It is not every day that you would hear a Supreme Court judge delve into examining the nuances of vital questions related to armed conflicts within India and even raising concerns such as, “We have problems in the North East in terms of insurgent activities…” and stating, “Recent data shows that 80% of all casualities in armed conflicts are civilians, not soldiers, which means that not necessarily soldiers are getting hit in armed conflicts as much as ordinary people are.”
Justice Madan B. Lokur, a known scholar and a Supreme Court Judge, pointed out the existence of some apparent legal anomalies in defining armed conflicts, the nuances of which the learned Judge examined in the context of current national and international crises.
Speaking at a function hosted by the International Human Rights Society in New Delhi, Justice Madan B. Lokur stated, “We have problems in the North East – there are insurgent activities, the presence of Maoists is reported in the heartland of India and known to be spreading fast. Now when we look at the definition, we see that we have a huge problem of defining armed conflicts.”
Justice Lokur stated, “There are two kinds of armed conflicts, one is non-international armed conflict and armed rebellion respectively. Non-international armed conflicts is defined as a conflict between two or more armed groups. But this is a loose definition which raises questions. For instance, what is the threshold of confrontation? Armed rebellion is recognized as an internal disturbance. Now look at it more closely – are we looking at armed rebellion as non-international armed conflict?”
He further asked, “What about movements that are not Cessationist? Or is it to be considered as insurgency or a rebellion? What about the intensity of violence – it could be local, for instance, in Manipur, you may have read about the killing of armed force personnel or mass killing?”
Mr. P.H.Parekh, Secretary General and Founder Member, International Human Rights Society in New Delhi hailed the exhaustive discussion saying, “Now we have all heard a thesis on the definition of armed conflict from a scholarly point of view.”
Rare as this discussion sounds, Justice Madan B. Lokur rightly highlights the legal anomalies in tackling problems relating to armed conflict and given that the nature of armed conflicts that are shaping up locally and at a national level are turning increasingly complex.