New Delhi, Nov 30 (IANS): The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a plea by a group of serving Army officers and personnel against the dilution of AFSPA that gives immunity to military personnel from prosecution for actions in disturbed and insurgency-hit areas.
The bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit dismissed the plea by 355 serving Army officers and personnel even as the Central government supported the plea by the men in uniform against their prosecution by the CBI for alleged acts of excesses during anti-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and northeastern states.
"Fact that 350 soldiers of our country has to pray for this is itself unfortunate," Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the bench lending support to the petitioners represented by lawyer Aishwarya Bhati.
Before dismissing the petition, the bench gave Aishwarya Bhati an option to withdraw it, as was done a little earlier by the personnel of Manipur Police. However, as Bhati declined the suggestion, the court dismissed it.
The petitioner Army men had sought direction that "protection of persons acting in good faith under the AFSPA -- Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts -- 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..."
The petitioners had also 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 included from Section Commanders to Commanding Officers who lead section, platoon, company and battalion made of 10 to 1,000 men each.
They had contended that the protection provided by the 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.
Drawing a distinction between routine policing and military operations in disturbed areas, they had 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 had said, was sine qua non for the protection of country's sovereignty and integrity.