The Supreme Court today asked the central government to consider effective means other than pellet guns used to disperse violent mobs and present alternatives before it in two weeks’ time. Contending that the issue concerns life and death, the apex court, while hearing a plea filed by the Kashmir High Court Bar Association seeking the court’s directions against the "misuse" of pellet guns in the Kashmir Valley, asked the Centre to present alternatives before it by April 10.
Pellet guns have been used routinely in the Kashmir Valley to handle mobs who have often turned violent against security personnel. The Kashmir Valley has been troubled by repeated protests and shutdowns as much as by the use of pellet guns which badly maimed and blinded several protesters.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had informed Parliament last year that the MHA was in the process of finalizing alternatives to the contentious pellet guns. The injuries caused by these mob-dispersing weapons had created a huge uproar both inside Parliament as well as in civil society and it was in this backdrop that the minister’s comments had come in the House.
In December last year, the SC had said that pellet guns should not be used indiscriminately and excessively in Jammu and Kashmir to control unruly crowds. At the time, the apex court also sought assurances from the Centre and the State government that they would allow the use of pellet guns "only after proper application of mind by authorities concerned."
The Bar Association had initially filed the plea last July in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court after it refused to ban pellet guns saying that as long as there is violence on the streets, using them is a necessary measure. The Association then challenged the September 2016 order in the Supreme Court, which the court began hearing in December.
During the December 14 hearing, the Bar Association's senior advocates ZA Shah and MA Qayoom urged the SC to stay the use of pellet guns as an interim measure.
However, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, said pellet guns were used as per Standard Operating Procedure, which already requires the prior order of a magistrate or a senior police functionary.
"We are using pellet guns instead of bullets. If somebody dies due to pellets, it is unfortunate. It may have its evils but we are in the process of having a better system," he said.
The Home ministry had in last July constituted an experts' committee to explore alternatives to pellet guns. During the December hearing, the SC had asked the Attorney General to submit a copy of the committee's report on alternatives to pellet guns.