The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Centre and the Chhattisgarh government to ensure that security forces, which had occupied schools in Bijapur (in Karnataka) and Dantewada, were vacated within four months.

Relief for tribals

A Bench of Justice B. Sudershan Reddy and Justice S.S. Nijjar, passing orders in the petitions filed by Prof. Nandini Sundar and others, also directed the State to file an action plan for relief and rehabilitation of about 40,000 tribals kept in 23 special camps in the two districts, though the State had stated that the number of inhabitants in the camps had come down drastically, so that they could return to their respective homes to lead a normal life.

Observing that keeping these tribals in camps would amount to imprisonment, the Bench said the action plan to be filed in two weeks should facilitate the tribals to go back to their villages.

Regarding relief measures, the Bench said the Government of India had made certain suggestions in May 2010, which had been accepted by the State government, and Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioners had been appointed to distribute compensation as per norms.

Taking note of the apprehension of senior counsel Ashok Desai who appeared for the petitions that only victims of naxal violence were getting compensation and not those who were victims of violence at the hands of Salwa Judum, the Bench made it clear that no such distinction must be made in the award of compensation to victims of violence.

‘Disastrous consequences'

Earlier when Mr. Desai suggested that Chief Minister Raman Singh must be excluded in the composition of the monitoring committee for the implementation of relief package, Justice Reddy said, “Given the constitutional scheme of things, can the court give direction of this nature to the Chief Minister? It would result in serious, disastrous consequences.”

Senior counsel Harish Salve appearing for Chhattisgarh government admitted that the prevailing situation of tribals being caught in crossfire between Maoists, the police, and vigilante groups, was a testimony to failure of governance. He however rejected Mr. Desai's submission that the Chief Minister should not be in the Committee. He said “There is nothing wrong in Relief and Rehabilitation committee being headed by the Chief Minister. It is not the power but the duty of the Chief Minister, and the committee cannot be headed by an outsider.”

He submitted there was no need for the appointment of a committee to monitor the relief and rehabilitation work as the State government was competent enough to look after its people. He disputed the petitioner's contention by referring to the National Human Rights Commission report, which he claimed did not show the Salwa Judum in a bad light, and said that the petitioners' allegations about it had been found invalid.

‘Movement is over'

Justice Nijjar told Mr. Salve that the situation showed a lot of violence all through, and asked how the State could support such a movement. Mr. Salve said, ‘Such things happen when people become hot-headed, but now the movement is over.'

The Bench posted the matter for further hearing on February 24.