Centre assures Bench that it will come out with dos and don’ts for security forces

The Centre on Tuesday informed the Supreme Court that the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would take a decision on the expert committee report holding that seven persons were killed in Manipur in fake encounters in six cases.

Additional Solicitor General Paras Kuhad submitted this before a Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ms. Ranjana Desai hearing a public interest writ petition highlighting how mass killings had taken place in the last decade. The committee comprised the former Supreme Court judge, Justice N. Santosh Hegde, the former Chief Election Commissioner, J.M. Lyngdoh, and the former DGP of Karnataka, Ajay Kumar Singh.

Justice Alam told counsel: “We can’t tell you how sorrowful we are. What is the use of sitting here? Everything appears meaningless.” The committee, in its report, said six cases of encounters resulting in the killing of seven persons were fake and the victims did not have any criminal background. The committee also reportedly recommended withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA).

‘No respect for human lives’

The Centre also assured the court that it would come out with “dos and don’ts for the security forces” and sought four weeks for responding to the report. When senior counsel V. Giri, appearing for the Manipur government, wanted the court to lay down guidelines on this issue, the Bench observed: “How many times this court laid down guidelines. Tragedy is guidelines are not followed. We want to proceed further and these things should not happen in future. These deaths reveal a pattern of carelessness. No respect for human lives.”

The Bench said, “Security forces are also human beings, away from family. They also get brutalised. These people are also young and in the midst of violence. They also don’t lead a normal life.”

NHRC suggestion

In its response to the committee’s report, the NHRC said: “To ensure that all such incidents in the future are thoroughly investigated, irrespective of whether they involve the Army, the paramilitary or the police, or are joint operations of these forces, the Government of Manipur must follow the NHRC guidelines on the steps to be taken after encounters.”

Detailed enquiries

The steps are: reporting these incidents within 48 hours to the NHRC and holding magisterial inquiries within three months. These enquiries should not be perfunctory, as they presently are.

The magistrate must inter alia closely examine all reports, including of post mortem, inspect the site and take statements from the families of the victims; the CBCID should inquire into each incident within two months.

“In every instance where the nature of the incident warrants it, the Government of Manipur should appoint a Commission of Inquiry headed by a judge. It must accept the findings and act on the recommendations of these commissions, instead of burying them, which is its current practice. The constitution of such a Commission of Inquiry must immediately be reported to the NHRC, and the report sent to it as soon as it has been tabled in the Legislative Assembly.”

The Bench adjourned the hearing by four weeks.