Counsel's claim that the militia did not exist not borne out by facts: Judge

The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Chhattisgarh government to spell out its stand on disbanding Salwa Judum, a people's army set up to fight Naxalites in the State, after allegations emerged of large-scale human rights violations.

When a Bench of Justices B. Sudershan Reddy and S.S. Nijjar asked counsel for the State to respond, he said Salwa Judum did not exist. Justice Reddy told him: “Your assertion is contrary to reports of various independent expert groups on the presence of Salwa Judum. You tell us why the State can't disband Salwa Judum.”

Earlier senior counsel Ashok Desai, appearing for petitioners Nandini Sundar and others, maintained that Salwa Judum was constituted to terrorise people. He explained how the National Human Rights Commission highlighted the atrocities of Salwa Judum and asked the State to register cases. Though First Information Reports were registered, he said, prosecution did not take place since there was no further enquiry.

Mr. Desai said though the State was asked to come out with a rehabilitation plan, it drew up one that only covered Salwa Judum supporters, ignoring the victims of vigilante groups and state violence. The State was also asked to ensure that police forces vacated schools, hospitals, ashrams and anganwadis which they had used as camps, but it did not comply with this order.

He wanted an independent committee to monitor the implementation of the rehabilitation plan.

Additional Solicitor-General Vivek Tanka, appearing for the Centre, informed the court that it was the State government that provided the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) with accommodation. The force would accept whatever accommodation given to it.

Justice Reddy told counsel for the State: “Create a proper atmosphere for resolution of the conflict. They [petitioners] are also concerned about the massacre of police forces. They don't want any violence. You tell us whether schools and ashrams are still used for stationing paramilitary forces, what action you have taken on the FIRs and rehabilitation plan, and your response to the constitution of a monitoring committee.”

The Bench listed the matter for Thursday for further hearing.