Supreme Court allows Centre to withdraw forces from trouble-hit Darjeeling

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday allowed the Centre to withdraw seven companies of the central police forces stationed in the restive Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts of West Bengal to be deployed in poll-bound States.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra suggested that the Centre agree, as an interim measure, to withdraw seven companies of the central police forces, from the two districts while eight of the total 15 deployed there stay back to protect the life of citizens.

The government agreed to the court’s suggestion.

The districts had witnessed a spate of violence following the resurgence of the Gorkhaland movement.

Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, appearing for the Centre, said the situation is relatively calm now and it needed personnel for the upcoming elections.

“It takes a long time for the movement of these troops,” Mr. Singh conveyed.

The Centre had appealed the Supreme Court against a recent Calcutta High Court order restraining it from withdrawing any troops deployed in the two districts.

“If all 24 high courts start dictating to us where and where not to deploy troops there will be utter confusion. Deployment of troops is the executive’s exclusive domain,” Mr. Singh said.

Chief Justice Misra stayed the proceedings in the Calcutta High Court and recorded that the Supreme Court will comprehensively hear the issue.

The Chief Justice observed that the apex court would decide on – one, whether courts can intervene in the placement of troops and, two, can the courts intervene with the government in the placement of forces in order to protect the life of citizens.

“We have to strike a balance between the two… there has to be some kind of arrangement. There is some problem in Darjeeling and Kalimpong. Steps have to be taken to protect the life of citizens. Citizens are at the zenith of our pyramid,” Chief Justice Misra observed.

Turning to the West Bengal government, the apex court said “law and order is your problem”.

“Peace must remain. Citizens must be responsible,” Chief Justice Misra addressed the State government represented by senior advocate Rajesh Dwivedi.

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