Don’t divide people into pro, anti-Maoist supporters: Apex court

May 6th, 2011 - 12:12 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 5 (IANS) The Supreme Court Thursday mocked the Chhattisgarh government’s contention that the civilians designated as Special Police Officers (SPOs) have historically played a useful role, saying this historic role commences with the days of British Raj and involves the policy of divide and rule.

“Yes, historically from the days of British (Raj), and the recruitment of SPOs from the local population is a form of divide and rule (policy),” said the apex court bench of Justice B. Sudershan Reddy and Justice S.S. Nijjar.

The court observation came when senior counsel M.N. Krishnamani appearing for the Chhattisgarh government, told the court that “the SPOs have historically played a very useful role”. He said the state government needed SPOs because they are locals, they know the language and can identify Maoists.

The apex court observation came as it reserved its verdict on the petition of Delhi University’s Prof. Nandini Sunder seeking disbanding of the Salwa Judum civil militia, appointment of SPOs and their arming and the rehabilitation of displaced tribals who fled their villages after being caught in the cross-fire between the security forces and Maoists.

Appearing for Prof. Nandini Sunder, senior counsel Ashok Desai sought direction of the court for immediate relief that included disbanding and disarming of the SPOs, asking the Chhattisgarh government to condemn all forms of civilian violence, whether by Salwa Judum activists, Maoists or SPOs.

He also sought compensation to all the victims of violence, a monitoring committee for rehabilitation, and immediate relief to the victims of Tadmetla, Timapuram and Morpalli.

As Desai pressed for the disbanding of the SPOs, Krishnamani said then SPOs should be disbanded in other states as well. At this, Desai said: “Each state has a different provision (for the recruitment of SPOs).”

As Krishnamani pressed that SPOs being local are able to identify the Maoists, the court asked if it was written on their forehead that they are Maoists.

The court asked the senior counsel to put it on record his contention that petitioner Nandini Sunder and others were Maoist supporters.

The court asked the Chhattisgarh government not to divide the society into pro- or anti-Maoist supporters. The court further asked Krishnamani to visualise a situation that a Maoist comes to the apex court and he is killed at the door and people protest over it. Does that make all the protesters Maoists? it asked.

The court said that merely because an organisation is declared terrorist or banned, does not suspend Article 21 guaranteeing protection of life and personal liberty.

At this Krishnamani said that the question is whether Maoism should be controlled. And if that is so, then the central government has devised the policy of recruitment of SPOs.

The court said that the government’s responsibility in protecting the life and liberty of citizens was not in dispute but the methods to achieve the same were in question.

As Krishnamani said that Punjab was a good example of deploying the SPOs, Justice Nijjar said: “We are not votaries of the Punjab model.”

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