Captain Kalia was captured and brutally killed by the Pakistani Army during the 1999 Kargil war. A two-member bench comprising Justice RM Lodha and Justice Anil R Dave also asked the Centre whether the judiciary can rightfully interfere in such cases.
The bench asked Captain Kalia's family whether the court can direct the national government to take up the case with the ICJ. It said the apex court's order should be confined within the scope of the Constitution and if the government wanted to take up the issue with the ICJ, there was no need for the court to intrefere.
The Supreme Court was initially reluctant to issue the notice on the grounds that the matter was an international one and that the Indian government should take up the issue with the ICJ. It was then told that the slain armyman's family had made every effort to get justice in the case.
They said that they had approached the defence ministry, which in turn said that the matter had been forwarded to the Prime Minister's Office while the latter said the matter was under the review of the external affairs ministry. The family, distressed by the trauma and the administrative indifference, moved the Supreme Court. The latter has given the Centre 10 days to respond to the petition.
Dr Kalia, Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrasekhar and Flags of Honour Foundation had also approached the UN Human Rights Council on December 11 demanding justice for his son. The external affairs ministry said that it would consider the nature of Dr Kalia's petition for the UN body looked into only the inter-state issues brought up by its members.
Kalia had complained that his son was caught as a prisoner of war but was brutally murdered in violation of the Geneva Convention. Captain Kalia and five other jawans were captured by the Pakistani troops on May 15, 1999, while they were patrolling and were tortured in captivity. Their mutilated bodies were later handed over to the Indian side.
The Supreme Court's reminder to the Centre shows the degree of insensitiveness of the latter towards preserving the rights of its own people. The Indian government, which is a signatory of the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war, has not taken up the case of one of its loyal servants and ignored the family's trauma. The two countries have not effected a proper mechanism on exchange of prisoners of war even to this day and several families have been awaiting justice endlessly.
If the Supreme Court has to even draw an elected government's attention to issues like human rights violation and order it to move the international judiciary to address the trauma of the victim's family, then we must say that the rulers of the country have lost their moral right to rule. The Opposition, BJP, has demanded that the Indian government should raise the issue with Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who will be in India on a three-day visit.
But will the eyes open?