New Delhi: In a judgmenet that could change the face of anti-Naxal operations, the Supreme Court has held that arming civilians to take on Naxals is unconstitutional. The judgement could be a serious setback for the Chhattisagrah government and is a shot in the arm for rights activists.
In a major verdict, the Supreme Court on Tuesday held that the appointment and arming of civilians as special police officers (SPO) in the anti-Naxal operation is illegal and unconstitutional. It said that creation of Koya Commandos and Salwa Judum was in violation of the Constitution.
"The Supreme Court has said if you have to fight insurgency, you have to do it by lawful means. Root cause is inequality, mining and industrial interests. Arming of civilians in whatever form, Salwa Judum or SPO is violative of article 14 and art 21 of the Constitution," said Sociologist Nandini Sundar.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Chhattisgarh government to withdraw firearms from SPO with immediate effect. The court has also directed the Union Government to desist from funding SPOs.
The apex court has directed the CBI to investigate the violence in Tarmetla, Morpally in March and complete investigations in six months.
The Supreme Court has dismayed with arming of youngsters and said it's violative of article 21. The court has also said that the government cannot use people as canon fodder.
"I will take advice from lawyers and see what to do next. I don't have the full report yet," said Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh.
The State of Chhattisgarh is most likely to file a review petition in the court. But the question is, will the group of newly armed people give up their arms without a struggle?
Currently, there are anywhere between 4000 to 6000 SPOs in Chhattisgarh. From the local area they serve a crucial role in the anti-Naxal operations.
The affidavit of the State of Chhattisgarh is an eye opener. Among other things it says,
- Preference will be given to those who have passed class five (Which means most haven't passed class five).
- The DGP has the discretion to provide them with whatever firearm he deems fit.
- SPOs can be appointed on the recommendation of SHOs.
- The state also claimed in court to train them IPC, arms training, human rights all in two months
- SPOs are paid 3000 Rs/month, but have no pension or life insurance.
So, despite the Supreme Court order, the issue of state sponsored armed militia taking on Naxals is unlikely to be settled soon.