Nearly 400 soldiers and army officers approached the Supreme Court on Friday challenging the criminal cases being filed against defence personnel serving in insurgency-hit areas. This is the second group of soldiers to petition the top court against dilution of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that shielded them from prosecution without the centre’s nod.
About 350 soldiers had moved the top court with a similar request earlier this month. A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court is expected hear the petition next week.
The three judges had last year constituted a special team to probe 1,500 allegations of human rights violations by security personnel in Manipur and ordered a CBI probe in cases where the accusations appeared to be genuine during the initial probe.
The verdict was a blow to the immunity enjoyed by security forces in disturbed areas and was seen as diluting the protection under AFSPA.
The law, first enacted in 1958 amid the nascent Naga insurgency, gives powers to the army and state and central police forces to shoot to kill, search houses and destroy any property that is “likely” to be used by insurgents in areas declared as “disturbed” by the home ministry.
For decades, the law was seen to give soldiers immunity from criminal proceedings but the Supreme Court had later clarified that there was no restriction on registering cases. The soldiers, however, can be put on trial only if the central government gives its approval.
Army officers say the soldiers were being “persecuted” and proceeded against for performing duties in such disturbed areas and want the top court to lay down specific guidelines “to protect the bonafide action of soldiers under AFSPA” so that they aren’t harassed for actions done in good faith.