What if SPOs turn against the State, asks SC

New Delhi: Chhattisgarh government on Tuesday faced a tough time defending its policy to counter Naxals by arming tribals as Special Police Officers (SPOs) before the Supreme Court which said a “dangerous” situation would arise if they turned against the state.

“You are playing with the so called SPOs. What will happen if they turn against the State. God save this country,” a bench comprising Justices B. Sudershan Reddy and S.S. Nijjar said.

“You think they are effective in fight against the Naxals. You say SPOs are part of the strategy and recruited initially for three months. If they turned against the State, think how dangerous they would be,” the bench observed.

The remarks were made by the bench which was perusing the latest affidavit filed by the Chhattisgarh Government giving details about the rules and regulations under which the SPOs are appointed to counter Maoists in the State.

The court was hearing a petition against the existence of Salwa Judum in Naxal-hit regions of the state to fight the Maoists.

The petition was 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 Salwa Judum.

The court was perturbed that for the appointment of SPOs, the minimum educational qualification was schooling of the candidate till class V which was considered good enough by the State to provide them arms training and make them acquainted with the knowledge of penal laws.

“As far as the educational qualification is concerned although the Indian Police Act, 1861 and the Chhattisgarh Police Act, 2007 do not prescribe any qualification criteria, preference is given to those who have passed fifth standard.

“Persons aged over 18 years who are physically and mentally fit, well aware of the geography of the area are appointed as Special Police Officers,” the affidavit said, elaborating the guidelines regarding the appointment of SPOs.

The affidavit filed through advocate Atul Jha said the SPOs are given training for two months in musketry, weapon handling, first aid and medical care, field and craft, drill, UAC and Yoga training.

Apart from the above, the basic elementary knowledge of the following subjects have also been included in the training curriculum of SPOs such as Law, Police Regulation & Police Act, Human Right and other provision of Indian Constitution, use of scientific & forensic aids in policing, Community policing, Culture and customs of Bastar.

The Chhatiisgarh Government said the SPOs have excelled in performing police duties and in operations they are of immense help in their role as guide, translators, spotters and on certain occasions they have saved the lives of regular troops while preventing more than dozen Maoists attacks on relief camps & helped security force in anti-naxal operations.

The SPOs form an integral part of the overall security apparatus in the naxal affected districts of the State” the affidavit said, adding that many SPOs (700) have been recruited as constables if they passed the recruitment tests and some have also joined Home Guards.

The affidavit said the Second Administrative Reforms Commission under the Chairmanship of M. Veerappa Moily stressed the need, role & utility of employing local people as SPOs.