New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday said the army cannot use excessive force in its counter-insurgency operations in areas declared disturbed under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. The court held that criminal courts do have the jurisdiction to look into cases of alleged excesses by the armed forces in areas declared disturbed. A bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit, however, reserved its verdict on the question of ordering a probe by a special investigation team (SIT) into more than 1,500 cases of allegedly staged shootouts in Manipur. The ruling is a setback to the Centre and the army which had argued that the Army Act gives immunity to armed forces personnel from being prosecuted by criminal courts. The court verdict came on a petition by the associations of the families of the people who were allegedly killed by the armed forces in Manipur since 1978. The petitioner associations had sought an SIT probe into 1528 such killings. The court, taking note of the submission by the National Human Rights Commission that it was a toothless body, sought the government's response as to whether it was bound by the recommendations that the rights body makes. The court said that it will examine the issue.