NEW DELHI: In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court on Friday has set up a special investigating team (SIT) of five CBI officers and ordered registration of a FIR and probe into the extra-judicial killings, fake encounters by the Army, Assam Rifles, and police in insurgency-hit Manipur.
A Bench headed by Justices Madan B Lokur and UU Lalit said, “If people of our country are deprived of human rights, democracy itself would be in peril.”
The apex court directed the CBI director to nominate a team of five officers for the SIT within two weeks, who will lodge the necessary FIRs and complete the investigation into the fake encounters by December 31 this year.
The apex court did not agree with the contention of the then Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who had appeared for the armed forces, that compensation has been paid to the next of kin for the unfortunate deaths and therefore it might be not necessary to proceed further in the matter.
“Compensation can’t override law of land, otherwise all heinous crimes would get settled through payment of money,” the Bench in its 26-page order said and advised states to strictly adhere to NHRC guidelines.
The court directed the Centre and Manipur to extend full cooperation and assistance to the SIT, and said, “It is not as if the dignity of only living persons need to be respected. Even the dignity of the dead must be given due respect.”
The court was hearing a PIL seeking probe into 1,528 extra-judicial killings and has ordered registration of FIRs in 81 cases including 32 cases probed by a Commission of Enquiry, 32 cases investigated by judicial enquiries and high courts, 11 cases in which compensation had been awarded by NHRC and six cases probed by the commission headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice Santosh Hegde.
The Bench on Friday said that in none of the cases, FIR had been registered against the Manipur Police or any personnel of the central armed forces, while on the contrary, FIRs had been registered against the deceased for alleged violations of the law.
“Under these circumstances, it would be inappropriate for us to depend upon the Manipur Police to carry out an impartial investigation, more particularly when some of its own personnel are said to be involved in the fake encounters. The Manipur police has not registered any FIR at the instance of the next of the kin of the deceased,” the order read.
Highlighting the problems faced by NHRC, the Bench said, “This indicates that it has been unfortunately reduced to a toothless tiger.” The Bench then directed the Centre to expeditiously and favourably consider the requests of the commission for arranging man power and other resources.
The court also asked all the states to set up state Human Rights Commissions to protect the liberty of every person.