Responding to the Supreme Court’s order directing a CBI probe into the alleged extra-judicial killings by police and security force personnel in Manipur, Programmes Manager at Amnesty International India Arijit Sen said action should be taken against the suspects, including officials, when sufficient evidence is gathered.
“The Supreme Court has offered a hope of justice for the many families in Manipur who have lost their loved ones in fake encounters. There can be no room for impunity for such crimes. Where sufficient evidence is found in the investigations, those suspected, including those with command responsibility, must be prosecuted.”
Sen further said that such a ruling should serve as an example in all investigations and prosecutions involving violation of rights by the security forces where Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA) is in force.
“This ruling must set a precedent for independent civilian investigations and prosecutions into all allegations of rights violations by security forces in areas where the AFSPA is in force. The families of those killed in Manipur have waited far too long for justice. That wait must end now,” he said.
The apex court pulled up the central government on their contention to not investigate older cases due to passage of time. A bench of Justices MB Lokur and UU Lalit stated, “Merely because the State has not taken any action and has allowed time to go by, it cannot take advantage of the delay to scuttle an inquiry.”
The Centre also contended that in case where compensation had been paid to the victims, such cases did not require investigation. The Supreme Court observed that mere payment of compensation cannot “override the law of the land” and explained how the amount of compensation is valuable to the next kin of the victim.
The court noted, “Compensation has been awarded to the next of kin for the agony they have suffered and to enable them to immediately tide over their loss and for their rehabilitation. This cannot override the law of the land, otherwise all heinous crimes would get settled through payment of monetary compensation.”
Calling the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) as a “toothless tiger,” the court said that NHRC lacked resources to function effectively and its directions were frequently ignored.
The 12-year-long case came into court in the form of a public interest litigation (PIL) in 2000, seeking probe and compensation in the alleged 1,528 extra-judicial executions in Manipur done by the security forces and personnel. The bench decided to hear the 250 case under four heads – commission of inquiry (having 35 matters), judicial inquiry or high court matters (having 37 matters), National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) cases (having 23 matters) and cases based on written complaints (having 170 matters).