Centre can use SPOs to combat insurgents: SC

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.

PTI



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

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