New Delhi, The Supreme Court today directed the CBI to file final reports in four cases of alleged extra-judicial killings and fake encounters by the Army, Assam Rifles and police in Manipur by July 27, saying violation of human rights cannot be tolerated. The apex court said what had happened in Manipur appeared to be “widespread” and the issue must be given “far more importance” as people have lost their lives.
A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and U U Lalit issued the direction after the CBI’s special investigating team (SIT) told the court that they have completed investigation in four cases and final reports were in the process of being finalised.”There are two things. We are not talking about violation of human rights only. We are talking about deaths. Death could be murder or could not be murder. This has to be given far more importance than violation of human rights,” the top court said.”What has happened here, it appears to be widespread,” the bench said, adding, “violation of human rights cannot be tolerated”.
The bench also directed two officers of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Senior Superintendent of Police Mahesh Bhardwaj and Deputy Superintendent of Police Ravi Singh, to be made members of the SIT which would probe the remaining encounter cases. It said these two officers “are co-opted to be a part of the SIT and will be entitled to access all record including the investigation reports”.
The court, which is hearing a PIL seeking a probe into as many as 1,528 cases of extra-judicial killings in Manipur, had on July 14 last year constituted the SIT and ordered lodging of FIRs and probe into the cases of alleged extra-judicial killings in Manipur. During the hearing, the bench also expressed its concern over the lack of adequate staff in NHRC and observed that the commission was “hopelessly overworked”.
It asked Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Maninder Singh, appearing for the SIT, to urgently take up with the Centre the matter relating to lack of adequate staff in NHRC so that functioning of the commission is not affected.”We request the ASG to take up the matter which some urgency with the concerned ministry of the Union of India so as to ensure that human rights are put on the pedestal and working of NHRC does not suffer due to crunch of manpower and financial resources,” it said.
The court also observed that the number of incidents and the victims mentioned in its July 14 last year’s order, were quite different from the figures given in the order of March this year, which reflected a reduction on both these counts. It said that for the purpose of clarity, there should be clear identification of the incidents and number of victims The court asked the ASG to file a written statement in this regard so that it could be shared with the NHRC, as well as the counsel appearing for the petitioner.
It also sought a response from the SIT on an application filed by the petitioner regarding four diaries, which as per their claim contained details of 100 more such encounters in Manipur, and posted the matter for hearing on July 27. The ASG said the CBI had “no hesitation” if NHRC officers are associated with the SIT, but they have reservations regarding sharing the draft final report and the materials collected during the probe in four cases, in which investigation is over now.
Referring to an earlier verdict of the apex court, he said the court had decided that final reports cannot be shared with anyone before it was filed in the competent court. He also said that within two months, probe in another 20 cases was likely to be over and as of today, the SIT was probing 41 cases. Regarding the court’s query about reduction in the number of incidents and victims, he said the SIT has explained it in their status reports filed in the apex court.
The court had earlier provided a four-point blueprint to the SIT and asked it to expedite investigation in these cases which had come under the scanner of the NHRC, the Gauhati High Court as well as some commissions of inquiry. It had in January pulled up the SIT for not registering the required number of FIRs as directed by it earlier.