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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Human Rights and the Armed Forces: The Unfilled Space

My oped for ABP news:

These are the times for extreme views. These are times when people choose to let their fingers do the walking on their keypads without putting the brain into gear. These are times when important Supreme Court decisions are ridiculed as judicial overreach without even first taking the pains to read them or understand the broader import. Or else how could anyone justify the sharp reactions to the Supreme Court’s verdict on fake encounters in Manipur?

The past many years have seen extreme comments against Human Rights activists by those claiming to be patriots and also similar remarks against the security forces by the other side as if our Armed Forces are some kind of heartless mercenaries. How I wish proponents of both views could understand each other and fill up the space which is unfortunately lying empty in our discourse today! I would go to the extent of saying that both views act as a check and a counter-balance, and holistically viewed, are not opposite but rather complement one another and ensure that neither has a free run. That is what a democracy with a rule of law is all about.

So does the Supreme Court decision indict the Armed Forces or tie their hands? Not at all.

The decision merely reiterates the law that already exists and reminds us that semblance of balance or respect for human life (or Human Rights) should not be lost sight of, even in such extraordinary situations.


What people need to realise is that the decision comes down heavily upon ‘fake’ and staged encounters and not real operations. Those making irresponsible comments in the garb of support for Armed Forces should understand that the Armed Forces themselves consider fake encounters the greatest form of cowardice and hence would go all out to punish those who are actually found involved in such crimes or for that matter in other proved Human Rights violations.


What commentators have also failed to realise is that the Supreme Court has taken note of the “Ten Commandments” issued by the Chief of the Army Staff for operations and has praised the same and has in fact recorded that “nothing can better elucidate how the security forces are expected to act in Manipur.” The Commandments lay emphasis on compassion, integrity, minimum force, moral strength, professionalism and dharma. If there are people, including on TV panels and social media, who want the Army to be ruthless, then sorry to burst your bubble- that is not the ethos of the Army and such approach goes against the very grain of the same Commandments. The Army is a ‘defence’ service of protectors not an ‘offence’ force of aggressors and the Army believes in upholding Human Rights to the hilt and those found violating them are punished and those wrongly accused of violating them are protected.


Another aspect that the Supreme Court has rightly brought out is that the Central forces are performing a task that they are actually not meant to perform and such situations are ones which are meant to be handled by the civil administration. It is not an ordinary situation and the Apex Court has actually indicated that deployment of the Armed Forces for internal disturbances is not of their own volition and has frowned upon their prolonged deployment and that the State has not been able to restore normalcy thereby requiring their deployment. While this may sound harsh, it is the bitter truth. The Armed Forces are not performing a pleasant task and it is not that they chose the same.


The Supreme Court has also emphasized that by no stretch of imagination could it be deemed to be casting aspersions on the Armed Forces. The Supreme Court has reiterated that personnel of the Armed Forces are not immune to the judicial process, a fact that the Armed Forces themselves fully recognize. Also, if there is confidence about the lack of wrongdoing, there should be no resistance to any inquiry into any allegation and the Supreme Court has also not reached any conclusion about veracity of all allegations and has only focussed upon investigation and due process of law.

Beyond the extreme narrative, it would be in national interest if individuals and organisations with supposedly contrary views try to understand all facets of this vexed issue devoid of political polarization and view each other with respect and attempt to find a meeting ground rather than indulge in shrieking matches on electronic and social media. It also must be understood that the Armed Forces vouch for protection of Human Rights as well as the rule of law and shall ensure that violators face (a fair) trial, but at the same time, shall also strongly stand behind their troops wrongly accused of violations due to political considerations.


Major Navdeep Singh is a practicing Advocate at the Punjab & Haryana High Court. He was the founding President of the Armed Forces Tribunal Bar Association at Chandigarh. He is a Member of the International Society for Military Law and the Law of War at Brussels. 


karunakaran a ex havildar said...

Sir all must know including the commentators those who blame for doing human rights violations. we the army people every hair of him is fastened to IPC as well as Army Act, we are not immune to judicial review,we will submit ourselves to the court for making any clarifications, an order should be promulgated that if any author criticize the performance of army people, that should be censored before being published in public domain, they should not take shelter under freedom of expression and speech, there is some limit

those who want real thing let them be employed with army in the forward area to monitor us

thank u major sahib

Sishan said...

A well reasoned and timely write up Navdeep Ji. I wish there are more such sane voices in these inflamed times. My personal experience on the social media has convinced me that there are more trolls out there than any sane voices. Majority seems to be pushing one party line or the other...sort of politicization of SM space.

Another factor is that media seems to put out blazing headlines to grab eye balls rather than mature news that go to the depth of the issue. Such headlines then become the fodder for social media to distort...as if no one has the time to read beyond the headlines in these times of information over load.

But sane heads must stay sane and not get imprisoned by their basal and partisan thought processes that may erupt from time to time. This is the main lesson for all of us. We have a responsibility to bring sanity and reasonableness into this discourse which is the foundation stone of a bubbling democracy like ours.

Major General SS Chohan (Retd)

Anonymous said...

Well written . Thank you very much Major. Wish this gets attention fromthe Media. Common man deserve to know the facts behind the judgement.
Gp Capt V Palanisamy

Anonymous said...

The views expressed by author seem to be very highly impressive. But please ask the people who have served in the North East particularly in Manipur and Nagaland and suffered heavily in terms of loss of manpower of their units and career due to insurgency. It is easy to comment on the performance of army deployed there to clean the muck created by the civil administration including politicians. Unfortunately " we learn from history that we do not learn from history" From 1990 to 1993 the Army lost five Commanding officers and a large number of Jawans in N E while operating against the insurgents. Those days one was not sure of come back alive to ones bunk in the evening. Where were the H R people and the Courts at that time? There are vested interest operating in these areas in terms of political workers, contractors and the local civil servants who want to keep the insurgency going on. Insurgency is the industry for these people . If there is no insurgency there will be no inflow of funds to these areas. If funds dry up how will they survive, how will a class three employ / local politician/ contractor will finance five of his children studying in in best of the schools/ colleges in Shillong and other big cities of India? In the year 1986 Mr Rajive Gandhi as PM had confessed that only 10% of money released by the G O I reaches Imphal. If someone belongs to the ruling political party he may be a minister or a contractor. If from opposition he is underground busy in collecting money to fight next elections and support his family. In fact most of the CAPF/ local police and some of the army units buy peace with the insurgent groups. Some may be paying money some turning their eyes other way . The people who work honestly and carryout their duty truthfully either become the target of the insurgents or of the so called HR people. It would be worth checking the background of the H R people operating in these areas. In fact the army units operate in these areas with their hands tied behind their back. I hope we all know it that all the state Govt and central govt employees posted in these areas incl the poor army jawans belonging to these areas have to dole out some percentage of their earnings to fill the coffers of the U G organisations. If they dont contribute their families will be harmed. They have no options as the local govts not competent to give protection to them and their families.

As the memories are very short so one likes to remind the people who howl at the army deployed in these areas,that between 1985 and 1995 very year CRPF convoys escorting huge cash from Moreh ( MUMBAI of manipur)to Imhal were ambushed by the so called insurgents en route to Imphal and money distributed among the stake holders proportionately. In the Year 1993 the N H Between Imphal and Moreh was completely blocked by the Insurgents for almost four months . finally, the dirty job was given to the army to clear the said NH. That what no HR in Manipur and people in Delhi remember.

We are very critical of imposing so called AFSPA in these areas. Yes! why should we do so and why should the Army be deployed to curb the insurgency created by them . I thing the state machinery is sufficient to control it, if they want.. Army should only be deployed to guard the borders where we dont need AFSPA and there would be no HR violation. When the insurgents are shielded by their supporters in civilian dress with no name tags of insurgents, certainly there would be casualties on them. .

Unknown said...

There surely is a serious problem somewhere. Why have there been so less inquiries in cases reported? If everything works out as per law, why should those who act only in best interests of the country, worry about investigations. Let there be no need to seek sanction to prosecute anyone. And this is not true of only army people working in disturbed areas. You can't prosecute any civil officer, above some certain level, without taking govt sanction. IPS officers convicted or pure murder in Gujarat are not being investigated because the govt is not giving sanction. Why should you need sanction to prosecute an MLA/MP? If those guys get protected, so should be a soldier. And if so, the civilian has a right to complain. We are all for that poor chap and he alone is thrown to the wolves.

karunakaran a ex havildar said...

major sir

self styled human rights activists they pose themselves as a savior of so called affected people, when our soldiers are killed mercilessly by the insurgents that is not human right violation , I had been in the counter insurgency operation how many soldiers are maimed and killed in the unprovoked insurgents attack. those who speak about the violation of human rights violations ask them to come with us in the theatre then only they can understand our real problem