SC panel to inquire into Manipur encounter killings

The Supreme Court on Friday decided to appoint a commission to hold an inquiry into the fake encounter killings in Manipur.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday decided to appoint a commission comprising former apex court judge Santosh Hegde, former CEC J M Lyngdoh and a senior police officer to hold an inquiry into the fake encounter killings in Manipur.

A bench of justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai, however, said it would pass the formal order on Monday after getting assents from Hegde and Lyngdoh.

The commission will be holding enquiry in six cases where the magisterial inquiry raised question on the genuineness of the encounter and security forces had "unlawfully" killed people including a 12-year-old boy.

The court was hearing a PIL by an association of the families of the alleged victims, pleading with the apex court to set up a special investigation team and direct inquiry into around 1528 such cases.

The association said in all, over 2000 odd extra-judicial killings have taken place in the state, but no one has been held guilty till date.

It alleged innocent people with no criminal records have been killed by security forces and no proper investigation has been done in such cases.

The apex court while deciding to form the commission said, "Magisterial inquiry does not inspire confidence as it is not satisfactory and none, including the army personnel appeared before it."

It, however, turned down the plea for SIT investigation.

"We do not want that but there is a need for independent inquiry by the persons of impeccable integrity and credibility," the bench said adding that National Human Rights Commission has also complained about the violations of its guidelines in such cases.

It also refused to go into the legality of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act which grants special powers to the Armed Forces in disturbed areas.

"At the moment we do not have to go into the AFSPA. It is a complex issue. You do not have to rush. This is not the end of the matter. We have just begun. We have to go a long way," the bench told the petitioner.

The petitioner in its plea contended that there has been no criminal investigations and prosecutions of the guilty in such encounter cases and even departmental enquiries were not conducted and no policemen or personnel of the security forces were punished departmentally for their actions.

"The magisterial enquiries that took place sometimes were conducted by the executive magistrates under the cover of secrecy and most often without intimation to the eyewitnesses and the members of the families. They were conducted as an eyewash," the petition said.

The apex court had earlier on July 4 agreed to hear a similar plea for probe into the alleged extra-judicial killings by BSF in the West Bengal border area.

In that case, petitioner Bangla Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha, a Kolkata-based NGO had alleged that there are more than 200 cases where the BSF personnel indulged in extra- judicial killings and torture in the border area and those cases were never probed by the state police.

The NGO had alleged that instead of registering FIR against the BSF personnel, it is registered against the deceased and the case is closed on that basis.