March 31, 2008 | 19:18 IST
"You cannot give arms to somebody and allow him to kill," the Supreme Court on Monday said, while taking a serious note of a petition alleging that the Chattisgarh government was allegedly arming civilians involved in Salwa Judum movement to fight Naxals.
"It is a question of law and order. You (state government) cannot give arms to somebody (a civilian) and allow him to kill. You will be an abettor of the offence under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code," a Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice Aftab Alam said.
The Bench said a neutral agency should inquire and assess whether people had joined Judum camps on their own.
The court's remarks came during the hearing of two petitions seeking a direction to the state government to refrain from allegedly supporting and encouraging the Salwa Judum, a people's movement to counter Naxalism.
The state government had earlier denied that Judum was a state-sponsored movement and said that action shall be taken if any Judum activist transgresses the confines of the law.
The PILs also alleged that the condition in Judum camps was bad and people involved in the movement should be allowed to go back to the forests in view of the upcoming sowing season.
During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium said he met officials of the Intelligence Bureau officials and concerned ministry on the issue. He said the government has asked the Director, National Institute of Criminology, to probe the ground situation in these camps.
He said if the report does not satisfy the court, the Centre would be open to further suggestions.
Senior advocate Ashok Desai, appearing for sociologist Nandini Sundar, historian Ramchandra Guha, former bureaucrat E A S Sarma and others, who filed the petitions, said that the Veerapa Moily report on administrative reforms had pointed the there were problems in the camps.
Former Chief Election Commissioner J M Lyngdoh, who represented the National Council for Protection of Children, in his report also spoke about the atrocities faced by women and children in these camps, Desai said.
He claimed that the Centre had already favoured disbanding the Salwa Jadum.
However, after a brief hearing the Bench posted the hearing to April 15 saying it would be appropriate that the petitioners file an application pointing out the areas where an independent agency should go to inspect the camps.
The Chattisgarh government objected to the PILs contending that the petitioners eulogize extremism and killings by Naxalites who are torching police stations.
The PILs said it was necessary to inquire as to how tribals and villagers were living in camps in the jungles. The petitioners said they needed better treatment as they were caught the Naxalites and Salwa Judum.
The state in its reply had said "Salwa Judum is a voluntary, peaceful initiative of the people".
"It is not a state-sponsored and appropriate actions shall be taken if any Salwa Judum activist transgresses the confines of law," it has said in an affidavit.
It said Salwa Judum started as a "non-political" peaceful movement to resist the activities of Naxalites in the form of killing, kidnappings and plunder.
The petitioners contended that the Judum movement, which was launched to combat the Naxalites in June 2005 in Dantewara District of the state, has intensified violence and there was lawlessness in the district.
"Far from being a peaceful campaign, Salwa Judum activists are armed with guns, lathis, axes, bows and arrows," they said.
"As of January 2007, more than 47,000 people were living in the relief camps. The condition of these camps is deplorable and sub-human. Children's nutrition has been badly affected as inmates of these camps receive scant rations and the medical facilities remain scare," the petitioner had submitted in May last, when notices were issued to the state government and the Centre.
The petitioners have alleged that the residents of the district were forced by the security forces and activists of the movement to leave their villages and live in these camps.
"There is an acute lack of security since these camps were set up along the roadside and are vulnerable to retaliatory attacks by Naxalites," the petitioners said.
The petitioner also sought an independent enquiry into the alleged human rights violation by the Judum activists and security forces.