NEW DELHI: The Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir government may be sparring over the release of a separatist leader but both have joined hands in the Supreme Court to challenge a high court order directing payment of Rs 2 lakh each to alleged rape victims of a 1991 incident involving Army men.

The police had registered an FIR against Army personnel for the alleged torture of men and rape of women of the twin villages of Kunan-Poshpora on February 23, 1991. The closure report filed by the police was not accepted by the Kupwara magistrate, who had in June 2013 ordered further probe.

Before this, the state human rights commission in 2011 had asked the state to reopen the case and directed payment of Rs 2 lakh each as compensation to the alleged rape victims. Meanwhile, the high court, while entertaining a PIL seeking a special investigation team to probe the incident, had directed the state to pay compensation as directed by the human rights commission.

The state government and the Army challenged this before the Supreme Court. In its petition, the state government said at the time of the incident, there was no rule envisaging payment of compensation by the state to rape victims. Moreover, there was no finding of guilt against the Army men, it said.

Appearing for the Centre, additional solicitor general Maninder Singh agreed with the state’s stand and said in the absence of any finding of guilt against the Army men, it would not be proper for award of compensation.

He also questioned the jurisdiction of the high court to award compensation at a time when further probe into the 24-year-old incident was underway.

A bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar stayed the HC decision and further proceedings on the PIL while issuing notice to the PIL petitioners.

The state also pleaded that the Victim Compensation Scheme was formulated through a 2012 legislation which could have only a prospective application and would not apply to a 1991 incident.

“Considering the fact that the veracity of the version of the purported victims is still to be ascertained, the HC order directing payment of compensation would have the effect of recording a finding of guilt, which would affect the course of investigation,” the state said.