The Supreme Court will deliver its verdict on Friday on petitions demanding a probe by the CBI or a special investigation team into the alleged 1,500 extra-judicial killings by the army and other security forces in Manipur during 2000-12.
The petitioners allege the security forces escaped action because they operated under the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. The law makes it mandatory for the local police to take Centre’s permission before initiating prosecution against erring security personnel.
A bench of Justice MB Lokur and Justice UU Lalit will pronounce the verdict at 10.30am on Friday.
Advocate Menaka Guru, who assisted the bench, argued strongly in favour of the petitioners – human rights organisations – and referred to a court-appointed panel in support of her arguments. The committee, set up by the court in 2013, probed six such encounters in which seven people were killed. In its preliminary findings, the panel said all the six encounters were stage-managed.
Guru said since most of the encounters had taken place several years ago, court martial proceedings could not be conducted in these cases. Section 125 of the Army Act has fixed a limitation period of three years, beyond which a cases becomes time-barred and no prosecution can be initiated.
The Centre defended the killings, arguing they were “part of the sovereign function discharged by the Union of India through the army”. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said security forces could not be blamed for collateral deaths that critics describe as extra-judicial murders in Manipur.
“The army is only discharging its sovereign function of defending the country from external aggression and terrorist attacks, it cannot be blamed if some people are killed. The killings are part of the sovereign function discharged by the Union of India through the army,” Rohatgi said, adding the incidents could not be treated as a regular law and order problem.
“These killings are part of efforts to combat insurgency as the country is threatened by anti-national forces. Such an exercise cannot be treated as a law and order problem,” the AG argued, saying the government was against the court-appointed panel’s report on the alleged extra-judicial killings.
The security forces and the government have been insisting that the encounters were genuine and the security personnel allegedly involved can’t be prosecuted.