A Supreme Court division Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dr D.Y. Chandrachud has allowed the Manipur High Court three months to dispose of a matter of sanction to prosecute armed forces personnel accused of extrajudicial executions in Manipur.
ON Tuesday, in the case of Extra Judicial Execution Families Association & Anr versus Union of India & Ors, a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dr D.Y. Chandrachud allowed the Manipur High Court a period of three months for the disposal of the issue of prosecution sanction of certain armed forces personnel accused of extrajudicial executions in Manipur.
The matter pertains to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed in 2012 that claimed that 1,528 persons were killed in ‘fake’ encounters by the Manipur police and the armed forces of the Union in the state.
On Tuesday, the amicus curiae in the matter, Dr Menaka Guruswamy, apprised the court that the hearing in the matter has been ongoing for over 12 years.
The Bench comprising the CJI, and Justices P.S. Narasimha and J.B. Pardiawala referred to a April 24 letter by the registrar general of the Manipur High Court, seeking a time of three months to dispose of the said cases. Subsequently, while dictating the Order, the CJI allowed the high court an extension of three months until August 31.
On the decade-long pendency of the matter, Babloo Loitongbom, Director at Human Rights Alert (one of the petitioners), shared with The Leaflet, “Many family members seeking justice for decades have died in wait. It is getting increasingly difficult for us to convince the victims’ families that the Supreme Court will deliver justice.”
In the PIL filed by Extra Judicial Execution Families Association and Human Rights Alert in 2012, the petitioners had primarily argued that no FIR was registered by the Manipur police despite several complaints against the alleged extrajudicial killings. They prayed the court to direct the setting up of a special investigation team (SIT) to investigate the instances of alleged extrajudicial executions and thereafter prosecute the offenders in accordance with the law.
The division Bench, however, found that the documentation was inadequate to order an inquiry into the allegations made by the petitioners. It, thereby, directed the petitioners to complete the documentation proving whether the allegations were based on any judicial enquiry, or an enquiry conducted by the National Human Rights Commission or under theCommissions of Inquiry Act, 1952. Subsequently, the petitioners submitted a tabular statement with regard to the details of 655 cases out of the 1158 cases of the alleged extrajudicial killings.
In thejudgment, dated July 14, 2017, the division Bench referred to the 655 cases and segregated them into specific classifications. It directed the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to nominate a group of five officers to go through the records of the cases, lodge necessary FIRs, complete the investigations into the same by December 31, 2017, and prepare chargesheets.
During the last hearing, onOctober 20, 2022, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioners, had submitted that on account of the issue of prosecution sanction, certain matters remain pending before the Manipur High Court.
As per directions of the Supreme Court, the CBI submitted triable evidence of extrajudicial executions in Manipur by the police and the armed forces of the Union to the court of chief judicial magistrate, Imphal West.
However, the Union government had denied the grant of prosecution sanction with regard to certain armed forces personnel involved in the alleged ‘fake’ encounters under Section 6 of theArmed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958. Following this, the chief judicial magistrate made reference to the issue of sanction to the Manipur High Court.
On Gonsalves’ submission, the Bench, comprising the then CJI U.U. Lalit and Justice Bela M. Trivedi, had directed the high court to dispose of the issue, preferably within a period of six months.