New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Chhattisgarh government to implement some of the recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission, which went into the activities of the Salwa Judum (self-defence group) set up by the State to tackle naxal menace.
Earlier, the NHRC submitted, in a sealed cover, a report to the court, which had asked it to probe the allegations that the Salwa Judum, which had been provided with arms, was committing atrocities on innocent people.
A Bench comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices P. Sathasivam and J.M. Panchal was hearing a petition filed by Nandini Sundar, Ramachandra Guha and E.A.S. Sarma. They challenged the setting up of the Salwa Judum which, they alleged, was indulging in killings and committing atrocities on tribals in the guise of countering the naxal movement.
The Chief Justice, who perused the NHRC report, told senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for Chhattisgarh, that the commission "has done a meticulous work. It has given a series of recommendations. It is very painful to read the report. It says there is arson and looting, people are armed and they [Salwa Judum] are committing serious offences. It says people who are subjected to serious problems are still afraid of coming out."
The Chief Justice observed: "When somebody [Salwa judum] is given arms, he claims to be a pseudo police. Once he is given arms, he will commit an offence though he has no right to do any such act. Some remedial measures have been suggested in the report and the State may consider implementing them. Whatever is urgently required to be done, do it."
Mr. Venugopal assured the court that the government would implement the recommendations "which are of immediate concern."
The Bench asked the Registry to supply copies of the NHRC report to the parties and asked them to file their response, and posted the matter to October 23.
The petition said the Salwa Judum was launched to combat naxalites but in reality these activists conducted frequent raids on villages and attacked and killed suspected sympathisers of naxalites, torched their houses and looted livestock.
In defence of Salwa Judum, the Chhattisgarh government said: "It is not state-sponsored, but a people's initiative to combat the menace of naxalites. The State is committed to resolving the problem of naxalism, and any peaceful movement which resists violent methods definitely gets support of States."
Additional Solicitor-General Gopal Subramaniam appeared for the Centre and counsel Nithya Ramakrishnan, for the petitioners.
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