Engaging SPOs to counter Naxals is like outsourcing duty: SC
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Last Updated: Thursday, May 05, 2011, 23:25
New Delhi: The deployment of armed tribals as Special Police Officers (SPOs) to counter naxals was like outsourcing the constitutional duty of the state, the Supreme Court today said and disapproved of the policy virtually aimed at dividing the society.

"Some sort of outsourcing of constitutional duty has been done," a bench comprising justices B Sudershan Reddy and S S Nijjar said about the policy of creating SPOs by the Centre and Chhattisgarh government.

The bench, which has been perturbed by the policy of arming the civilians as SPOs, reserved its order on its legality and constitutional validity.

During the hearing, the bench said creating SPOs and supporting anti-Naxal vigilante groups like Salwa Judum would lead to dividing the society and will have wide and dangerous ramifications.

"We have been saying there would be problem. Don't divide the society like Naxalites, anti-Naxalites, SPOs or sympathiser of Maoists or any other way," the bench said.

The affidavits of the Centre and Chhattisgarh government supported the creation of SPOs and both maintained that SPOs proved their mettle in Punjab during the days of terrorism. However, the bench said "what happened in Punjab, we are not vetoing here".

The Bench was also critical of the submission of the state government that those who are opposing the SPOs are sympathisers of Maoists.

"No Maoist is before us. If Chhattisgarh government says that petitioners are sympathisers of Maoists, then this could have serious ramification," it said.

However, the bench also said "if somebody else is operating through them, it is also a serious matter".

The bench said everybody has a right to approach the court and merely on the suspicion that a person is a Naxalite or belongs to a banned outfit his personal life and liberty cannot be tampled with.

"Suppose a person is a suspected Naxalite and is coming to the court with some grievances, he cannot be shot dead from the point blank range near the gate. Even if he is declared a Maoist, can his rights under Article 21 be suspended"? the bench said.

The court was hearing a petition against the existence of Salwa Judum in Naxal-hit regions of the state to fight the Maoists.

The petition was filed by sociologist Nandini Sundar, historian Ramchandra Guha, former bureaucrat E A S Sarma and others seeking a direction to the state government to refrain from allegedly supporting Salwa Judum.

Chhattisgarh government has maintained that Salwa Judum is a dying movement.


First Published: Thursday, May 05, 2011, 23:25

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