NEW DELHI: In an unprecedented move, at least 300 armed forces personnel have approached the Supreme Court on Tuesday challenging the FIRs registered against them in connection with military operations in the areas where the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is in force.
In their petition, the petitioners claimed that the registration of cases against those serving in highly disturbed and insurgency-hit areas and the subsequent probe by the civil police or the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is a big setback for them and serve as a major detriment for the armed forces.
Lawyer Aishwarya Bhati, who filed the petition before a Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice AM Khanwilkar, alleged on behalf of the petitioners that the registration of FIR and prosecution of armed forces personnel was against the provisions of AFSPA, which grants immunity to them against prosecution for actions performed during official duties.
The plea said that such prosecutions lower the morale of the military and para-military forces and pose a grave threat to the country's internal security.
Several armed forces personnel are facing prosecution for alleged excesses and fake encounters in states like Manipur where AFSPA is in force.
Prosecutions in some of those cases have been initiated following a direction from the apex court, especially in Manipur.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court today agreed to hear the plea filed by the armed forces personnel on August 20.
According to PTI, the bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice AM Khanwilkar considered the submissions of lawyer Aishwarya Bhati that Army personnel are being prosecuted for performing duties in disturbed areas.
The apex court bench of Justice Madan B Lokur had earlier summoned CBI director Alok Verma regarding the progress made by the agency against those accused of involvement in alleged fake encounters in Manipur. During the hearing, the CBI chief submitted that the agency is still collecting evidence against those accused of involvement in fake encounters in Manipur since a laot of times has passed.
Responding to the CBI chief's submission before the top court, the bench chided the central probe agency for slow action and referred to the accused as 'murderers' who were roaming freely on streets of Imphal.
It is to be noted that military and non-military personnel can be prosecuted only after obtaining permission from the Ministry of Defence in connection with cases of alleged excesses and fake encounters.
However, the ministry has so far denied permission for the same.
It is to be noted that AFSPA is currently in force in Kashmir and parts of the North-east.