The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a plea filed by more than 350 Army personnel challenging the First Information Reports filed against soldiers for carrying out operations in Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, PTI reported.
AFSPA gives the military sweeping powers to search and arrest, and to open fire if they deem it necessary for “the maintenance of public order”. The law, which also grants the military a degree of immunity from prosecution, is currently is force in Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Jammu and Kashmir. It was withdrawn from Meghalaya on April 1.
The petition filed by the Army personnel sought “specific guidelines to protect the bona fide action of soldiers under AFSPA, so that no soldier is harassed by initiation of criminal proceedings for actions done in good faith in exercise of their duties”. It also demanded an investigation into individuals and organisations that have made complaints against military personnel for alleged human rights violations.
The Centre supported the petition. “There has to be a mechanism where hands of our soldiers are not shaken while fighting terrorism,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court, according to PTI.
The court was convinced, however, and dismissed the petition. It also asked Mehta who was stopping the Centre from coming out with a mechanism. “These are issues for you [the Centre] to discuss and not for the court,” the court said.
The petition was filed amid an ongoing investigation, ordered by the Supreme Court, into alleged extrajudicial killings into alleged extra-judicial killings in Manipur between 1979 and 2012. In 2013, a commission appointed by the Supreme Court had found that security forces had resorted to firing based on inputs without authenticating the sources of the information. In July 2017, the Supreme Court set up a Special Investigation Team to look into the killings.