About 400 Armymen approached the Supreme Court on Friday challenging the criminal cases filed against defence personnel in Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir where the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or AFSPA, is in force, the Hindustan Times reported.

This comes more than a week after the Supreme Court agreed to hear on September 4 a similar plea filed by 356 Army personnel. On August 20, Justices Madan B Lokur, S Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta said the matter has to be heard by the bench that had set up a Special Investigation Team in 2017 to inquire into 1,528 cases of alleged extrajudicial killings in Manipur.

AFSPA gives the military sweeping powers to search and arrest and even open fire if they deem it necessary for “the maintenance of public order”. The law gives them a degree of immunity from prosecution. The petitioners have argued that they are being prosecuted for performing their duties in disturbed areas and such cases lower the morale of military and paramilitary forces.

The Army officers filed the petition two weeks after the Central Bureau of Investigation informed the Supreme Court that two chargesheets had been filed in connection with the alleged fake encounters in Manipur. The court had earlier reprimanded the agency for its handling of the case and had asked CBI Director Alok Kumar Verma to appoint 12 more officers to assist the Special Investigation Team.