The petitioners had sought protection from litigation for engaging in encounters in AFSPA operating areas.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday rejected the plea of over 300 Army personnel challenging the lodging of FIRs against soldiers involved in operations in Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir, where AFSPA is in force, though the Centre contended that it will have a “demoralising effect” on soldiers fighting terrorism.
A bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and U.U. Lalit brushed aside the fervent request of the Centre which supported the plea and said the issue should be “debated and discussed” so that a mechanism is evolved “where hands of our soldiers do not shake while fighting terrorism”.
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) gives special rights and immunity to security forces in carrying out various operations in “disturbed” areas.
The petitioners had sought protection from litigation for engaging in encounters in AFSPA operating areas. They complained against persecution by agencies like the CBI and said that they were only doing their duty in states of the North East and Jammu and Kash-mir. The government said that armed forces were operating in an “altogether different situation” in disturbed areas and a balance has to be struck, but the apex court said that it was for the government, and not the courts, to come out with an internal mechanism so “that if somebody loses his life like this, it should be looked into”.
“But who has stopped you from coming out with a mechanism? Why you require our intervention? These are issues which you have to discuss, not the courts,” the a bench told solicitor general Tushar Mehta, who was representing the Centre.
“When there is a loss of life, even in a encounter, should not the human life demand that it should be looked into and investigation should be done,” the bench observed.
The plea was filed in the backdrop of the Manipur alleged fake encounter case in which the Supreme Court had last year directed a probe by the CBI into the alleged extra-judicial killings by the Army, the Assam Rifles and the Manipur Police in the insurgency-hit state.