The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Friday declared the department’s conduct in violation of the right to equality, and ordered the exhumation of the body of a civilian named as a terrorist killed in a confrontation in November 2021 and handed over to his family for the final rites. The 13-page order of Judge Sanjeev Kumar said that if the body of the deceased Amir Majri was “too rotten” and its exhumation could cause danger to the public, the department would pay INR 5,000 to the family as compensation for denying the family a proper burial as per the family tradition.
“The decision of the Defendants (the administration of Jammu and Kashmir) not to allow the petitioner to transport his son’s body to his home village for the performance of the last rites was, in itself, arbitrary and contrary to Article 14 (Right to Equality) of the Constitution of India,” the judge said in his order. Majri was among the four killed in Hyderpura on the outskirts of Srinagar on November 15, 2021. Police claimed they were all terrorists and buried their bodies in Kupwara in North Kashmir.
The Jammu and Kashmir Police decided in 2020 not to hand over the bodies of “terrorists” to family members and instead would bury them in different places to avoid the law and order situation. However, after a public outcry over the veracity of the confrontation, the Jammu and Kashmir administration collapsed under pressure and exhumed the bodies of two – Altaf Ahmed Bhatt and Dr Mudassir Gul – and handed over their bodies to their family members.
Amid a growing attack on police allegations about the standoff, which the military entered the city after decades, the Jammu and Kashmir government has set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate the matter. Amir’s father, Muhammad Latif Magiri, through his lawyer, Deepika Singh Rajawat, challenged the police allegations and said he was “not entirely convinced by the defendants’ (police/management)’s claim that he was a militant and killed in a confrontation and, therefore, called the authorities to intervene.” The order stated that Magri’s complaint was that “the defendants appropriately placed the terrorist’s mark on his son and even denied the proper burial of the body.”
He told the court that he called all the authorities to hand over Amir’s body but no one listened to him and that his son’s body was buried at Wader Payne Cemetery in Kupwara without his presence. The judge questioned the position of the police and the administration saying that from their response filed in court as well as from documents submitted in a sealed envelope, “It does not appear why the petitioner requested the return of a body whose son Amir Latif Majri had not been waived and whose body was exhumed with Muhammad Altaf Bhatt and Dr. Muddathir Gul.” “Without expanding much on this matter, it may be said that it is well established that the right to life and liberty guaranteed to a citizen under Article 21 of the Constitution of India includes the right of a citizen to live in human dignity and this right to live with human dignity extends even after death albeit to a limited extent.” It came in.
The question in the context of the current debate is whether the state can deny this right in the name of preventing law and order from getting out of hand, the judge questioned. The order stated that although the government claimed that the decision not to hand over the body of the deceased to the petitioner for his last rites was taken in the greater public interest and to prevent law and order out of control, it is, however, unclear, “why two bodies were exhumed.” Of the four dead in the confrontation….and handing them over to their relatives to perform their last rites in the cemeteries of their choice and why the similar right claimed by the petitioner was rejected.” The judge cited the criminal investigation report in which he described Amir as “a certain terrorist while the other two dead – Altaf Ahmed Bhatt and Dr. Mudassir Gul – they were only ‘accomplices of the terrorists.’ I find no logic or meaning in the discrimination of that by the respondents. It turns out that due to popular pressure and the demands of the relatives of the deceased… the defendants relented and allowed their bodies to be exhumed and handed over to their relatives.
“As the petitioner was a resident of Gol, a remote village in Jammu District and had little say in the valley, therefore, his application was arbitrarily rejected,” the judge said.
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