SC to hear plea against AFSPA dilution on August 20

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New Delhi, Aug 14 (IANS) The Supreme Court will hear on August 20 a plea by a group of serving Army officers against the dilution of AFSPA that gives immunity to military personnel from prosecution for actions in disturbed and insurgency-hit areas.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra agreed to hear the plea after advocate Aishwarya Bhati sought an early hearing.

The petitioners have sought specific guidelines to protect military personnel from criminal proceedings for bona-fide actions done in the discharge of official duties in areas infested with insurgents and witnessing proxy wars against India.

The petitioners range from Section Commanders to Commanding Officers who lead section, platoon, company, battalion made of 10 to 1,000 men each.

They contended that the protection provided by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) does not confer any special right to a soldier for himself, but facilitates his functioning and operations in extraordinary circumstances of proxy war, insurgency, armed hostility, ambushes, and covert and overt operations.

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Drawing a distinction between routine policing and military operations in disturbed areas, they contended that absolute protection for bona-fide actions of soldiers in extraordinary situations is imperative to enable them to carry out their duties effectively and efficiently.

This protection from criminal prosecution for bona-fide actions of a soldier in the course of military operations in disturbed areas, the petition says, is sine qua non for the protection of the country’s sovereignty and integrity.

The officers sought a court direction that “protection of persons acting in good faith under the AFSPA is sacrosanct with the sovereignty and integrity of the nation” and that “no prosecution, suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the Central government….”

They further averred that it was the Army alone which is familiar with the dynamics of these operations, and was capable of probing into allegation of criminality, misuse, abuse, or of excessive use of power by men in uniform.

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“Civil police or even the Central Bureau of Investigation can’t even be expected to be in the know of complete picture,” they claimed.

The petition by Col Amit Kumar and others is rooted in a spate of complaints and FIRs against military personnel deployed in disturbed areas of the northeast and trouble- torn Jammu and Kashmir and the same being entertained by courts.

–IANS

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