More than 30 columns of the Army have been deployed in Haryana to help the civilian administration maintain law and order in the wake of the violence triggered by protests by Jats seeking reservation in central government jobs and educational institutions under the OBC quota. Until Monday evening, 16 people had been officially killed in the violence raging across the state’s Jat belt, even though it remained unclear exactly how these protesters had died.
Under what circumstances is the Army requisitioned by the civilian administration?
Regulations permit civil authorities to requisition the Army for (1) maintenance of law and order, (2) maintenance of essential services, (3) assistance during natural calamities such as earthquakes, (4) any other type of assistance which may be needed by the civil authorities.
Who approves the request from the civil administration for using the Army?
When the services of the Army are requested by the civil administration, the local military commander is supposed to take the permission of the central government through official Army channels. If the delay in seeking permission is likely to exacerbate the situation, leading to loss of life and property, local Army authorities are required to respond immediately, as far as possible, and send a report of the action taken at the first instance for approval by Army authorities.
Is a written requisition from the civil administration needed for the Army to step in?
Yes. Every written requisition made by the civil officials to the Army official, who has troops under his command, has to be complied with immediately. The strength and composition of the force, weapons and ammunition required, and the manner of carrying out the operation, is to be decided by the Army officer alone. The initial request is usually for a flag march, wherein soldiers march in the strife-torn area with weapons, loudly telling the people that the Army is on the streets to maintain law and order.
The Army officer is also supposed to detail a liaison officer to stay in touch with the local civil and police officials and give regular feedback about the situation to the military commander. The report prepared by the liaison officer after the operation ends is sent to the Army Headquarters.
Can civil officials ask the Army to open fire to disperse a mob or rioting crowd?
Yes, and the request has to be complied with immediately. Under CrPC Section 130, the magistrate of the highest rank present at the location can ask the Army officer to “disperse an unlawful assembly by military force”. Such a request has to be preferably made in writing, but if it is made verbally, the military commander has to ensure that the magistrate repeats the request in the presence of two other military personnel.
Under CrPC Section 131, the local Army commander can himself decide that he needs to “disperse an unlawful assembly by force”, and take requisite measures.
What guidelines must the Army follow to fire on a mob?
The military commander must adopt the most effective means available to explain to the people that firing by his troops would be effective — this is usually done by using a megaphone to announce this intention. Army guidelines clearly lay down that the military officer will “exercise a humane discretion in deciding both the number of rounds to be used and the object to be aimed at”. If he is of the opinion that slight effort will achieve the objective, he will ask only one or a few selected soldiers to fire. The officer will also cease fire at the instant it is no longer necessary.
The military official is also responsible for ensuring that only those persons who can be seen to be implicated in the disturbance are fired upon. He should not try and fire over the head of the crowd as it emboldens the daring and guilty among them. As per the Regulations for the Army, Para 306 (d), “fire should be aimed low, the idea being to injure and incapacitate rather than to kill”, but the principle of using minimum force has to be followed. Firing with blank ammunition is prohibited.
SHOW TO TELL?
Must the Army carry huge placards saying “Army” while conducting the flag march?
No. This was seen for the first time during the Army’s flag marches in Haryana — a decision local commanders took. Army authorities said that the decision to carry these placards had to be taken also because central police forces these days wear camouflage pattern uniforms similar to the Army’s, and it would have been hard for the general population to differentiate between the two.