New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday turned down the submissions of the Centre and Chhattisgarh government to adjourn a case, which challenged the deployment of erstwhile special police officers (SPOs) as "auxiliary armed force" allegedly for anti-Maoist operations in the state, till conclusion of the Assembly polls there.
The Centre and the state told a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta that Assembly election was notified in the state and it would be held in two phases on November 12 and November 20, respectively.
Terming the matter as "sensitive", the Centre and the state said it might prejudice the political parties there and the court could hear the matter on November 21.
"We have nothing to do with the elections," the bench said, adding, "Any case that we decide, prejudices one side or the other. Going by your logic, we would not be able to decide any case."
The Centre and the Chhattisgarh government said there was nothing emergent in the matter and it should be heard after the assembly polls.
"We are not concerned with the elections," the bench said.
The court said it would hear arguments on behalf of the petitioners, and the Centre and state can respond to it later.
The counsel appearing for the petitioners made it clear that they were not against any political party and that they had approached the court for protection of human rights of the tribals.
He told the court their main challenge was against deployment of erstwhile SPOs as 'auxiliary armed force' in the state.
The counsel said the apex court had in 2011 declared as "illegal and unconstitutional" the deployment of tribals as SPOs in anti-naxal operations, but the state came out with the Chhattisgarh Auxiliary Armed Police Force Act, through which the erstwhile SPOs were engaged as auxiliary force.
He argued that there were instances of "lawless violence" in certain areas of the state and some of the members engaged as erstwhile SPOs were allegedly involved in a 2011 incident where three villages were set on fire and women were raped.
"The SPOs against whom complaints are pending should be prosecuted," the counsel said, adding that its members had also attacked the CBI team which had gone to Chhattisgarh to conduct a probe as per the directions of the top court.
"SPOs, who have been put in this (auxiliary) force, have run amok and even the state cannot control them," the lawyer said, adding several cases against them were closed by the police.
The arguments remained inconclusive and would continue on November 27.
Salwa Judum, an anti-Maoist civil militia, was disarmed and disbanded in 2011 in the state following the apex court's order declaring as illegal and unconstitutional the deployment of tribal youths as SPOs in the fight against Maoist insurgency.