The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Chattisgarh government to appoint Special Police Officers (SPOs), who are supporting the State police in tackling the naxal problem, in accordance with law.

A three-judge Bench comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice S.H. Kapadia and Justice Aftab Alam, gave this direction on a petition filed by Nandini Sundar, Ramachandra Guha and E.A.S. Sarma against the activities of Salwa judum in the State.

Senior counsel Ashok Desai, appearing for the petitioners submitted that apart from the regular police, private citizens, including minors were given arms and appointed as SPOs. He said the National Human Rights Commission had filed a report giving out the state of affairs prevailing in Chhattisgarh. He said its recommendations and suggestions were not fully implemented.

He said tribals had become aliens in their own villages as their houses, hospitals and anganwadis were occupied by police force. He said that compensation should be paid to persons who lost their houses and belongings in the violent incidents.

On behalf of the State senior Counsel K.K. Venugopal submitted that about 3,000 SPOs had been appointed in additional to the regular police force to take care of the law and order situation. He denied that private citizens (Salwa judum) were being given arms to deal with the naxal problem

Mr. Venugopal said that the schools, hospitals, ashrams and anganwadis had already been vacated and they were no longer been used for camps or places for shelter of the police force. He said the State would file a status report and a comprehensive rehabilitation plan for the displaced persons.

The Bench in its order asked the petitioners and the State to file a comprehensive rehabilitation plan within four weeks. The Bench asked the State “to file a report as to what steps have been taken to see that FIRs are registered in cases where no FIRs have been registered, as pointed out in the report of NHRC and what further steps have been taken to prosecute the accused who have been already charge-sheeted by the police.

The State and the petitioners are directed to file the reports/objections within four weeks.” The Bench directed the matter for listing on March 25.