The Supreme Court on Monday said the issue of alleged fake encounters in Manipur involved “life and death of people” and asked the CBI Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the cases to expedite investigation and filing of chargesheets.
CBI Director Alok Kumar Verma, who appeared in court on Monday after being summoned over the delay in investigation, told a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and U U Lalit that the SIT filed two chargesheets on Monday and it would file five more final reports before August-end.
There were 14 accused in the two chargesheets and they were charged under section 302 (murder) read with 120B (criminal conspiracy) and section 201 (Destruction of evidence) of IPC, said Verma.
Verma submitted that probe into 20 more encounter cases would be completed by December-end after which investigation into 14 more cases would be taken up.
The court, meanwhile, asked him if any of the accused had been arrested.
Verma answered in the negative, prompting the court to ask, “Why? Is there any reason? It means those who are murderers according to you are roaming free.”
Verma replied that arrests were not made because of peculiarity of the cases which go back as many as 30 years and also because there was nothing to be recovered from the accused. “All the accused have been chargesheeted based on circumstantial evidence.”
“Which means you have left it to the court to decide on them?” the bench asked. Verma said he would look into matter again. The court posted the matter for further hearing on August 20.
On the delay, the Centre had earlier told the court that every case had to pass through at least seven layers of officers as per CBI Manual. But on Monday, the court went through the Manual and found this could effectively be reduced to two in this case.
Attorney General K K Venugopal said, “I agree that this (probe) has to be done expeditiously… Chargesheets have been filed in two cases this morning. Another two final reports would be filed within this week.”
The bench then told Venugopal, “FIRs were filed by the CBI against those who had died or who were victims in these cases.”
When Venugopal termed it “unbelievable”, the bench said, “It is unbelievable but it has happened”.
“We are dealing with life and death of people,” the bench said and referred to cases of commission of inquiry, judicial inquiry and those dealt with by the High Court, cases of National Human Rights Commission and those adjudicated by the Justice (retd) Santosh Hegde Commission. The bench said materials were available in these cases and questioned why SIT was taking so much time in completing the probe.
“We are equally concerned with death and loss of life,” the CBI director said, adding, “The Supreme Court has reposed faith on us and given us the investigation. We ensure that investigation would be done fairly.”