In his article ‘ AFSPA : Action must now shift from the Supreme Court to Parliament ‘ published in theprint.in, Lt.Gen.D.S.Hooda ( retd ) has indirectly criticized the Supreme Court verdict in Extra Judicial Execution Victims Families Association vs Union of India ( see online ), the decision which rejected the petition of 350 army and para military personnel accused of extra judicial killings in Manipur, and has defended the actions of soldiers.
Gen Hooda basically advances two arguments :
He says ” The Court observed that even if the victim is an enemy, an inquiry can still be ordered if excessive force is used. With this yardstick, almost every encounter with terrorists would become the subject of an investigation “. In other words, Gen Hooda says that if the army’s actions in areas declared as ‘disturbed areas’ under the Armed Forces ( Special Powers ) Act are to be investigated by the police and dealt with by the ordinary criminal courts, the army will be demoralized and find it difficult to operate.
Gen Hooda gives an example. Suppose soldiers find terrorists inside a heavily fortified building, and they decide to blow it up with explosives. Would that be use of excessive force ?
Allegations of excesses and atrocities can be dealt with by the army courts, and should not be dealt with by the ordinary criminal courts
I would like to respond to both these arguments
Regarding the first, one can understand the difficulties and predicaments faced by the army in disturbed areas, and one can have no objection to soldiers shooting at terrorists in genuine encounters. What is objectionable, however is fake encounters. If soldiers catch an unarmed person suspected to be a terrorist, or a sympathizer of terrorists, and bump him off, this is cold blooded murder, not a genuine encounter. And this is what is alleged to have happened on a large scale in Manipur.
Regarding the second, it is common knowledge that the army often covers up misdeeds of its soldiers if it is in a war zone ( and disturbed areas are like war zones ) under the dictum ‘ What happens in the field, remains in the field ‘ ( see the film ‘ Casualties of War ‘ which is based on a real life incident in the Vietnam War ). So should the miscreants never be booked ? Does the immunity in the AFSPA extend to fake encounters ?
Gen Hooda should reply