The Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice to the Centre on a plea seeking direction for equipping police and security forces with modern weapons and devices to combat and counter terror attacks like the one in Mumbai.
Coverage: Mumbai Terror Attacks
A bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan sought response from the Ministry of Home Affairs on the petition filed by former Attorney General (AG) Soli J Sorabjee alleging that the terrorist attacks in Mumbai have exposed that weapons used by police are no match to the arms and ammunition carried by the terrorists.
Earlier, the bench, which also includes Justice P Sathasivam, was of the view that arming police personnel with sophisticated weapons like AK 47 at public places would only scare people.
"Police should be equipped with modern weapons but at the sensitive places. In public places like the railway stations arming police with AK 47 would only scare people," the bench observed during the brief hearing when the Public Interest Litigation was mentioned.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for Sorabjee, finally convinced the bench to issue the notice.
Rohatgi narrated incidents of the November 26 Mumbai terror attacks, particularly with reference to shooting at Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus, where the ill-equipped police failed to counter the offensive of the terrorists, the bench agreed to issue notice asking the Centre to respond within a week so that the matter could be heard in January.
Sorabjee, who was the AG during the previous National Democratic Alliance government, pointed out 18 major terrorist incidents since the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, to support his contention for imparting training and arming the police force with modern weapons to thwart any further attack while creating an atmosphere where citizens' right to life is protected.
Rohatgi said killing of police personnel wearing bullet-proof jackets, including Anti-Terrorist Squad Chief Hemant Karkare, at the CST terminus speaks volume on the nature of the equipment supplied to the police force.
While police at the CST were countering with .303 assault rifles, terrorists were armed with deadly weapons, he said, adding that NSG commandos deployed to flush them out reached Mumbai only after nine hours of the attacks and had to be transported by the BEST bus in the absence of special vehicles.
Sorabjee, who was the Chairman of the Police Reforms Committee, contended that the shortcoming of police and security forces emerging from the Mumbai terror attacks establish the violation of Article 21 of the Constitution, which calls for protection of life and liberty of citizens, without which, other fundamental rights are incapable of being exercised.
Rohatgi said it is common to see politician surrounded by NSG and SPG personnel for their protection and argued that citizens cannot be exposed to terrorist attacks.
Hearing this submission, the bench quipped, "Is your government not aware of all these things?"
Rohatgi replied that the PIL was filed not to blame someone but with the intention that right to life of citizens should be protected as there have been reports that there was some actionable intelligence in relation to Mumbai attacks, which could have been averted if some action was taken.
Sorabjee, in his petition, said if the prayer sought, is not granted, the entire nation will suffer irreparable losses and injuries and will put national security of the country at stake.