Wednesday, April 2, 2008

War on terror: Police feels top court was misled

Bhopal/Raipur, April 1: Top officials of the Chhattisgarh police feel that the Supreme Court was being "misguided" in the PIL where a group of petitioners, led by Nandini Sundar and Ramchandra Guha are seeking the apex court’s directive to prevent the state government from arming the adherents of the people’s led anti-Naxalite campaign, salwa judum. A division bench comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice Aftab Alam had observed that it was not the state government’s business to be disbursing arms to civilians with the purpose of killing since this risked invocation of Section 302 of the IPC.

Senior police officers told this newspaper that the legal view was that the Supreme Court’s observations constituted nothing more than obiter dicta. Hence, they would not form part of the final order. "Such comments are never recorded". Scores of critical remarks amounting to obiter dicta were made by the trial court against Lalu Prasad Yadav in the disproportionate assets case, but he was still cleared of all charges. The real issue would be decided on the basis of affidavits and counter affidavits. "So there is nothing to worry", the officers said.

The officers, however, felt that the learned judges may have avoided airing their opinion if a "truer picture" had been given of the ground realities in the Maoist-affected areas. To begin with, it was a misnomer to describe all the 23 odd government-run relief camps in the Bastar division as salwa-judum assemblies. The camps were by villagers who had left their homes in protest against the continued Maoist terror. Among them were old men, women, and children. Another group constituted youths loyal to Opposition leader Mahendra Karma who was at the forefront of salwa-judum, and frequently led peace marches against the Maoists.

A third group, the smallest in number, was that of the special police officers (SPOs), who had been hired and trained under a statutory police provision, much like their counterparts in J&K and the Northeast.

The disbursal of arms was confined to this group since it was their job to protect the relief camps.

"So there are no civilians who have been armed per se." The refugee population in the relief camps fluctuated from 38,000 to 59,000 depending on the availability of food and work elsewhere. "Roughly 3,400 of them are SPOs".

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