The Supreme Court on Tuesday restrained the Chhattisgarh government and the Centre from appointing tribals as Special Police Officers (SPOs) and arming them to counter Maoists, terming the step as “unconstitutional“.
The court also ordered a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the attack on social activist Swami Agnivesh during his visit to Maoist-hit Chhattisgarh in March.
“We direct the CBI to take over the investigation into series of violence and attack unleashed on Swami Agnivesh and his companions,” a bench comprising justices B. Sudershan Reddy and S.S. Nijjar said.
Asking the Chhattisgarh government and the Centre to desist from appointing the tribals as SPOs and arming them for countering the Naxals in any manner directly or indirectly, the court said the appointment of tribal youths as SPOs is “unconstitutional“.
The bench said that the eligibility criteria including the educational qualification and training of the tribals to combat Maoists goes against the Constitution.
It said that creation of Koya Commandos and Salwa Judum was in violation of the Constitution.
The SPOs have been given the name Koya Commandos after that of a tribe in the Dantewada region.
The issue of SPOs has arisen during the hearing of a petition against existence of Salwa Judum (vigilante groups) in the State to fight Maoists.
The petition was filed by sociologist Nandini Sundar, historian Ramachandra Guha, former bureaucrat E.A.S. Sarma and others seeking a direction to the State government to refrain from allegedly supporting Salwa Judum.
The issue of attack on Swami Agnivesh was brought before the court in the month of April this year.
Earlier, Swami Agnivesh had said that Salwa Judum was still active and the Chief Minister was indulging in doublespeak as no FIR has been lodged against any of its members as per the recommendation of the National Human Rights Commission.