The army and the paramilitary cannot use “excessive and retaliatory force” in Manipur, the Supreme Court said today in a significant ruling.

The court also asked for details of over 1,500 fake encounters in the northeastern state, which has seen protests for years against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act or AFSPA that gives the army sweeping emergency powers in the northeastern state.

The encounters, which allegedly took place over the last two decades, should be investigated by an independent agency, the court said.

The court said it is open to the army conducting its own inquiries into allegations of fake encounters in Manipur.

Activist Irom Sharmila, who has been on a hunger strike for over 14 years, has become the symbol of the protests in Manipur against alleged army atrocities.

AFSPA allows soldiers legal immunity when they are operating in “disturbed areas” or states dealing with separatists or insurgents. Soldiers are allowed to make arrests without warrants or raid any location.

Activists allege the law has been misused and has led to gross human rights violations.