The Supreme Court on Friday permitted the Centre to withdraw seven of the 15 companies of Central Armed Paramilitary Forces from strife-torn Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts of West Bengal for deployment in poll-bound states of Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat.
Observing that law and order was a “state subject”, a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra stayed the Calcutta high court order restraining the Centre from relocating the paramilitary forces from the state’s strife-torn districts and asked the state government to respond to the Centre’s appeal within a week.
The high court had asked the Centre to allow all 15 companies of paramilitary forces to remain in the state.
The bench, which also comprised Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said it would examine “under which jurisdiction, the high court can ask central government to provide or not to provide security forces”.
“We will issue notice (to West Bengal government) let them file the reply. Meanwhile, we will stay the high court proceedings,” the bench said, adding that it would examine the entire issue in a “holistic” manner.
It said constitutional courts cannot remain “oblivious” to danger to lives of citizens as they are “at the zenith of pyramid” and there has to be some kind of arrangement to protect the lives of citizens.
Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, appearing for the Centre, said the government also takes decision in the interest of citizens to protect them.
The law officer said if all the high courts start ordering the Centre on deployment of forces, then a difficult situation would arise.
The bench, which posted the appeal of the Centre against the high court order for further hearing on November 27, said the interim order allowing withdrawal of seven companies of paramilitary force would remain in force till final adjudication of the case.
The apex court, on October 25, had agreed to hear the Centre’s plea challenging the high court order on withdrawal of security forces.
The Calcutta high court had stayed the withdrawal of Central Armed Paramilitary Forces from the Darjeeling hills, the scene of unrest over the statehood demand, till October 27 after the state government approached it opposing the Centre’s decision.
It has been said that the Centre needed to deploy forces in the poll-bound states of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. Some forces also needed to be deployed along the borders of Jammu and Kashmir and in the north-eastern states, it had said.
The high court had on July 14 directed the Centre to deploy four more companies of CAPF in addition to the 11 that were already present in the hills then.
The West Bengal government had written to the Centre seeking extended deployment of CAPF till December 25, but was told that of the 15 companies present, 10 would be withdrawn on October 15 and the rest by October 20.
The counsel for the central government had claimed that the situation in the Darjeeling hills had improved compared to July when the order on deployment of paramilitary contingents had been passed by the high court.