The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed criminal proceedings against 30 Army personnel in connection with the killing of civilians in Nagaland’s Mon district last year, Live Law reported.

A bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and V Ramasubramanian said that the state police did not obtain sanction for prosecution from the Union government under Section 6 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

On the evening of December 4, the Army’s 21 Para Special Force had opened fire at a pick-up van carrying coal miners from Tiru to Oting village in Mon district, killing six on board. They had apparently mistaken the group of workers for insurgents. A crowd of protestors then set fire to vehicles belonging to the Army. The soldiers opened fire again, killing seven more civilians.

The violence spilled over into the afternoon of December 5 after locals entered a camp of the Assam Rifles in the district headquarters of Mon. At least one more person was killed after security forces fired back at the protestors.

Thirty members of the 21 Para Special Force operation team, including one Army officer, have been named by the police in its chargesheet in the case. The police said that the Army did not follow the Standard Operating Procedure and the rules of engagement for such an operation.

The police added that “indiscriminate and disproportionate firing” led to the immediate death of six civilians and caused grievous injuries to two more.

The wives of some of the Army personnel approached the Supreme Court demanding that the first information report be quashed, Bar and Bench reported on Wednesday. The petitioners claimed that the Army personnel were only carrying out their bonafide duty and that the Nagaland Police Special Investigation Team was “picking and choosing the evidence available before it to appease the public outcry”.

The court on Tuesday observed that the death of a paratrooper during the violence had not been investigated yet. The paratrooper, Gautam Lal, was killed in violence that followed the initial round of firing on December 4.