The Supreme Court on Friday sought responses from the Centre as well as Assam and Meghalaya governments on a plea of son of a missing mediator who was working to bring truce between the Government of India and separatist outfit United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) since 1991.
Mediator Rebati Phukan’s son has claimed that his father had gone missing on April 22 and had quoted LFA chief Paresh Baruah as saying that he may be in the custody of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) or the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) or Military Intelligence or the National Investigation Agency (NIA) as they “have a rivalry amongst them”.
A vacation bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and M M Shantanagoudar issued notice to various parties including Centre, Assam and Meghalaya after senior advocate Geeta Luthra appearing for Phukan claimed that a doctor has reportedly treated him in Meghalaya few days back.
Luthra said although the Assam chief minister have assured all possible help in finding Phukan but they do not know whether he was in captivity, as various Central agencies are involved in it.
She said it is a habeas corpus (a writ requiring a person under arrest to be brought before a court) petition filed by the son seeking direction to find his missing father.
The bench asked Luthra, “Why can’t you (Kaushik Phukan) approach the high court for relief. Why have you come to Delhi from North East. They can also do what we can do”.
Luthra said two states and various central agencies are involved in the matter.
The bench said that since two states (Assam and Meghalaya) are involved in the matter, it is issuing notice to all the parties listed as respondents.
Rebati Phukan was working as a peace negotiator between the Centre and ULFA since 1991 to facilitate a peace dialogue. The plea filed by his son sought direction to the authorities, including Assam government, to produce Phukan before the court.
He had also urged the court that the case be transferred to CBI or any other independent agency or a special investigating team as there was “a loss of faith in the local police” due to its alleged lethargic conduct.
Kaushik has said in his plea that despite the registration of an FIR, no proactive steps have been taken till date by the police to trace his father, who was appointed as a member of the erstwhile People’s Consultative Group (PCG) formed by the ULFA in 2005 to mediate between the outfit and the Centre.
“The petitioner’s father has also been working directly with the Prime Minister’s Office since 1991 for various peace missions between the Centre and ULFA to bring peace in Assam,” the plea said, adding that Rebati Phukan had also “worked in association and cooperated” with the IB till 2016 on various missions in India, Myanmar, Bangladesh and China.
The plea said that after he went missing, Kaushik got to know from a high-ranking official of the IB that his father was closely associated with the intelligence body.
It claimed they have come to know that on April 20, Rebati Phukan had attended a “secret meeting” with a retired bureaucrat and an advocate practising in the Assam High Court, during which a “proposal memorandum to negotiate with Paresh Baruah, ULFA chief, was being discussed and the same was to be presented before Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi soon”.
The petitioner has said that his father went for morning walk on April 22 but did not return to his rented house, after which the landlord called Kaushik about it and a complaint was filed at a police station in Guwahati.
The plea said that on April 25, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal had directed the Director General of Police to immediately conduct an inquiry in the matter and a special team was formed.
The petitioner also claimed that on May 4, a CRPF doctor had messaged a journalist that Rebati Phukan was treated by him at a CRPF camp in Shillong and he was safe and sound.
It referred to recent media reports in which ULFA chief Paresh Baruah had said that Rebati Phukan was negotiating a “fresh proposal for Baruah’s faction with the Centre with help from the interlocutor with the Naga outfit National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah), R N Ravi”.
“Baruah further made a statement stating that the petitioner’s father might be in custody of either Intelligence Bureau, Research and Analysis Wing, Military Intelligence or National Investigating Agency as they have a rivalry amongst them,” the plea said.