The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Andhra Pradesh government to file an affidavit explaining why it deployed the elite anti-naxalite force ‘Grey Hounds’ inside the Osmania University campus to deal with the student agitation.
A Bench consisting of Justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly also constituted a three-member committee comprising the State Home Secretary, the Hyderabad Police Commissioner and the Vice-Chancellor of the University to review the law and order situation on the campus and around it on a day-to-day basis and accordingly decide on deployment of forces.
The Bench was hearing the Andhra Pradesh’s government’s appeal against an order of the Division Bench of the High Court declining to interfere with a single judge order asking paramilitary forces to vacate the university campus.
The Supreme Court Bench asked the committee to decide within 10 days the measures for ensuring peaceful atmosphere in the university and surrounding areas. It asked the Home Secretary to submit a report by March 12. The committee was free to deploy civilian forces in the university and surrounding areas for peaceful conduct of examinations between March 3 and 18. If a meeting was held by students on the University campus, outsiders should be prevented from participating in the said meeting.
Earlier, the Andhra Pradesh government produced files, intelligence inputs and other secret information in support of its contention that Maoists had infiltrated into the University campus as students. During the last hearing, the State had maintained that the agitation was being spearheaded by the Maoists and the court wanted the State to produce records.
After perusing the files, Mr. Justice Singhvi told senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the State: “We are not commenting on the information except to say there is some information to say there are sympathisers in the campus. There are some sympathisers. Even among lawyers there are sympathisers. Would mere sympathy with a political outfit or an organisation make a person criminal?”
Mr. Justice Singhvi said: “Tell us under whose authority Grey Hounds, meant to deal with naxalites, was sent to the University. State should explain why such an elite force was sent to deal with students as it is something very serious.”
He wanted to know whether such an anti-naxalite force had ever been deployed to quell rallies or meetings organised by political parties. He pointed out that during an agitation in 2007 by a political outfit, more than 180 buses were burnt and there was large scale violence. “Even then Grey Hounds or the Force to deal with naxalites was not sent to quell the agitation.”
Mr. Justice Rohatgi said that while the Rapid Action Force was competent to deal with the agitation, the Grey Hounds was the force which could tackle violent situations. When Mr. Justice Singhvi said it would be inappropriate to deal with student disturbances by an anti-naxal force, Mr. Justice Rohatgi assured the court that in future the government would not send Grey Hounds to the University campus.
“A reasoned order”
Counsel Prashant Bhushan and Ramakrishna Reddy, appearing for Anita and three others, said the single judge’s order of the High Court was a reasoned order and did not call for any interference. The atmosphere on the campus was very peaceful and denied the allegation of Maoist infiltration. The court directed the State to file detailed affidavit and posted the matter for hearing on March 19.