The army has recommended replacing pellet guns with less lethal alternatives, but the CRPF claims a complete ban would result in more fatalities as the security forces would be forced to use bullets in “extreme situations”.
“In case this (pellet gun) is withdrawn from the options available with the CRPF, CRPF personnel would have no recourse in extreme situations but to open fire with rifles, which may cause more fatalities,” the CRPF said in an affidavit submitted to the high court on Wednesday.
The affidavit was submitted in response to a public interest litigation filed before the court, seeking a ban on use of pellet guns as a means of crowd control in the Valley, which has been be on the boil since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces on July 8.
The PIL was filed by the Kashmir High Court Bar Association on July 30.
The CRPF said it fired around 3,500 pellet cartridges between July 9 and August 11.
At least 66 people have died and thousands have been injured in the ongoing protests, and many have lost their eyesight to pellet injuries.
Norms regarding use of firearms for crowd control in extreme situations require that the weapon be aimed below the waist. “But the situation prevailing on the streets during an ongoing law and order incident is dynamic and mobile... In such a situation, sometimes it is difficult to go in for precise aimed fire at a moving, bending and running target,” it said.
In contrast, the army recommended to a Centre-appointed committee on Monday to consider replacing pellet guns used by paramilitary forces and state police with less lethal weapons such as sound cannons, pepper shotguns and chilli grenades.
The Centre-appointed committee is reviewing the use of pellet guns after increased pressure from various quarters.
“Alternative non-lethal weapons are available to disperse crowds during demonstrations,” Northern Army commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda said. “The panel sought our inputs and we have suggested sonic weapons, pepper ammo and chilli grenades could be less harmful. The government is looking at these options.”
The CRPF and the Border Security Force have submitted their replies, but a response is still awaited from the state government.
The case is listed for hearing on Saturday.
With PTI inputs