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The Supreme Court Friday said its earlier order directing the central and state governments to “cease and desist” from recruiting and deploying the Special Police Officers (SPOs) in operations against Maoists or against internal terror was restricted to Chhattisgarh only.

A bench of Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice S.S. Nijjar said the order of July 5, 2011, pronounced by the bench of Justice B. Sudarshan Reddy (since retired) and Justice Nijjar was only in respect of Chhatisgarh and was not applicable to other States that have recruited SPOs. 

The apex court said this after the central government moved an application asking the apex court to clarify or modify its order as it would “hamper” internal security measures in other states and lead to “chaos”.

Appearing for the central government, Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman told the court that besides Chhattisgarh, other states including Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, the northeastern states and Jammu and Kashmir also have SPOs.

Nariman told the court that it should be clarified that July 5 order holds good only in respect of Chhatisgarh.

As Nariman made the plea, Chhatisgarh’s senior counsel Harish Salve told the court that it could not be treated on different footing as it too had security related problems in the wake of left extremist violence by Maoists.

Salve told the court that Chhatisgarh government had since passed a law, which would ensure that the SPOs were not placed in the front-lines of any war against the Maoists.

Nariman, however, admitted that there was no statutory provision under which SPOs could be recruited.

Referring to the criticism of the central government in the July 5 judgment of the apex court, Nariman said it could not have done much without infringing upon the jurisdictions of the states provided under constitution.

Senior counsel Ashok Desai, appearing for petitioners Prof Nandini Sundar and Ramachandra Guha on whose plea the July 5, 2011, judgment came, however, resisted any attempt to change the reasons behind the order but conceded that the court order could be modified restricting its operation to Chhattisgarh.

The July 5 order was challenged by the central government seeking its clarification or modification. However, because of the split verdict between Justice Kabir and Justice Nijjar, it was referred to a larger bench.

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