Supreme Court to hear plea of army personnel challenging FIR against them in AFSPA areas
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Supreme Court to hear plea of army personnel challenging FIR against them in AFSPA areas

The plea said registration of FIR and prosecution of army personnel is against the provisions of AFSPA as they grant immunity to them against prosecution for actions performed during official duties.

india Updated: Aug 14, 2018 21:34 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Army personnel,Indian Army,Supreme Court
The plea said that such prosecutions lower the morale of the military and para-military forces. (File Photo)

The Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to give an urgent hearing to a petition filed by 350 army personnel challenging the registration of criminal cases against security forces in disturbed areas, and saying the dilution of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) would adversely affect anti-insurgency operations in such places.

The petition was mentioned by advocate Aishwarya Bhatti before a bench headed by chief justice Dipak Misra, who agreed to hear the case on Monday, August 20. In her brief submission, Bhatti said that “military operations in border areas will suffer” if the AFSPA in disturbed areas was diluted as it exposed security forces to unnecessary risks.

“Protection of soldiers acting in good faith under AFSPA is imperative to protect the soldiers engaged with direct and proxy enemy and insurgency and cannot be diluted without a specific and categorical amendment in law,” the petitioners said, also questioning the top court’s July 2017 ordering of a CBI probe into alleged extra-judicial killings by the Army, Assam Rifles and Manipur Police in insurgency-hit Manipur.

The verdict, they say, is against the top court’s constitution bench judgment that upheld AFSPA. It supplants the law, meant to protect security personnel carrying out their official duties.

The petition came barely two weeks after Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director Alok Kumar Verma personally appeared before the bench led by justice Lokur to explain why there was a delay in filing charge sheets in five cases of extra-judicial killings in Manipur.

Verma informed the court that the agency had filed two charge sheets against 15 security personnel in connection with alleged encounter killings and 14 of them had been charged with murder, criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence. He said the five remaining charge sheets will be filed by the end of August.

Two individual first information reports (FIRs) against army officers, one in a firing incident in Kashmir’s Shopian and the other in Manipur, have been cited in the petition.

The petitioners have demanded the laying down of specific guidelines “to protect the bonafide 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, as mandated by the Union of India, in protection of sovereignty, integrity and dignity of the country”.

Adequate compensation for the affected serving personnel and their families who had been unnecessarily embroiled in malafide criminal proceedings for discharging their duties should be granted, the petition stated.

The government should take “all steps to protect the soldiers protecting the Integrity and Sovereignty of the nation from persecution and prosecution by motivated and indiscriminate FIRs against the mandate of law”.

Any probe, assessment or adjudication about “criminality, misuse, abuse, negligence, excessive power, judgment error, mistake, bonafide or malafide, of actions done in good faith by soldiers operating in AFSPA areas, without considering the Standard Operating Procedures of Indian Army, should be declared illegal and unconstitutional”, the petition stated.

First Published: Aug 14, 2018 14:26 IST