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SC rejects plea against order negating protection to army

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has dismissed the Centre’s curative petition seeking a recall of its verdict giving police the liberty to probe the role of armed forces in alleged encounter cases in areas where AFSPA is in force.

“The prayer for hearing the curative petition in open court is rejected,” a bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar said in its order passed yesterday during in-chamber proceedings in which lawyers do not participate.

“We have gone through the curative petition and the relevant documents. In our opinion, no case is made out within the parameters indicated in the decision of this court… Hence, the curative petition is dismissed,” the bench, also comprising Justices Dipak Misra, J Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur and U U Lalit, said.

The Centre had moved the apex court on April 12 seeking recall of its verdict in the alleged extra-judicial killings case in Manipur, saying it has “negated” the protection available to the armed forces under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) during anti-militancy operations.

In a curative petition seeking recall of the verdict of July 8 last year as well as the order dismissing the review plea, the government had said that action taken by the army during such operations “cannot be put to judicial scrutiny”.

Officers and men in the armed forces, engaged in counter- insurgency operations, are required to be given requisite measures of protection, it had said.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had mentioned the matter before the court saying it was a “very, very important matter” having far-reaching consequences as armed forces were engaged in such operations regularly in areas in the north-east as well as in Jammu and Kashmir.

In its petition, the Centre had said there was “error apparent on the face of record” in the verdicts passed by the apex court and it has “hampered” the ability of the armed forces to respond to “insurgent and terrorist situations”.

“If the position maintained by impugned order continues, it may, one day, be well-nigh impossible to maintain peace and security. The Indian Army has to, in given circumstances, take quick decisions which cannot be dissected later on like an appeal against the ordinary murder appeal,” it had said.

The government had said that as per the data, 18,670 insurgents were arrested by the security forces from 1990 to 2015 in Manipur as compared to 1,881 who died in encounters.

The plea has said the court’s directions, including that allegations of use of “excessive and retaliatory force” by armed forces in Manipur must be probed, have far-reaching ramifications on the security and integrity of the country, especially in areas which are plagued with constant militant and insurgency activities.

The apex court’s verdict last year on investigating the role of the armed forces in encounter cases had come on a petition alleging that the forces were misusing the protection under the AFSPA in Manipur during anti-militancy operation.

It had observed that the situation in Manipur has “never been one of war” and killing of citizens on suspicion that they are the “enemy” gravely endangers democracy.

The court had also held that use of “excessive force” by the armed forces or police was not permissible in ‘disturbed areas’ under the draconian AFSPA.