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Botched up Oting operation: Supreme Court stays proceedings

Supreme Court

Nirendra Dev

NEW DELHI, JULY 20: It’s definitely a big setback to the Nagaland SIT that probed the infamous Oting killings.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday, July 20, stayed proceedings against 30 army personnel booked by the Nagaland police in connection with the killing of 14 civilians in Mon district in December last year in a botched up anti-insurgency operation.
The apex Court order was passed by the Bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and V Ramasubramanian.

They also ‘recorded’ or noted that the death of a paratrooper during the incident had not been investigated yet, sources said.
The Court has in fact taken cognizance of two petitions. One of which was filed by Anjali Gupta, wife of Major Ankush Gupta, who was one of the important high ranking army officers booked by the Nagaland police.
Notably, the Major had allegedly “willfully suppressed” crucial information that his team had laid ambush on a wrong route and instead knowingly directed the 30 army personnel of the sophisticated Alpha team of 21 Para Force in the wrong direction, Nagaland police sources said earlier.
On December 4, 2021, a special army unit opened fire at a pickup van ferrying Konyak coal miners to their village, reportedly mistaking them for armed insurgents. Six were killed on the spot at Oting while seven more civilians and a soldier reportedly died when angry locals clashed with the forces.
The first assault by the forces on Dec 4 was due to ‘mistaken identity’ as there were inputs of movement of insurgents from a militant group known to be based out of Myanmar, senior security officials have said last year.


  • The Supreme Court earlier in other cases had ordered that the armed forces could use only minimal force against the person/persons acting in contravention of the prohibitory orders or so.
  • “The conferment of the said power (AFSPA) on the Central Government regarding declaration of areas to be disturbed areas does not, however, result in taking over of the State administration by the Army or by other armed forces of the Union”, the highest Court had said.
  • In a different case last week, the Supreme Court blasted the Nagaland Government for delaying the implementation of 33% women’s reservation in local bodies and called such approaches “really shameful”.
  • In May this year, the Home Ministry said though on decline, insurgency-related incidents still persist and in 2020, the NSCN (IM) remained the most active group.


The petitioners have sought quashing of the concerned first information report (FIR), the findings and recommendations of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Nagaland Government, and all other ancillary proceedings arising out of the incident.

There is also a complaint filed by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and separately the army has completed its court of inquiry.
Sources said, the petitioners prayed that intelligence received by the accused was not taken cognizance of.

The petition also prayed before the Court that the SIT of Nagaland Police and State functionaries had allegedly turned a blind eye’ to the safety of the accused (army officials) and their family members by revealing their personal information.
Moreover, despite being uniformed personnel protected by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Army Act, they are being proceeded against under the Criminal Procedure Code instead.
The petitioners maintained that army personnel and officials were only “performing their bona fide duties as directed by the Union of India”.
On the other hand, the SIT so constituted to conduct a free and impartial investigation into the said incident has acted in a completely arbitrary, unilateral and illegal manner, by picking and choosing the evidence “available before it to appease the public outcry and to assuage the concerns of the chosen few”.
It was contended that the SIT attributed criminality to the accused ‘in its zest’ to conclude the probe and appease a section of society on the basis of a ‘lopsided investigation’.
It may be mentioned that Union Home Minister Amit Shah in December last year said in Parliament that he was “anguished” by the ambush blunder and promised to investigate the incident and ensure justice to the bereaved families.
The Union Government has since the 1950s tried to check militancy in the Northeast and also
in Jammu and Kashmir by using the controversial AFSPA that virtually ‘allows killings’ on mere suspicion.

In July 2021, opposition leaders had written to President Ram Nath Kovind requesting him to withdraw the AFSPA along with other “black laws” such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), the National Security Act (NSA) and the Public Safety Act (PSA)

It must be noted that the Nagaland Police in their charge-sheet have booked the Major and his 29 subordinate officers for murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code.

Other relevant clauses were applied to charge them with attempt to murder, destruction of evidence and common intention (Section 34 IPC) and criminal conspiracy.

It is rare and perhaps the first time that army men were to face such legal consequences for their roles in killing civilians during operation in the Northeast.

The Nagaland State Police has sought nod from the Department of Military Affairs to go ahead with the prosecution. After a formal request in April, a reminder was also sent for the response from the Defense Ministry.

The forces have stated that the operation was planned following inputs about movement of militants belonging to the banned National Socialist Council of Nagaland (K-YA) group.

The Nagaland Police had earlier rejected contentions of Central Forces that villagers were carrying hunting rifles and Daos.

The SIT said that 21 Para is entrusted with operations in the Northeast and they were aware of the ground scenario.

A large number of Naga people, women and students took part in a 2-day walkathon on January 10 and 11 from Dimapur to capital Kohima demanding the repeal of the ‘draconian’ AFSPA and justice for the Naga miners killed.