The Supreme Court of India Thursday dismissed a writ petition seeking an independent investigation into alleged extra-judicial killings of tribal people in villages in Chhattisgarh state.
The writ petition, filed in 2009, alleged that state security forces, including the Chhattisgarh Police and paramilitary forces, were responsible for the deaths of villagers during anti-Naxalite operations that took place in September 2009 and October 2009 in the area. Naxalites are insurgent and separatist communist groups that were active in Chhattisgarh state.
Himanshu Kumar, who was running a non-governmental organization for tribal persons, and 12 others who were relatives of the deceased villagers filed the writ petition.
The petitioners had sought an independent investigation by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or the National Investigation Agency (NIA). While rejecting the petition, the court observed that these agencies had already investigated the villagers’ deaths and had filed charges in different Chattisgarh courts for offenses including murder and banditry under the Indian Penal Code. These charges were against members of Naxalite groups, clearly making them responsible for the alleged killings.
The court noted that a Delhi lower court judge recorded statements of the petitioners who were related to the deceased in 2010. Those statements revealed that the insurgent groups attacked the villagers, not state security forces. The court stated that the petitioners should have taken up objections to how the lower court judge recorded the statements in 2010.
Further the court added that the persons charged by the investigating agencies were absconding, and it was for the trial court to decide on the charges after their arrest.
The Indian Government, which opposed the petition, also sought perjury charges against the petitioners for false charges against the state security forces. The Supreme Court left it to the Chhattisgarh state government to decide on the perjury charge and other charges like criminal conspiracy. It also imposed costs of 500,000 rupees, more than 6,000 US dollars, on Kumar.