Days after Army chief General Bipin Rawat questioned the need for serving Army officers and soldiers to approach the Supreme Court in personal capacity against alleged dilution of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, a serving Major General, currently posted as Chief of Staff of a Corps in the Eastern Command, has filed an application that he be made party to the petition filed by 739 Army personnel.
Major General Rajeeva Kumar, commissioned in the Sikh Light Infantry, is now the most senior officer among the Army personnel to approach the Supreme Court in the AFSPA matter following a petition by Colonel Amit Kumar and others. Hearing in the case is scheduled for September 28.
Incidentally, Colonel Amit Kumar too was commissioned in the Sikh Light Infantry before he joined the legal branch of the Army, the Judge Advocate General Branch.
In his application, Major General Kumar has stated that he is posted as Chief of Staff of a Corps with more than 60,000 soldiers.
“The points raised in the present petition go to the significant problems and confusions being encountered by soldiers of Indian Army as to whether they are supposed to continue to engage in the proxy war and insurgency with their military training, principles, standard operating procedures, operational realities, valour and courage or act and operate as per the yardsticks of peacetime law and order issues and CrPC,” the application states.
The application refers to an extraordinary situation of confusion that has arisen with respect to protection of soldiers from prosecution as defined under Section 6 of AFSPA (Assam and Manipur) and Section 7 of AFSPA (J&K). “This protection does not give any blanket prohibition or any special right to the soldiers for themselves but only facilitates their functioning and operations in extraordinary circumstances or proxy war, insurgency, armed hostility, ambushes, cover and covert operations. Such operations are materially and substantially different from law and order situations,” the application states.
Sources in Army Headquarters said Major General Kumar has commanded troops in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and has filed the application out of “his own conviction”.
“The officer feels that officers, JCOs and jawans have gone to the court and that the cause is very important and, therefore, he has decided to implead as a petitioner,” a senior officer said.
Initially, 356 Army personnel moved the Supreme Court on August 13, stating that the “garb of protection of human rights should not be taken as a shield to protect the persons involved in the terrorist act”. Later in the month, another 383 Army personnel asked to be impleaded in the petition, taking the number of personnel who have moved the court to 739.
Earlier this month, during an interaction with Colonel-rank officers and their wives, General Rawat had questioned the need for serving personnel to move court, pointing out that the Army was fighting these cases, that the government too was aware of these cases. “AFSPA is a very strong law which provides protection to the soldiers. Now if these guys (the petitioners) lose the case, what will happen,” General Rawat was quoted as having said.