SC wants to know: What is happening in Orissa?

A PIL is seeking to prevent govt from succumbing to the 'blackmail tactics' of Maoists

Written by Krishnadas Rajagopal | New Delhi | Published:April 20, 2012 1:11 am

The Supreme Court wanted to know today “what was happening” in the Orissa Maoist hostage crisis. The Centre told the court it had “no idea”,while the Orissa government — the primary respondent in a public interest petition seeking to prevent it from succumbing to the “blackmail tactics” of Maoists — was not represented.

A Bench of Justices T S Thakur and Gyan Sudha Misra had posted an urgent hearing of the petition,filed by Maj. Gen. (retd) Gagandeep Bakshi,after it was mentioned yesterday in the backdrop of ongoing negotiations on freeing jailed Maoists by the Orissa government in return for abducted BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka.

Adivasi lawmaker Hikaka was abducted in Koraput on March 24,ten days after Italian tour guide Paolo Bosusco was kidnapped by another Maoist group in Kandhamal. Claudio Colangelo,a second Italian kidnapped along with Bosusco,was released 11 days later; Bosusco himself walked free on April 12,two days after a court acquitted Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda’s wife Subhashree.

The court on Thursday issued notice to both the Naveen Patnaik government and the Union of India in the matter.

“Let’s see what is happening there. Issue notice,” the bench observed,re-scheduling the case for hearing after two weeks.

The PIL argues that the capitulation of the state in releasing hardcore Maoists sends a wrong message to law enforcement officers who often face bullets to capture the extremists. “The decision of the Government of Odisha subverts the rule of law which is a basic structure of our constitution,” petition contended.

The court,which had specifically sought the presence of Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman,asked the law officer his opinion. “What do you think,Mr Nariman?” Justice Thakur asked.

“On facts,I have no idea,” Nariman replied,though he said he had looked up the judgments on the case.

The SG said that a prayer in the petition to direct the home ministry “to frame proper law and guidelines to tackle the problem of the Maoist insurgency” was “not maintainable”.

On the petitioner’s allegation that the Orissa government had evolved a “noble method” of releasing Maoists by not opposing their applications for bail,the court asked advocate Brijesh Kalappa why he should approach the Supreme Court when each of the suspect bail orders could be challenged in local courts.

“It is not as if a barter is on between the government and the rebels… These bail orders are made by court of law and are independent. You can challenge them in the appropriate courts,” Justice Thakur said.

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