Army chief General Bipin Rawat has questioned the need of serving officers in the armed forces to move the Supreme Court on matters related to insurgency-affected areas, unidentified officials told The Tribune. At a meeting with officers of the colonel rank in New Delhi on Saturday, Rawat expressed his disagreement over the court cases, the newspaper reported on Monday.

For the first time, more than 700 Army officers and soldiers approached the Supreme Court last month 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 Supreme Court has agreed to hear on September 4 one of the pleas, which involves 356 petitioners from the Army.

“The Army was fighting these cases, now if these guys [the petitioners in court] lose the case, what will happen?” Rawat reportedly asked the officers.

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.

Rawat also said moral turpitude would not go unpunished in the force, and irrespective of rank, one would get exemplary punishment such as jail and dismissal. He asked officers not to compare themselves with civilian officers as the armed forces were different, unique and an elite service, The Tribune reported.