`Can Army kill, rape, yet enjoy immunity?` asks SC

SC asked the government to spell out its position on controversial Armed Forces Special Power Act.

New Delhi: Irked by the Centre`s
diametrically diverse views on army and para military forces`
immunity from criminal prosecution in fake encounter killings,
the Supreme Court on Thursday asked the government to spell out its
position on the controversial Armed Forces Special Power Act
and other laws.

"You cannot say that an army man can enter any home
commit a rape and say he enjoys immunity as it has been done
in discharge of official duties," the apex court remarked.
The apex court made the remarks after senior counsel
Ashok Bhan, appearing for the Centre, voiced divergent views
on two separate encounter killings involving military
personnel in J&K and Assam.

In the 2004 Chattisingpora killing in J&K, where seven
youth were killed in an alleged fake encounter by Rashtriya
Rifles personnel, Bhan sought prosecution of the armymen
whereas in a similar alleged fake encounter by CRPF men in
Assam, the counsel said they enjoyed immunity.

"How can you adopt diametrically different views?" the
bench said, to which Bhan admitted it was "compulsions of his
professional duties."

He urged the court to de-link the two issues and deal
with them separately.

However, the bench said since "the issue involved vital
questions of law relating to public", the matter would be
taken up for a detailed hearing immediately after vacation.

The court asked the government to clearly spell out its
stand on two issues: whether army/para military personnel
enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution for any penal offence
committed in discharge of their official duties including fake
encounters and rapes vis-a-vis AFSP Act, Section 197 CrPC and
Section 17 of the CRPF Act.

Should the investigating agency like CBI conduct a
preliminary inquiry into such killings before registering an
FIR against accused army/ para military personnel?

Bhan took the stance that the army men responsible for
the killing of seven youths should be prosecuted as Section 6
and 7 of the AFSP Act gave no immunity for prosecution to such

However, in the case of seven CRPF men, who allegedly
killed six youth after branding them ultras on April 2, 1983,
at Golghat, Assam, the counsel took the plea that the accused
officials cannot be prosecuted as they enjoyed immunity under
Section 17 of the CRPF Act and 197 CrPC which mandates prior
sanction from higher authorities.

The counsel urged the apex court to vacate the stay
granted by it in 2009 on the prosecution of the army personnel
in Chattisinghpora incident so as "to instill confidence among
the people of militancy-hit J&K which is witnessing violence
for the last two decades."

The Chattisinghpora incident had provoked an outrage
after CBI established that the victims were abducted by the
army men and shot dead in a fake encounter in retaliation to
the massacre of 36 Sikhs by militants a few days before the

CBI had filed the charge sheet against a Brigadier,
Colonel, Major and five others. The sessions court and the
High Court had rejected the plea of the army personnel for
stay of the prosecution by the apex court in 2007 stayed the

CBI filed an application in 2009 for vacating the stay
which was listed for hearing along with the case relating to a
similar encounter killing by CRPF personnel in Assam.

‘China`s Brahmaputra plans not worrisome’
US refrains from identifying Pak as ally

Washington: The White House has said that
Pakistan is a partner of the United States, but refused to
identify it as an ally, a term commonly used by the US
officials in the past.

When pointed out by reporters at his news briefing,
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney termed it as diplomatic

"I think there are diplomatic nuances between these
words. The important thing is Pakistan has been an important
partner. It is a relationship that we work very hard on. We
candidly acknowledge that it is complicated. It is difficult.

But it is very important," Carney said when asked if partner
is different than ally.

"Pakistan is a partner of the United States, an
important partner in fighting terrorism, fighting the
terrorists who in that region plotted the attack on the United
States on September 11th of 2001," he said when asked why he
did not use the word "ally" for Pakistan responding to
questions about this South Asian country.

"I think it`s a complicated relationship that is not
perfect and that requires a lot of attention. We give it that
attention because it`s important to do that. It`s important to
our national security interest to do that," he said.

"I`m not going to give percentage assessments or
one-to-10 assessments of the level of cooperation. I would
note that in the wake of that (bin Laden) operation, which
obviously a major development was and there was a reaction to
it, we have worked hard to continue the cooperation that’s
important. We have received some cooperation from Pakistan
continuing since the bin Laden mission," he said.


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