Saturday 29 April 2017

No Talks With Separatists In Jammu And Kashmir, Centre Tells Supreme Court

The union government made its stand clear and reiterated that there will not be any talks with separatists or those raising slogans of "accession or Azadi" in Jammu and Kashmir. The Centre informed the Supreme Court on Friday that a dialogue to restore normalcy was possible only with the legally recognised stakeholders or political parties.

The Supreme Court, which was in complete agreement with the view of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said, "All those whom the law does not prevent, can meet and come out with suggestions, as the situation is not very palpable". The top court's observation came after Mr Rohatgi said "the government would come to the negotiation table only if the legally recognised stakeholders participate in the dialogue and not with the separatist elements who rake up the issue of accession or Azadi in Kashmir."

The Supreme Court asked the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association in Srinagar to come up with suggestions to resolve the current situation, which includes stone-pelting and violent street protests in the state. It told the bar association, which sought a ban on the use of pellet guns to quell the agitating mob, to take the "first steps" of bringing all legally acceptable stakeholders on the table for workable suggestions to overcome the crisis.

The Supreme Court also took exception to the stand of the bar association, which said that it cannot vouch for all stakeholders and could only speak on behalf of lawyers. The top court told the bar association that "you cannot take such a stand when you have come here (to the Supreme Court)".

The Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar made it clear that the next step would come only if the bar association comes out with workable suggestions and posted the matter for further hearing on May 9.

While the bench, also comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and SK Kaul, was persuading the lawyer's association to ensure that there should not be any street agitation and stone-pelting in the state, the Attorney General objected to the stand taken by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association for involving separatist elements in talks. Mr Rohatgi read out the part of the affidavit in which the bar association gave a political colour to the matter by mentioning names of some separatists who were under house arrest. "The case of the bar here is different but he (lawyers for bar) talks about Geelani and separatists. What is this going on? Ten times he says release them...," the attorney general said as the Supreme Court bench assured him and clarified that it has not accepted or entertained such arguments as pre-conditions for dialogue. "Did we agree", the bench told Mr Rohatgi when he repeated the submission made by the bar association.

Mr Rohatgi made it clear that politics of this nature (involving separatists) will not be allowed. He also said that talks to bring normalcy in the state was going on at the highest level - between the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister of the state. "The Chief Minister is with the Prime Minister, what further dialogue is required? The Prime Minister has invited the Chief Minister. She (Mehbooba Mufti) is their CM," he said.

Pulling up the High Court bar association on their submission about separatists, the Supreme Court said, "It is not acceptable that you come here and say that there are several other stakeholders". The top court also said, "You make an undertaking that there will be no agitations (stone-pelting) for two weeks, then we will direct them (the Centre) to keep away the security forces from using pellet guns. But the first positive foot forward has to come from you. This is the last opportunity and you have to play an important role. You will have to come forward. If you take a first step, you will be remembered forever in history," the bench told the counsel appearing for the bar association.

The Supreme Court bench also said, "What kind of talk will happen if you keep agitating and there are stone-pelting incidents. You should first stop these agitations and then talk. If you keep throwing stones, then what kind of talk will happen."

The Supreme Court was hearing an appeal filed by Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association against the High Court order seeking stay on the use of pellet guns. During the last hearing on April 10, the Centre had told the Supreme Court it was exploring a crowd control option that is akin to rubber bullets but not as lethal as pellet guns which were being used as a last resort to quell the violence.

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court had on September 22 rejected the plea seeking a ban on use of pellet guns on the ground that the Centre had already constituted a Committee of Experts through its memorandum of July 26, 2016 for exploring alternatives to pellet guns.

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