Condemn Draconian Ordinance by J&K Government!

PUDR condemns promulgation of The Jammu and Kashmir Public Property (Prevention of Damage) (Amendment) Ordinance by Mr NN Vohra, the Governor, Jammu and Kashmir on 26th October 2017, which criminalises anyone calling for a protest or demonstration which leads to damage of public property with an imprisonment of two to five years and fine as high as the market value of the property damaged. The speed with which State Police has acted to give effect to the ordinance is worrisome as one FIR has already been registered on November 23rd, 2017 against ‘unknown persons’ for damaging public property (tree guards) in Parimpora, Sri Nagar.

This new ordinance has to be seen in the backdrop of the continuous militarisation and oppression of people in the valley by the Indian armed forces. Kashmir has been witnessing an internal armed conflict since its accession to India and the brutality of the same has been heightened with the killing of Burhan Wani last year. The onslaught on people with lethal weapons including pellet guns which maims people for life has been the strategy employed by the State to curb opposition to their occupation (Read: http://pudr.org/content/pelletised-face-kashmir ). It is to be noted that people in conflict zones already have limited power in their hands to hold the State liable for their wrongs and peaceful demonstrations remains one of the ways to show solidarity and angst against government's measures and policies.

The double speak of government is appalling as on one hand government has withdrawn charges pressed against over 4900 youths for stone pelting which took place from 2008 to 2014 and now comes up with this ordinance through the backdoor which systematically supresses alternative perspective and punishes people for expressing their democratic right of dissent.

The new ordinance under the garb to protect properties within the state narrows down the space available for resistance as there already exists provisions which penalise mischief done to public property under the State's Criminal Code i.e. Randhir Penal Code (Sections 283, 425, 431 etc.). Further, it expands the definition of property and includes within its ambit even private holdings (both movable and immovable) alongwith public property and punishes not just the act of protest or demonstration, protest with fire or explosive substance but also anyone who abets the same via its Section 4A and 4B.

Moreover, Section 4C provides Court to presume accused as guilty and goes against the basic tenet of the criminal jurisprudence which is ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and Section 5 makes grant of bail to accused/convict dependent on the public prosecutor’s sanction when criminal courts follows ‘bail as a right, jail as an exception’ rule.

This ordinance will allow state administration to pick up innocent men and falsely charge them for causing mischief and it will further become a potential ground to commit torture upon men and women.

With existing oppressive laws like Public Security Act, National Security Act, this ordinance will further provide grounds for abuse of law and will add to woes of people while crushing their aspirations and civil and human rights.  

PUDR notes with concern the pattern in the issuance of ordinance by states which facilitates government to do away with the legislative process and push in their agenda without any deliberation and debate in the assembly.

PUDR demands that the Jammu and Kashmir government immediately withdraw this draconian ordinance at the earliest.

Cijo Joy and Anushka Singh

Secretaries, PUDR

4th December 2017