The Supreme Court on Tuesday slammed the Chhattisgarh government for furnishing 'vague' information about measures taken by it to tackle the Maoist menace and said it was 'holding a brief' for Salwa Judum, an anti-Naxal vigilante group.
"The affidavit (by the state government) does not give full particulars about the steps taken by it and the information furnished is totally vague," a bench comprising Justices B Sudershan Reddy and S S Nijjar said.
"We accordingly direct the Chattisgarh government to file a proper and comprehensive affidavit on points discussed in the court," the bench said while perusing the affidavit filed by the state government.
The Chhattisgarh government has filed the affidavit in response to the apex court's posers to it on August 11 as to the steps taken by it to tackle the Naxal menace and its stand on disbanding Salwa Judum.
"We have gone through your affidavit. Either you want to suppress or hold something," the bench said, adding that the Chhattisgarh government has not stated anything about the Salwa Judum in the affidavit.
"Nowhere have you stated about the Salwa Judum that you will not support it. You have only said that it is a spontaneous peoples' revolution," it said.
The bench was critical of the tone and tenor of the affidavit and observed, "It appears that you are holding the brief for them (Salwa Judum)."
The apex court also expressed its displeasure over the state government's failure to mention the number of cases registered against the Salwa Judum, which has been accused of human rights violation in Maoist-hit tribal districts of the state.
"You very conveniently do not say anything in the affidavit. Don't invite adverse comments. We are not in a habit of making adverse comments," the bench said. The bench said it was not satisfied with the affidavit, particularly in reference to the occupation of schools and ashrams by the central forces.
The bench said that the state government was 'evasive' on it and it has not stated as to how many schools and ashrams have been vacated from the occupation of the central forces.
The bench also said if the Chhattisgarh government was facing any problems, it should be stated before this court. The court, which heard Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium on behalf of the Centre, told the state government that it should have followed the things done by the Centre.
While the bench was expressing its displeasure over the state government's affidavit, Subramanium intervened and said he will discuss the issue with the state government's counsels and officers and will file a comprehensive affidavit.
The bench granted six weeks time to the Chhattisgarh government to file a reasonable affidavit. Advocate Manish Singhvi and Atul Jha, appearing for the Chhattisgarh government, promised that the state will come out with a better affidavit. Earlier, Subramanium apprised the bench about the steps taken by the Centre in coordination with the state government for the relief and rehabilitation of tribals.
He said that the camps have been established for the affected people and forces are gradually leaving the schools and ashrams. Further, Subramanium said that the ten flagship schemes of the Planning Commission for electrification, empowerment of tribal women, education for children and providing basic amenities to tribals have been implemented.
On the issue of investigation of criminal cases raised by the court, the SG said attempts have been made but there are some difficulties being faced by authorities as large parts of the affected areas are under the siege of Maoists.
Further, conditions have to be made conducive for taking back tribals to their villages as large portions are covered by landmines. He said that the local administration was coordinating with the affected people for the restoration of their land.
The SG said that there was no outright solution possible for the problem and it has to be done keeping in view the future and every effort is being made in this regard, keeping in mind the tribals' culture as they have umbilical connection with the forest area.
He said the home minister held discussions with the Planning Commission officials to bring the tribals back to the mainstream. The state government had during the previous hearings maintained that Salwa Judum was dying out.
During the hearing on August 11, the bench had specifically asked the state government whether schools and ashrams in Maoist-affected areas were still being used for stationing paramilitary forces as alleged by rights activists.
The Chhattisgarh government was also asked to respond about the steps taken by it on the FIRs registered on the basis of the report of NHRC pointing out human rights violations by the members of Salwa Judum.
The apex court had directed the state to spell out the measures taken and also elaborate whether or not it has considered suggestions of the Planning Commission and rights activists who have approached the apex court.
The need for setting up a committee of eminent persons to monitor the action of the authorities in Naxal-hit areas is also a bone of contention between the state government and the activists. Faced with objections by both the Chhattisgarh government and activists to each others' list of names to be included in the committee, the bench had sought to know from the state whether a way could be worked out by including the names proposed from both sides.
Earlier, on February 18, the Chhattisgarh government had refuted allegations that it has appointed minors as Special Police Officers or has armed the civilians in its fight against Naxals.
The bench was hearing the PILs, filed by sociologist Nandini Sundar, historian Ramchandra Guha, former bureaucrat E A S Sarma and others, seeking a direction to the state government to refrain from allegedly supporting and encouraging Salwa Judum.
They had alleged the conditions in Salwa Judum camps were bad and people involved in the movement should be allowed to go back to forests during the sowing season. Earlier last year, an Action Taken Report was filed by the Chhattisgarh government on the recommendations made by the National Human Rights Commission in its report.
The NHRC had probed the alleged human rights violation by Salwa Judum activists in Chhattisgarh and had pointed to incidents of burning and killing, on which FIRs were not registered and cases of high-handedness by the Special Police Officers and civilians armed with weapons to fight Naxals.
It had inquired into alleged human rights violations by activists of Salwa Judum in Chhattisgarh even as the Centre had approved the state government's stand. The NHRC report had said there were some instances of violence which required a probe by an independent agency.
The Centre has maintained that the ground situation in Naxal-hit areas was alarming and political considerations have to be kept at bay to fight Naxalites. The Centre had earlier also placed before the bench documents in a sealed cover on Naxalite activities to buttress its point that tackling Left-wing extremism with an iron hand was the need of the hour.