Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah Tuesday sought to dispel fears expressed by civil society representatives that the proposed state police bill would give sweeping powers to the constabulary.
Abdullah clarified that the very intention of placing the draft of the proposed police bill in the public domain was to receive the public feedback which could then be incorporated in the draft bill before it is put to vote in the state legislature.
"Why this manufactured outrage regarding the draft police bill? It hasn't passed public scrutiny let alone been seen by me and the cabinet," he wrote on his micro-blogging site Twitter.
"Public feedback will be incorporated; Law Deptt will vet, I will clear it, cabinet will approve it, both legislative houses will vote on it. It will THEN go to Governor for his signature & FINALLY it is implemented so there is NO chance of bad legislation passing scrutiny," Abdullah said.
"This is why I ordered the Home Deptt to put this in public domain in the Ist instance so that feedback would lead to better legislation."
There has been a controversy in the civil society, especially in Kashmir, during the last few days with many arguing that instead of implementing its promise of having the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) revoked, the government was trying to bring in a legislation that would give sweeping powers to police.
But Principal Secretary, Home, Suresh Kumar said the draft Jammu and Kashmir Police Bill had to go through rigorous process of scrutiny like discussions and debate before it becomes a law.
"This is merely a draft bill, which could undergo changes after considerations of suggestions from public and other quarters," he said at a press conference in Jammu.
On the limited time given to public for suggestions, he said the time has been extended till March 1.
Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, chairman of the moderate Hurriyat group, has called the proposed bill "a potential martial law" while opposition People's Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti has labelled it as another "draconian law".
The 76-page Jammu and Kashmir Police Bill, 2013, posted on the state home department's website Feb 15, allows the state to declare any area disturbed, proposing setting up "Special Security Zones (SSZs) where administrative and development measures are integrated with police response for problems of public order and security".
The bill proposes that police will be able to set up and arm village defence committees and recruit special police officers (SPOs).
Under the draft legislation, a police officer would be considered "always on duty" and the government as well as the complaints authority deputed to hear cases against him/her would have legal immunity regarding decisions taken by them "in good faith or intended to be done in pursuance of the provisions".
In comparison, immunity under the AFSPA is available only to the army and the central paramilitary forces in areas where the act is extended and not to the local police.