SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court Tuesday reserved its order into a petition seeking a judicial probe into the Handwara 'molestation' incident which sparked violent protests in Kupwara district earlier this month.

Exonerating the Army, the J&K government objected to the plea of the judicial inquiry, saying a Special Investigation Team headed by DIG (North Kashmir) has been already formed to investigate the 'molestation' incident and the subsequent violence which left five civilians dead in firing by armed forces in Kupwara district.

After hearing arguments of the petitioner, Mian Qayoom, on behalf of Kashmir High Court Bar Association, and the state counsel, a division bench of Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey and Justice Tashi Rabstan reserved its order till May 2.

The Bar petition calls for an IGP-ranked officer, monitored by a sitting High Court judge, to investigate the 'molestation' of a minor school girl in Handwara town by an Army soldier on April 12. The Army has denied the allegations.

Bar Association president Mian Abdul Qayoom told the court that there is discrepancy in the age recorded in the girl's statement before the magistrate where she is shown as 19 years old while according to her school records, she is only 16. "It is a clear manipulation by the police," Qayoom said.

The state counsel argued that the Bar had no right to file the PIL as a case has already been moved before the High Court by the mother of the victim which was clubbed with the PIL on the court directions on April 20.

"Certain facts at this stage need not to be made public which are under investigation. However as and when directed by the court, diaries and other relevant material can be placed at the disposal of the Hon’ ble Court," the counsel said.

The J&K Police has filed separate cases under FIR 130, 131, 132, 134 in Police Station Handwara, and FIR 60 and 66 in PS Kupwara under sections of arson, violence and murder. One person has been arrested in the case so far.

In its report to the court, the police has blamed protesters for trying to "lynch" army personnel posted in the bunker at main square in Handwara on April 12. “To disperse the mob and tackle the situation, the army personnel resorted to firing, resulting in death of two persons besides inflicting injuries to three youth, who were shifted to SKIMS Srinagar for treatment,” the report submitted by police reads.

Police alleged that "subversive elements" spread the "rumour" that an army personnel had molested a minor school girl in a public lavatory. “The situation took an ugly turn when the violent mob gathered in main chowk Handwara and started raising anti-Indian slogans, scaled the fencing and pulled down the tricolor hoisted at Main Chowk Handwara within the precincts of the army bunker,” the report reads.

Regarding the killing of civilian in adjoining Drugmulla, police said a mob resorted to violence, chanted anti-Indian slogans, pelted stones on the police and paramilitary forces and attempted to enter into the artillery brigade at Drugmulla.

“However, the mob was intercepted by police and para-military forces at Matipora Kupwara and was directed to disperse peacefully. The interception irked them and they resorted to more violence, by pelting stones heavily on police and para-military forces in which five policemen and 16 CRPF personnel sustained injuries,” the report reads.

“In order to maintain law and order, light cane charging and tear smoke shells were used. Nevertheless some of protestors sustained injuries amongst them, one protester namely Jehangir Ahmed Wani S/O Ghulam Mohidin Wani r/O Nagri succumbed to injuries,” report says.

Regarding the killing of a civilian in Natnusa, police said a "mob" violated curfew restrictions that were put in place in the area, "Armed with sticks, lathis and stones, the mob proceeded towards the army camp Natnusa and attacked it, dismantled its fencing wall and a shed besides resorting to heavy stone pelting upon the army personnel posted over-there and attempted to enter into the camp with the intention to endanger the lives of the army personnel present in the camp and also to damage property there. The unruly mob was warned by the army to disperse peacefully but they deny and intensified their activities which constrained the army personnel of 47 RR of Natnusa camp to open fire, resultantly some of the protestors sustained bullet injuries and one among them namely Arif Mohiddin Dar S/0 Gh Mohidin Dar R/O Awoora, later succumbed to injuries," the report says.

Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society said the girl will continue to remain in "police custody" against her will.

"For the third time, the case of the 16 year old girl under unlawful police detention and subject to daily intimidation and harassment was heard by the Division Bench with a simple prayer: that she be set free. The Handwara minor girl has been video recorded, slapped, spat at, had her phone snatched, personal space violated, randomly moved around, been under constant surveillance and kept detained. All of this against her will," the JKCCS statement said.