TT, New Delhi, April 20 (PTI): Operations against militants or insurgents may be affected if FIRs are lodged against the army, the Supreme Court was told today.
The army also told the apex court that it cannot be subjected to FIRs for carrying out anti-militancy operations in insurgency-prone areas like Jammur and Kashmir and Manipur, while alleging local bias in the judicial inquiries conducted against it in these regions, which have tarnished its image.
"Judicial inquiries that are biased because of local considerations have tarnished the image of the army. Military operations cannot be dissected in a particular way.
The army cannot be subjected to FIR, otherwise military operations cannot be carried out," attorney-general Mukul Rohatgi told a bench of Justices M.B. Lokur and U.U. Lalit. Rohatgi, appearing for the army and the Assam Rifles, said it cannot be subjected to investigation by state police with regard to its operations against militants in strife-torn areas.
"Whether it's Jammu and Kashmir or Manipur, we are facing the same local bias. Why doesn't any judicial inquiry ever exonerate the army? These inquiries (have) never said the army did the correct thing. The army is facing problems because of bias in such inquiries," he said.
Pointing out that the army was working in very difficult situations in these areas, Rohatgi said it has its own system in place, has its own approach and is governed by a different set of rules. "In every military operation, the army cannot be disbelieved. Every judicial inquiry cannot be against it. The alleged extra-judicial killing cases in Manipur are not cases of massacre, rather these are cases of military operations," he said.
He said the petitions under Article 32 of Associations of Widows from Manipur, seeking FIR into alleged extra-judicial killings and SIT probe, should not be considered and the court should not allow it.
During the hearing, the bench also questioned the army over its court of inquiry, a fact-finding proceeding.
"The court of inquiry is for the benefit of the army. It is not for the satisfaction of the public, which has the right to know the truth behind any incident," the bench said after Rohatgi alleged bias in the judicial probes conducted by district judges.
The bench also pulled up the Manipur government for not taking action on such alleged fake encounters by armed forces and asked was it "not supposed to do anything".
Senior advocate V. Giri, appearing for Manipur, accepted the lapse on the state government's part but said even the high court never asked it to register FIRs in such cases.
The court then asked the Manipur counsel whether the state government can register FIRs into these alleged cases of extra-judicial killings.
"Yes, we can register FIRs, if the court so directs under Article 142. There is no blockage in law with regard to lodging of FIR," the senior advocate said.
The bench asked the parties, including the Centre and Manipur, to suggest five names each of officials, former officials whom they deem are suitable for the SIT to be constituted to investigate such cases.
The apex court after perusing the names reserved its verdict on the point of lodging of FIR and constituting a SIT for investigation into the killing in which judicial inquiries have been conducted.
The court is hearing a PIL seeking probe and compensation in alleged 1,528 extra-judicial killings in Manipur from 2000 to 2012 by security forces and police.
The court, which has conducted hearing for three consecutive days, had earlier rapped Manipur for remaining silent over rape and murder charges against army personnel.