Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday said she does not hold a grudge against a group of Army officers who approached the Supreme Court on cases relating to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act or AFSPA, PTI reported.
“Grievance redressal is a right,” Sitharaman said. “I will never want to say if you have a grievance, you should not voice it. I will never say that.”
The defence minister said “institutional mechanisms” were available for grievance redressal within the Army, Navy and Air Force. “But if in the case of AFSPA, they have chosen to go to the court, there is a certain sense of worry in the minds of men and officers and I can understand that,” she said.
Over 350 serving Indian Army officers petitioned the Supreme Court on August 14, asking that the actions of soldiers in areas where AFSPA is in force be exempted from legal scrutiny. On August 31, a second batch of 400 Armymen approached the top court challenging the criminal cases filed against defence personnel in Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir.
Sitharaman said AFSPA was enacted “to address situations which are absolutely unique and very challenging.” “Now, if that is, from the point of view of human rights, taken to the court and the court is giving a full hearing and justice to hear everybody out, and if the officers and men felt they also would want to give their argument, I cannot grudge that,” she said. “I really cannot grudge that.”
The law currently applies to Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Jammu and Kashmir. It was withdrawn from Meghalaya on April 1.