SC keen to take final call on fake encounters

THE Supreme Court directing the CBI on Thursday to file final reports in four cases of alleged extra-judicial killings and fake encounters by the Army, Assam Rifles and police in Manipur drives home the message that the three-judge bench is keen to take a final call on the matter at the soonest possible even if the investigation into many other similar allegations drags on. That the apex court had also emphasised on active involvement of the National Human Rights Commission in the probe process further suggests that it is not leaving any room for complacency, partiality and undue interference in reaching to the depth of every registered case. Subsequent to ordering constitution of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the CBI and seeking updates on progress of the case, it has become a norm for the Supreme Court to rap the probe agency at every hearing over the latter’s slack progress. Though it is understandable that recreating the shoot-out scenes and recovering evidences are tough tasks for the SIT sleuths as most of the incidents occurred years back, the CBI needs to prove that it is a reliable institution which can play a major role in delivering justice to those who have lost their near and dear ones. Under no circumstances should the probe agency give the impression to the public that it is conducting the investigation in such a shoddy manner. Though the present case deals particularly with incidents of blood-shed in Manipur, controversial killings by security forces have also been reported in other parts of the country, thereby testifying that security forces are no less threat than the terrorists or insurgents for the public members.

With the Supreme Court directing inclusion of two NHRC officials as members of the SIT there is high hope that the investigation process will gather speed and ensure fair trial to the accused persons as well as deliver justice to the victims. Importance of the NHRC in the investigation into allegation of extra-judicial killings can also be comprehended from the record that from 2009-10 to February 2013, it registered 555 cases of alleged fake encounters, with Uttar Pradesh topping the list at 138 and Manipur following in second at 62 cases. Ironically there were comments that controversies that surrounded the killings of Ishrat Jahan and three others on suspicion of plotting to get the then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi killed overshadowed thousands of lives lost in the hands of law enforcement agencies under similar circumstances. Till the time EEVFAM and other rights organisations approached the Supreme Court to probe alleged extra-judicial executions in Manipur, the maximum limelight used to be on the Gujarat shoot-outs which consequently shifted the focus away from the main issue of fake encounter deaths. There is no denying the fact that allegations of staged encounter killings increase whenever there is political instability. When authorities feel threatened owing to insurgencies or rebellions, they give a free hand to the security forces, which then find staged encounters a useful tool to restore calm, possibly secure brownie points from their political handlers and get promoted. Mainstream political parties also find it inconvenient to take a position on this, because they know that they cannot eschew it totally when in power. However, by ordering investigation and demanding expedition of the same exercise, the Supreme Court has given a ray of hope that justice will be delivered ultimately even if the trial process takes time.

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