Soldiers Challenge "Dilution" Of AFSPA In Top Court, Say No Police Probe

New Delhi:

A group of over 300 soldiers has approached the Supreme Court, appealing against any "dilution" of AFSPA -- the law that gives them special powers in insurgency-hit areas. Citing several instances of police cases against army men in Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur, the petition said prosecuting soldiers who are doing their duty by the civilian authorities like the police and the Central Bureau of Investigations will lower morale and endanger national security.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice A M Khanwilkar said they will hear the petition on August 20.  

In insurgency-hit areas, the Armed Forces' Special Powers Act allows soldiers to use arrest, use force and even open fire on anyone in contravention of the law. But over the years, there have been allegations of army excesses from residents from Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir.

Two years ago, the Supreme Court, in a landmark judgment, said excessive force cannot be used on people even in insurgency-hit areas while hearing a petition on extra-judicial killing. Last year, it upheld the decision, which had directed the government to probe every such case.

Currently, the Supreme Court is hearing a case, during which it is expected to take a call on whether the police needs permission to file cases against Army personnel in insurgency-hit areas.

The father of an army officer posted in Jammu and Kashmir has
approached the court, seeking the cancellation of a police case against his son, who was leading a convoy that allegedly opened fire on a group of civilians during a protest in Jammu and Kashmir's Shopian in March. Three civilians had died.

Seeking proper guidelines before cases against army men are filed, the soldiers' petition has pointed out that the Armed Forces' Special Provisions Act cannot be diluted without amending the law.  

Contending that "the Petitioners believe that Sovereignty, Security and Integrity of the nation is at higher pedestal than even the Constitution of India" the petition argued that the ultimate sacrifice required of a soldier "cannot be sustained under a state of confusion or cloud as to the Bonafide Duty itself".

The nation functions and thrives and flourishes "because the soldier zealously guards the frontiers and along with it, the Freedoms, Rights and Liberties, without caring for his own comfort, wellbeing, his family, his social responsibilities and even his own life," the petition said.

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