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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday, July 14, imposed a fine of Rs 5 lakh and ordered the Chhattisgarh government to act against an activist for “criminal conspiracy” while delivering its verdict on a petition he moved in 2009 after alleged extra-judicial killings of tribals carried out security forces in the state.
A division bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and J.B. Pardiwala ruled against the petition moved by Himanshu Kumar and 12 others who alleged that security forces had shot down over 10 tribals from the Dantewada district in anti-Naxal operations in 2009. The petitioners sought the court to order the government to offer compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the kin of the deceased.
The court, however, dismissed the allegations by petitioners, describing them as “false charges”. It also instructed the Chhattisgarh government to act against the petitioners not only for “false charges”, under Section 211 (false charge of offence made with intent to injure) of the Indian Penal Code, but also for “criminal conspiracy”.
The judges concurred with the Union government’s response to the petitioners that the said killings of tribals were indeed carried out by Naxals not security forces as being claimed. The government, represented by solicitor general Tushar Mehta, added that the petitioners had attempted to falsely depict executions carried out by left-wing extremists by security forces.
Although the court rejected the plea by the government to initiate perjury proceedings against the main petitioner, Himanshu Kumar, it ordered him to deposit Rs 5 lakh with Supreme Court Legal Services Committee within four weeks. It said in the event of Kumar failing to deposit the said amount instructions would be given to authorities concerned to recover the same.
The court said the Chhattisgarh government can use its discretion to proceed against Kumar and other petitioners, whom it said were making “false charges” against the police based on a “criminal conspiracy”.
“We leave it to the State of Chhattisgarh to take apt steps in accordance with law as discussed above with reference to the assertions in the interim application. We clarify that it would not only be limited to the offence of S.211 of the IPC. A case of conspiracy or any other offence may also surface. We have not expressed any final opinion. We leave it to the better discretion of the State. We are not proceedings further with perjury but leave it to the State to take an apt step. It could be prosecution under S211 or any other other that may surface ultimately,” Justice Pardiwala read out the operative portion of the order, according to Livelaw.
Earlier, the Union government in its plea urged the court to let a Union government investigative agency probe into the matter stating that “conspiracy” may have “inter-state ramifications”. To this the judges said, they will decide on the request in their final order copy. The final order copy is yet to be available.
The Union government had earlier described petitioners as “motivated individuals” with an intention to “protect” left-wing extremists.
“The victims of abuse and atrocities inflicted by unscrupulous Left Wing Extremists are being misguided by some motivated individuals to provide legal protection to the Left Wing Extremists by obtaining protective orders from this Hon’ble court through fraudulent and deceitful machinations,” Livelaw quoted Mehta as saying in his application before the court.
The solicitor general had further told the court that the state police had already filed a first information report (FIR) and charge sheet into the 2009 killings. He had also said that Kumar was the director of Vanavasi Chetna Ashram, whose Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act [FCRA] license was suspended for failing to account for foreign contributions.
On his part, advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioners, urged the court to order an independent investigation into the matter either by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or the National Investigation Agency (NIA).