Centre Looking at Secret Weapon to Replace Pellet Guns

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court while hearing a petition filed by the Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association against pellet guns, Monday said that government was working on a secret weapon to disperse crowds. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who represented the Central government, told the court that there were options that the government was mulling.

In response to the last hearing, he placed before the bench confidential documents about the deliberations undertaken to evolve options other than the use of pellet guns for tackling mobs.    

Rohatgi also told the apex court that the Centre was exploring other options like rubber bullets, instead of pellet guns.

The apex court noted the submission of Attorney General that the security forces try to use minimum forces to avoid any damage to life and property and eventually use pellet guns and live ammunition in the final stage when the mob comes in immediate proximity to the security forces.

The bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar also took into consideration the submission made by Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association, Srinagar which contended that the Centre was not coming out with a clear-cut scenario and expressed its willingness to assist the court.    

The bench also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and S K Kaul said that the Bar was in an effective position to bring out true factual position to assist the court in giving directions which will be meaningful.    

The apex court told the Bar it has to play a very important role in assisting the court in evolving a solution and cannot take sides.  

The Bar is neither on the side of the security forces nor on the mob’s side, the court said and gave two weeks time to the lawyers’ body to come out with its submission so that a solution can be found and asked it to file an affidavit. The matter has now been posted for April 28.    

The apex court had on March 27 expressed concern over the pellet gun injuries suffered by minors who indulged in stone pelting in Jammu and Kashmir and asked the Centre to consider other effective means to quell the protests as it concerns “life and death”.    

It had conceded that though the use of pellet guns by the security forces was not a judicial issue, it can intervene in the matter to find a solution acceptable to parties concerned.    

The court had given two weeks time to Attorney General to ponder over the suggestions to look into effective alternatives to the pellet guns.    

It had said that it is not the subject that has to be decided by the courts nor can there be a judicial redressal as it is a ‘delicate situation’.    

The court had suggested to the Attorney General to consider other technology-based measures like microwave to disperse the protesters and water which tastes and smell awful that will make people go away.   

The AG had said he will speak to the committee of experts which has prepared an interim report on the use of effective measures in October 2016 and get back to the court after two weeks.    

Earlier, last year, the Army had recommended replacing pellet guns with less lethal weapons such as sound cannons, pepper shotguns and chilli grenades.

The Army commander of northern region, Lieutenant General DS Hooda had said that the recommendations were made to a Centre-appointed committee reviewing the use of pellet guns during last years the summer unrest.

Pellets have wounded thousands of protesters, especially children, and many of them were blinded for life, triggering outrage over the use of the weapon touted as non-lethal.

Sonic cannons, used by law-enforcement agencies worldwide, emit ultra-high frequency blasts that trigger an ear-splitting sound to disperse mobs. Pepper guns fire plastic shells packed with pepper that explode on contact causing severe eye, nose and throat irritation.

It is Chilli grenades, developed by India’s military scientists, can cause more intense physical discomfort than pepper guns. A concentrate from one of the world’s hottest chillis, bhut jolokia or Naga chilli endemic to the Northeast, is used in these grenades.

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