The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Army why it chose to maintain silence despite Commissions of Inquiry set up by the Manipur government over alleged rape and murder against its personnel in Manipur during insurgency.
A Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and U.U. Lalit highlighted the case of murder of Thangjam Manorama, a Manipuri girl, in 2004. The judicial inquiry report into the case alleged she had suffered “brutal and merciless torture” by a 17 Assam Rifles team.
“You know that the Manorama case gained so much attention that the State authorities set up a Commission of Inquiry. Yet you chose to remain silent,” Justice Lalit told the Army counsel.
Rebutting the Army's submissions that an internal enquiry into the Manorama incident had revealed some “violations of laid-down procedures”, Justice Lokur asked why the Army agreed to pay ₹10 lakh compensation, as ordered by the Supreme Court, for a mere violation of procedure.
‘Not averse to enquiry’
The Army counsel submitted that the operation conducted in the Manorama incident was based on reliable intelligence and the Army “is not averse to an enquiry by a high-ranking officer.” Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi, who joined in the hearing on the Army's side, submitted that the Army did not come within the jurisdiction of a Commission set up by the Manipur government.
The court then turned to the Manipur government to ask why it never tried to “break the stonewall” created by the Army to access evidence from personnel. This time the court was referring to the suicide of a 15-year-old girl in 2003 after she was allegedly raped by two Army personnel. “You are the loco parentis. You should have taken up these cases with the Army at every juncture. Was it a tacit understanding between you two or a state of helplessness,” the Bench asked Manipur government counsel and senior advocate V. Giri.
“This was the case of a 14-year-old girl and there was no allegation she was an insurgent. She was working in a farmhouse when people came and raped her. Mr. Attorney, you may have two alleged rapists,” the Bench addressed Mr. Rohatgi. Mr. Rohatgi said rape might have been committed but there was only an allegation that it was committed by Army personnel.