Centre can use SPOs to combat insurgents: SC
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Last Updated: Friday, November 18, 2011, 22:49
New Delhi: In a major relief to Centre and states, the Supreme Court on Friday clarified that they were free to use the services of Special Police Officers(SPOs) in fighting insurgent groups in the country, except in the State of Chattisgarh.

A bench of justices Altamas Kabir and S S Nijjar granted the permission in a modification application moved by the Centre, against the July 5 apex court judgement directing the Chattisgarh Government and Centre against using the services of the SPOs to combat the Maoist menace.

Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman and counsel Siddharth Dave appearing for the Union Government told the bench that the modification was necessary as "otherwise it would cause serious trouble in undertaking the anti-insurgency operations in other parts of the country, particularly, the North-East."

The counsel submitted that the order restraining the Centre from extending any form of support to the SPOs should be confined only to Chattisgarh as the PIL relating to "Salwa Judum", "Koya Commandos" was confined only to that State, and the court had not adverted to the general role of SPOs in the country.

Concurring with the arguments, the bench said it "had no objection to allow the application" of the Centre.

In its July 5 judgement, the court had directed that "The State of Chattisgarh immediately cease and desist from using SPOs in any manner or form in any activities, directly or indirectly, aimed at controlling, countering, mitigating or otherwise eliminating Maoist/Naxalite activities in the State of Chattisgarh."

It had also directed "The Union of India to cease and desist, forthwith, from using any of its funds in supporting, directly or indirectly the recruitment of SPOs for the purposes of engaging in any form of counter-insurgency activities against Maoist/Naxalite groups."

The apex court today also allowed another application moved by Chattisgarh counsel Atul Jha seeking permission for two more months to enable the security forces to vacate the school buildings in the State which are being presently used to house them. Jha said most of the personnel had already vacated the buildings.

The bench, however, made it clear that no further permission would be granted to the State for vacating the security personnel from such places.

In its last judgement, the apex court had castigated both the Chattisgarh government and the Centre for using the SPOs locally known as "Salwa Judum" and "Koya Commandos" to fight the Maoists saying the Government had abdicated its Constitutional duty by raising such illegal force.

The bench had said: "It is also equally clear to us that in this policy, of using local youth, jointly devised by the Union and the States facing Maoist insurgency, as implemented in the State of Chhattisgarh, the young tribals have literally become cannon fodder in the killing fields of Dantewada and other districts of Chhattisgarh."

The apex court said it was not clear from the affidavit of the Centre as to "what stance it takes with respect to specific aspects of the use of SPOs in Chattisgarh ? arming SPOs, the nature of training provided to them and the duties assigned to them".

"In a markedly vague manner, the Centre's affidavit asserts that SPOs are 'force multipliers' not explaining what is involved in such a concept nor how 'force' is multiplied, or not, depending on various duties of the SPOs, their training and whether they carry arms or not," it had said.

The apex court had said that employing the youth as SPOs not only violated their fundamental rights but also of others as guaranteed under Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

"To employ such ill-equipped youngsters as SPOs engaged in counterinsurgency activities, including the tasks of identifying Maoists and non-Maoists, and equipping them with firearms, would endanger the lives of others in the society. That would be a violation of Article 21 rights of a vast number of people in the society," the bench said.

"That they are paid only an 'honorarium' and appointed only for temporary periods, are further violations of Article 14 and Article 21, it said."

The apex court said SPOs in the case of Chhattisgarh, represent an extreme form of transgression of constitutional boundaries.

Without explaining that concept, the Centre asserts that SPOs have played a useful role in collection of intelligence, protection of local inhabitants and ensuring security of property in disturbed areas.


First Published: Friday, November 18, 2011, 16:08

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