The Supreme Court will take up the case of encounter killings in Manipur on Wednesday, but is yet to appoint an agency to probe the matter.
In July this year, the apex court had ruled that all incidents involving suspected use of excessive and retaliatory force by the army in Manipur must be investigated.
Advocate Menaka Guruswamy, the counsel who assisted the court in the matter, is likely to present her data on 62 cases to the bench headed by Justice MB Lokur. In its July verdict, the court had directed Guruswamy to prepare a tabular statement indicating the status of inquiry into the cases documented by the petitioner.
“The army and paramilitary personnel ‘cannot use excessive or retaliatory force’ even in areas where the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) had been notified,” the order said.
On the Centre’s submission that a war-like situation exists in Manipur, the bench said militants and ambushes would not lead to a conclusion on the existence of a war or war-like conditions.
“If such a blanket proposition were accepted, it would reflect poorly on our armed forces that they are unable to effectively tackle a war-like situation for the last almost six decades. It would also reflect poorly on the Union of India, as unable to resort to available constitutional provisions and measures to bring a war-like situation under control,” the court had said.
The case was filed in the top court by the Extra Judicial Execution Victims Families Association, a registered trust with the wives and mothers of persons whom they claim have been extra-judicially executed by the Manipur police and the security forces (mainly the Assam Rifles and the Army) as its members.
The petitioner alleged 1,528 extra-judicial killings by the army and other security forces during 2010-12 in Manipur.
The petitioner said the forces had escaped punishment because they operated under the AFSPA, which grants special powers to the armed forces to arrest, conduct searches and seizures and also provides immunity from prosecution.
The court also took notice of the NHRC’s claim that it was a “toothless tiger” and agreed to examine the issue in order to accord more authority to the rights body.