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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 19 June 2024

Rights balance: Editorial on recent court judgments protecting human rights in Jammu & Kashmir

These judgments reasserted human rights, fairness and the right to justice in a sensitive situation. Regaining this balance, as one judge seemed to suggest, was the way to peace.

The Editorial Board Published 11.06.24, 07:49 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File Photo

Protecting human rights in the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir requires wisdom and care. Two recent judgments of the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh have demonstrated this in spite of the rather different thrust of Central policies. The earlier judgment quashed the order of a government official that 345 contractors be barred from participating in tenders since their kin had been militants in the past. The Union home minister, Amit Shah, announced soon after that no one whose kin was engaged in militancy or stone-pelting would get a government job, but it seems that the rule had been already in force. The definition of kin is vague, which breaches further the idea of fairness. Such a rule also ignores the diversity of attitudes among ‘kin’ and indirectly tars the family with one brush. Mr Shah offered a concession for those who would admit that their relative had engaged in militancy; applicants might baulk at that. The judge, however, labelled the official’s order a “blatant violation” of human rights; this would be true of the material and psychological stress imposed on all persons related to anyone accused of militant activity.

A variation on a similar theme can be discerned in the second judgment. While granting bail to a person detained under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 one judge of a two-judge bench referred to the use of “internal security” as a ‘bogey’ to prevent bail for those detained under this law in the region. The National Crime Records Bureau shows that the region has a major number of UAPA cases. The judge quoted Voltaire, who had said that internal security was the “eternal cry of the oppressor”. Internal security, nationalism, the unity and integrity of the country, the influence of extremist ideologies are all used as reasons to “overawe” judges into denying bail. While acknowledging the gravity of the UAPA’s requirements in terror cases, the judge said that keeping people imprisoned without judicially cognisable material was a violation of the right to liberty. There must be material to show that the accused would engage in terrorist activity if freed. These judgments reasserted human rights, fairness and the right to justice in a sensitive situation. Regaining this balance, as one judge seemed to suggest, was the way to peace.

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