything done or intended to be done in good faith”. Since the Government seldom, if ever, believe that they act in bad faith or consider their actions wrong it is unlikely that they will ever proceed against either themselves or their police force.

The insidious nature of the Bill is evident if it is read together with two parallel developments. On February 6th delivering the K Subhramaniam Memorial Speech, former Union Home MInister P Chidambaram opined that army has a taken a “strong position that the Act (AFSPA) should not be amended”. And that “also do not want the government (disturbed area) notification to be taken back”. With Army refusing to accept the diktat of the political authority, the various illiberal provisions in the Bill for notifying security zone threatens to go the way of AFSPA and the expands the frontiers of impunity. Once an area is declared as a “special security zone”, police department, virtually autonomous of state government’s control, will be the
kingpin of all ‘governance’. Secondly, the police force is already engaged in a range of activities in J&K which never formed part of their domain, such as offering “counseling” to youth to rid them of ‘ wrong’ ideas such as about ‘azaadi’ and replace them with virtues and advantages of obedience and surrender to the might of the State lest their lives are ruined. With police force participating in “developmental activity” (a la army and central para military forces) ensures that the civil administration becomes all but infructous on the ground.

If proof was needed that J&K falls outside the constitutionally mandated relation between Centre and the states and that they are subjected to special yardstick where people’s freedom of expression (including propagation), assembly and association stand abrogated. Such being the case, the Police Bill drives a nail into Indian Government’s vacuous claim that democracy and freedoms are available to people of J&K. CDRO believes otherwise. J&K is the exception where police and army rule the roost and the so called elected state government appears to be merely a stamping authority.

Kranthi Chetanya, Tapas Chakraborty, Paramjeet Singh, Parminder Singh and Phullendru Komsam
(CDRO Coordinators)