The Supreme Court on Thursday expressed serious concern at fake encounter killings in Manipur, which included children, and suggested to the Union government that it form a special investigation team to probe such killings.

A Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Desai, after perusing the affidavits filed by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the Centre, the Manipur government and the report of a judicial officer, said at least certain cases “required further probe.”

Justice Alam told the amicus curiae, who sought a CBI probe into the killings: “What will the CBI do? They will take years and years. By that time everything will be forgotten. Why should there not be a proper investigation? There is something more than what meets the eye. So many encounters took place. Situation is not normal. We are concerned about the failure of constitutional scheme.”

Counsel for the NHRC said it would not be possible for a special investigation team to conduct such a probe in such large number of cases.

The Bench, after hearing a writ petition filed by the Extra-Judicial Execution Victims Families Association for a probe into over 1,500 fake encounters, issued the notice to the Centre, the NHRC and Manipur.

Justice Alam told counsel, “It is a very serious matter. How can a 12-year-old child be abducted and killed in such a fashion? Even if he is a 12-year-old militant, there is no justification for such a killing… [and] the district judge inquiry has confirmed that they were fake encounters.”

In its counter argument, the Centre said that exempting Manipur from the Armed Forces Special Powers Act would call for an indirect amendment that would be totally unjustified and demoralise the armed forces and hamper their functioning. These personnel were already risking their lives while dealing with heavily armed militants and, therefore, it was of utmost importance that sanction for prosecution was available to them.

The Centre said, “If normalcy prevails in Manipur, there will be no need for deployment of central forces. The petitioner is blaming only the government and the security forces and is not making any adverse comments on the anti-national forces operating in the State. The petitioner can do well to instil good sense in those unlawful outfits by enlisting them to join the mainstream of national life after laying down arms and get financial packages offered by the central government.” Arguments will continue on January 4.