The Centre on Tuesday informed the Supreme Court that Salwa Judum, constituted by the Chhattisgarh government to deal with Naxal violence, was on the way out and it was not extending any support to the militia.

Solicitor-General Gopal Subramaniam, appearing for the Centre, told a Bench of Justice B. Sudershan Reddy and Justice S.S. Nijjar, “We have instructed the State government not to extend any support to Salwa Judum activists or to any private armed group.”

The Bench is hearing a petition filed by Nandini Sundar and others challenging the constitution of Salwa Judum and seeking proper rehabilitation measures for those affected in the excesses committed by Salwa Judum or Naxalites.

Court seeks reason

At the last hearing on August 11, the Bench had directed the Chhattisgarh government to explain its stand as to why Salwa Judum should not be disbanded; by when schools would be vacated by security forces; what they had done by way of rehabilitation and compensation for all those affected regardless of perpetrator – whether Salwa Judum or Naxalites; what they had done to register criminal cases, and their response to an independent committee to oversee rehabilitation and criminal prosecution.

During the resumed hearing on Tuesday, Justice Reddy referred to the affidavit filed by the Chhattisgarh government and told Manish Singhvi, appearing for the State, that it was a vague affidavit. The Judge said: “Nowhere in the affidavit you have explicitly condemned Salwa Judum. This affidavit seems to be supporting Salwa Judum.” Mr. Singhvi, however, said, “The State does not support Salwa Judum.”

Lacking particulars

Justice Reddy said the affidavit was lacking in particulars and sounded as if the State government was holding a brief for Salwa Judum and also holding back information. He said that there was no mention of the number of complaints against Salwa Judum activists, what action had been taken, how many cases were registered and what happened to them.

When Mr. Singhvi sought more time to file a proper and comprehensive affidavit, Justice Reddy told him, “Don't be adversarial in your approach. If someone points an aberration, they should not be treated as adversaries and branded and labelled.”

Empowering tribals

Mr. Subramaniam, appearing for the Union, said the State was working very hard to empower the tribals, and had provided them permanent structures of tin roofs and asbestos sheets in camps; and there were 30 schools and 19 primary health care centres in Bijapur district. He also said that criminal cases were not being registered because parts of the districts (Bijapur and Dantewada) were under siege and nobody could venture out alone.

Senior counsel for the petitioners, Ashok Desai, pointed out that the Centre's affidavit did not cover people in villages and that the camps were only a small part of the population. They were part of the problem, not the solution. He added that the affidavit was silent on the need for an independent committee.

As an interim measure, he agreed that the petitioners would visit the districts and meet the District Collectors and affected people of all categories. The Solicitor-General assured the Court that there would be no problem in access, and that the Central government would take responsibility for the petitioners. The Bench granted six weeks for the State and the Centre to file comprehensive affidavits and directed the matter to be listed thereafter.

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