March 20, 2018

Manipur rights activists welcome SC order to probe staged gunfights

15 July 2017, 02:25 | Taylor George

SC orders CBI probe into over 250 cases of extra-judicial killings in Manipur

Supreme Court of India. Credit PTI

The Supreme Court on Friday ordered a probe led by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into several cases of alleged extra-judicial killings of civilians by security personnel and police in Manipur.

The apex court delivered its judgment on a petition filed by the Extra-Judicial Execution Victims' Families Association (EVAM), comprising of wives and mothers of people allegedly killed in fake encounters by security forces in Manipur.

The Supreme Court also made a decision to monitor the CBI Investigation.

A bench headed by justice Madan B. Lokur directed the agency to nominate a team for the probe and inform the court within two weeks. The Army, Assam Rifles and the Manipur Police are accused of fake encounter killings in 1,528 cases from 2000 to 2012 in the insurgency-hit state.

Based on a PIL, the SC in 2016 had directed a thorough probe into the alleged killings, observing that the use of "excessive or retaliatory force" by the armed forces or police was not permissible in "disturbed areas" under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA).

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The Army had claimed that making them liable for criminal prosecution for acting at the spur of the moment in risky situations in disturbed areas like Manipur, where various militant groups were operating and where armed forces personnel often face do-or-die situations, could make it virtually impossible to provide effective security and maintain integrity of India.

"CBI will look into these cases of deaths", the court said. It had directed that the Indian Army and other paramilitary forces can not use "excessive and retaliatory force" in Manipur and all such allegations of excessive force must be probed.

On the submission that there were local pressures and the ground level situation was such that it would not be surprising if the inquiries were biased in favour of the citizens and against the state, the bench said, "If there had been a break-down of the rule of law in the state of Manipur, surely the government of India was under an obligation to take appropriate steps". The groups often target Indian armed forces in the state. "Merely because the State has not taken any action and has allowed time to go by, it can not take advantage of the delay to scuttle an inquiry", the court said.

The Supreme Court dismissed the central government's contention that older cases should not be investigated because of the passage of time, stating: " Merely because the State has not taken any action and has allowed time to go by, it can not take advantage of the delay to scuttle an inquiry".

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