SC strikes at the army’s immunity, special powers Snipers shoot 5 US policemen dead
QUESTIONS AFSPA Says it can’t use excessive or retaliatory force in troubled areas
The Supreme Court dealt a blow to the army’s immunity under a controversial law on Friday, saying it can’t use “excessive or retaliatory force” even in troubled places, and agreed to an investigation into hundreds of alleged illegal killings by security forces in Manipur.
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (Afspa), which shields troops from prosecution and is in force in parts of the northeast and Kashmir, is blamed by human rights groups for illegal killings and arbitrary detentions by security forces. The military denies misusing the law.
Friday’s court verdict came on petitions from rights groups demanding an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or any special team into 1,528 alleged cases of “extra-judicial killings” by the army in Manipur in a dozen years through to 2012. “If members of our armed forces are deployed and employed to kill citizens of our country on the mere allegation or suspicion that they are ‘enemy’, not only the rule of law but our democracy would be in grave danger,” the top court said. “Society and the courts obviously cannot and do not accept such a death (extra-judicial killings) caused by the State since it is destructive of the rule of law and plainly unconstitutional,” a bench headed by Justice MB Lokur said.
The remarks are the strongest judicial rebuke yet of the army’s special shoot-to-kill powers, which trace their origins to a British-era ordinance used to suppress the Quit India Movement of 1942. It said the situation in Manipur was, at best, an internal disturbance and not a “war-like” threat to national security. “The army’s oversight mechanism is robust,” an army officer, who did not wish to be named.
Five police officers were killed in a sniper attack in Dallas, Texas that was likely carried out to avenge the fatal police shootings of two African American men elsewhere in the US earlier this week.
Seven other officers were wounded in what is being called the worst assault on law enforcement officers in US history since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, when 72 personnel from 10 agencies died.
President Barack Obama, in Warsaw for a NATO summit, said the whole nation was “horrified” by the “vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement”. Dallas police chief David Brown said a suspect, later identified as former US army soldier Micah X Johnson, was killed after negotiations failed to make him surrender. He cited recent killings of black men (by white police officers) to say he wanted to “kill white people, especially white officers”. White police officers killed an African American man in Louisiana state on Monday and another in Minnesota state on Wednesday, whose death was streamed live by his girlfriend.
Brown said the sniper was “upset about Black Lives Matter”, an equal rights campaign often described as the modern day equivalent of the civil rights movement of the 1960s.