(1.) In the present writ petition filed by the petitioners under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, the petitioners who are migrants of the State of Jammu & Kashmir (hereinafter referred to as the 'migrants') state that they had planned to take out a peaceful protest march upto Delhi for ventilating their grievances. However, when they reached near Katra in Jammu & Kashmir, the respondent authorities through their police personnel had beaten up and manhandled these migrants in a most brutal and barbaric manner on 07.08.2007. It is the allegation of the petitioners that this incident has violated their rights guaranteed to them under Articles 14, 19, 21 and 22 of the Constitution of India and prayers are made in the petition for taking criminal action against the erring officials, including respondent Nos. 3 to 9, and also to pay compensation to each of the petitioners and other Jammu migrants who suffered serious injuries, in the sum of Rs. 10 lakhs. Prayer is also made to order the special investigation into the said episode of 07.08.2007.
(2.) Giving detail background of the grievances of the migrants leading to the said incident, it is mentioned that Ms. Anita Thakur, petitioner No.1, is a General Secretary of the Jammu & Kashmir Panthers Party whereas petitioner No.2 is an Advocate and also the Secretary of the said Party, who have been espousing the cause of the Jammu migrants (about 2200 families) who were forced to leave their homes between 1996-1999 in view of the terrorist attacks on these families. Third petitioner is a senior Journalist who was also assaulted and arrested on 07.08.2007 for giving media coverage of the incident in question. According to the petitioners, these migrants are living in most miserable conditions and it became difficult for them to survive. Out of these 2200 migrant families, about 950 families have been residing in broken huts of Talwara camp. For redressal of their grievances, a writ petition in the nature of PIL (PIL No. 534/1999) was filed in the High Court of Jammu & Kashmir wherein order dated 06.09.2002 was passed by the High Court directing that persons from Poonch, Rajouri, Doda, Udhampur and Jammu provinces, who had suffered and been forced to migrate on account of militancy would be entitled to the same treatment as migrants from the Kashmir Valley. This order was challenged by the State of Jammu & Kashmir by filing SLP (C) No. 34/2003 in this Court. In that SLP, the order dated 12.07.2006 was passed to the following effect:
"Pursuant to our direction, the Relief Commissioner (Migrants) filed an affidavit on 03.12.2004 and in the affidavit the details are given regarding the relief measures given to the Kashmir migrants and it is stated that the relief is being provided to various migrants who are Kashmiri migrants and to migrants other than Kashmiri migrants. In view of the averments stated in the affidavit, we do not find any necessity to give further directions.
However, counsel for the respondents stated that some of the migrants are not being regularly paid the relief measures and since March 2004 they are not given any benefits. The Relief Commissioner may look into the matter and see whether they have been provided with all relief measures to which they are entitled as per the policy. If there are lapses on the part of the officials or any arrears to be paid to the migrants, the same shall be made available to them at the earliest. The Relief Commissioner would be at liberty to consider the migrant status of any person and if it is found that if such persons are not real migrants he would be at liberty to deny the relief measures to such persons. With these directions, the appeal is disposed of."
(3.) It is averred in the petition that in spite of the aforesaid order directing the Relief Commissioner to look into the complaints by migrants, who claimed that they were not regularly provided relief measures since March 2004 and to provide all benefits to them, including arrears, if any, no positive action was taken by the respondents. This forced the petitioners to submit a memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner, Reasi stating that if the order was not implemented within 15 days, the migrants would resort to their protest march to Delhi and would meet the Prime Minister of India for implementation of this order. This was followed by another representation dated 23.07.2007 to the Chief Minister, Jammu & Kashmir wherein they threatened that on the Government failure to implement the order, the migrants would go on strike.
As nothing happened, on 31.07.2007, the Talwara migrants started their peaceful protest march from Talwara towards Jammu to head to Delhi. According to the petitioners, the migrants were stopped about 6 kms. short of Katra town, at Ghar Baba Jitto, after they had covered about 20 kms towards Jammu. Police kept them in siege for 5 days. The protest marchers who were about 2000 in number including old persons, women and children were not allowed to proceed and were made to sit at that place till 07.08.2007, the fateful day. On 07.08.2007, following events occurred:
(i) At about 1 pm on this day, the three petitioners (all members of the Jammu & Kashmir National Panthers Party) arrived at Katra, to speak with the concerned authorities regarding the plight of the migrants.
(ii) The petitioners conducted a one hour long discussion with the Dy. Commissioner, Reasi, the Tehsildar, Reasi, Superintendent of Police, Reasi and the SHO, Katra regarding the migrants' peaceful march.
(iii) The migrants resumed their peaceful march, and the petitioners joined the march to ensure that there was no undue harassment by the Police.
(iv) At about 2 pm, 500 armed policemen, blocked the bridge that the migrants were about to cross and began attacking the marchers with Lathis and teargas shells.
(v) Petitioner No. 2 attempted to approach the Police which included respondent Nos. 6 to 9 to stop the attack, and was taken into custody after being brutally assaulted and having his leg broken.
He stayed in Police custody without medical aid till 9 pm when he was taken first to Katra Government Hospital and then shifted to Government Medical Hosptial, Jammu at 11.30 pm. Petitioner No. 1 then attempted to approach the Police to secure medical aid for the injured migrants. As soon as she entered the Police control zone, she was violently attacked by several police women, dragged on the ground for a long distance and put into a Police jeep. Petitioner No. 1 was beaten inside the jeep and also at the Police Station. Petitioner No. 3 was also arrested for trying to cover the incident.;