SC orders CBI probe into extra-judicial killings in Manipur

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The Supreme Court on Friday ordered a CBI probe into 62 alleged extra-judicial killings by security forces in Manipur, overruling objections by the government and the army in a landmark decision that was hailed by human rights activists, victims' family members and politicians.

The petitioner has alleged 1,528 extra-judicial killings by the Army and other security forces in Manipur.

He however sounded a note of caution saying that the ball is in the court of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director who will set up a 5-member SIT to look into the cases.

In July previous year, the apex court had directed a thorough probe into the alleged fake encounter killings in Manipur saying the use of "excessive or retaliatory force" by the armed forces or police was not permissible in "disturbed areas". However, the government and armed forces deny any such charges. The Army, Assam Rifles and the Manipur Police are accused of fake encounter killings in 1,528 cases from 2000 to 2012 in the insurgency-hit state.

In July previous year, the court ordered a probe suspecting use of "excessive or retaliatory force" by armed forces or the police. Guruswamy added that Manipur submitted 18 reports in all, including 11 Judicial Inquiry Reports (JIR) and seven Commission of Inquiry Reports (CIR).

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The court rejected the Attorney General's submissions that since the incidents were of considerable vintage, it would not be appropriate to re-open the issues for investigation.

On the contention that court should not order a probe when the families of the deceased had not complained and come to the court, the Bench said "access to justice is certainly a human right and it has been given a special place in our constitutional scheme where free legal aid and advice is provided to people". "The primary reason is that for numerous deprived sections of society, access to justice is only a dream", the court said refuting all objections from the Centre. The law, which provides soldiers who commit abuses effective immunity from prosecution, is also used in other parts of India's northeastern region and in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. "Consequently, we have no hesitation in directing the constitution of a Special Investigating Team to investigate the cases that we have mentioned above".

The Supreme Court dismissed the central government's contention that older cases should not be investigated because of the passage of time, stating: " Merely because the State has not taken any action and has allowed time to go by, it can not take advantage of the delay to scuttle an inquiry".

The apex court pulled up local Manipur government for not taking action into alleged staged gunfights by armed forces.

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