Commission and Omission


ON June 19, 2014 the previous NC-Congress coalition set up a one-man commission headed by the retired Justice M L Koul “to enquire into the circumstances, leading to deaths by firing, or otherwise, in law and order situations in different districts of Kashmir Valley, during 2010”. But more than a year after,  the commission is yet to submit the report and not a single security personnel has been identified or booked for the 120 killings over the extended summer unrest. The families of the 120 victims have alleged that the commission goes through the motions of calling them over every month and “asking the same questions”.  The commission, they say, has confined itself to hearings only.  The charge has been denied by Justice Koul who has appealed to the families “to be patient and have faith in justice system”. 

Koul Commission was formed after the earlier commission headed by the retired Justice Bashir-u-Din couldn’t do its job. The remit of the Commission constituted in the first month of 2010 unrest was restricted to probing just first 17 deaths. The terms of reference of the Commission included “inquiry into the circumstances leading to deaths, fix responsibility wherever excessive force has been used resulting in deaths, suggest measures to avert the recurrence of such incidents in future and recommend the action to be taken against the persons or authorities found responsible for this”. Despite public demand, the Government didn’t enlarge the commission’s  scope to cover all the 120 deaths in the year. And subsequently, almost three years into its work, the government refused to give further extension to the commission. According to Justice Bashir-ud-Din himself, the incomplete report had indicted several police and paramilitary personnel. 

What followed was a period of prevarication. In Assembly, the then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah refused to reconstitute the Commission of Inquiry. In reply to a question by the PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti. Omar reasoned  that police had already probed 76 of the total killings and filed their charge-sheets before the competent courts.

But subsequently giving into public pressure, the government appointed Justice Koul Commission to probe all 120 killings and gave it three months to complete its work. On the recommendations of Justice Koul, Government also appointed a retired district and session’s judge as Registrar of the one-man Commission. Ever since, the commission has missed five deadlines.

This has reportedly even created some unease in the government which seems loath to endlessly extending the deadlines. Earlier, Justice Koul in a departure from the onerous legal nature of his assignment had accused the families of the victims to be only interested in government jobs.

Having said that, it can be a fiendishly elaborate exercise to get the statements of 120 families and the circumstances surrounding the deaths of their loved ones. More so, when five years have passed since the killings took place and a deluge has intervened to wash out the preliminary work.  But then more than one year is enough of a time to get the job done. The 2010 killings have become etched in people’s minds as yet another reference point for the general immunity for the human rights abuse in the state. Justice Koul’s job, therefore, also assumes a symbolic significance. He has to not only live up to the expectations of not only the 120 aggrieved families and give them some form of closure but also address the entrenched public cynicism about the capacity and willingness of the government to deliver justice.

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