By Paojel Chaoba
IMPHAL| July 14
After five years, a double bench of the Supreme Court today comprising Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit ordered investigation into 83 cases of fake encounters perpetrated by the state police commandos, army and paramilitary forces.
The court ordered the CBI director to institute a special investigating team (SIT) comprising of 5 members within two weeks.
The team is to probe the cases of fake encounters, to register FIRs and to charge-sheet against the involved personnel. The SIT is directed to hand over the investigation report by December 2017.
It dismissed aside the concerns of the Chief of Army Staff that FIRs cannot be warranted against the officers while engaged in a counter insurgency situation and pronounced that any allegation of use of excessive force or retaliatory force by uniformed personnel resulting in the death of any person necessitates a through inquiry into the incident.
The court observed that the 1528 cases submitted by EEVFAM cannot be investigated in totality as the documentation was inadequate but the petitioning body has been directed to complete the documentation.
However, the counsel of the petitioner has been able to gather information regarding 655 deaths.
“We do not think it appropriate to pass any direction for the time being in regard to the cases concerning written complaints, oral complaints, cases with eye-witness accounts and family related cases. It is not that every single allegation must be inquired into. It must be remembered that we are not dealing with individual cases but a systematic or institutional response related to constitutional criminal law,” the court observed.
The Supreme Court broke down the cases which can be probed as 34 deaths investigated by commissions of inquiry, 32 deaths considered by judicial inquiries and high court, 20 deaths inquired by the National Human Rights Commission and seven inquiry cases by justice Santosh Hegde commission. In total, the CBI led investigation team has to probe into 83 fake encounter cases.
The court left out the cases of Thangjam Manorama and some others on grounds that the issues are still pending at the Supreme Court. Some infamous cases which the court ordered the investigation are the June 18 killing in which 11 persons were mowed down by the CRPF while trying to storm the CM bungalow.
The Malom massacre in 2002 in which Assam Rifles killed 10 persons. Out of the 83 cases, Manipur police involvement is in 19 cases.
By A Staff Reporter
IMPHAL| July 14
The Supreme Court has directed that Manipur police personnel cannot be allowed in investigating the fake encounter cases. To maintain an independent investigation, the court has notified the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to form a Special Investigation Team comprising of 5 members within two weeks. The compliance report from the CBI is also sought after three weeks by the court.
The CBI director is directed to nominate the five officers and to go through the records of the 83 separate cases already available in the separate commissions, the High Court of Manipur/lower courts and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). They are directed to lodge necessary FIRs, prepare charge sheets and complete the investigation by December,2017.
“The entire groundwork is already done by the commissions of inquiry or by a judicial inquiry, the Manipur High Court or by the NHRC, we leave it to the special investigating team to utilize the material already gathered, in accordance with law. We expect the state of Manipur to extend full co-operation and assistance to the SIT…and also the Union of India to complete the investigation at the earliest without any un-necessary hindrances or obstacles,” the court said. It felt that Manipur police, however, cannot be included in the investigating team as the charges of fake-encounter have been leveled against them.
It was suggested to the court that Manipur police may be associated with the SIT. However, such association was not felt appropriate by the court. “We do not think it appropriate to associate any officer of the Manipur police particularly since in some cases, the role of the Manipur police has been adversely commented upon,” the court ruled.
It cited the case of Bharati Tamang vs Union of India and others that to ensure that the criminal prosecution is carried on without any deficiency, we have no hesitation in directing the constitution of a SIT to investigate the cases.
The court noted that in none of the cases, an FIR has been registered against the Manipur police or any uniformed personnel of the armed forces of the Union.
“On the contrary, FIRs have been registered against the deceased for alleged violations of the law, under the circumstances it would be inappropriate for us to depend upon the Manipur police to carry out an impartial investigation more particularly when some of its own personnel are said to be involved in the fake encounters and the Manipur police has not registered any FIR at the insistence of the next of kin of the deceased,” the court observed.
By A Staff Reporter
IMPHAL| July 14
Human rights activists hailed the directive of the Supreme Court as a “landmark” decision and hope that justice will be done even though delayed.
Human Rights Alert (HRA) executive director Babloo Loitongbam said the 1528 cases of fake encounters had been petitioned to the Supreme Court way back in 2012 September by the Extra-Judicial Execution Families Association, Manipur (EEFAM) and HRA.
“We warmly welcome the judgement, now the ball is in the CBI’s court. We have to wait and see how the investigations will be carried out,” he said.
Babloo was, however, skeptical alleging that in the earlier cases of fake encounters which were charge-sheeted by the CBI justice is not entirely done. “We are not satisfied with the CBI investigations, those who ordered the executions must be held liable. They have to be pulled up and befitting punishment should be meted out,” Babloo said.
Joining Babloo’s statements at the HRA office at Kwakeithel, EEFAM president Thakellembam Renu said that finally the sufferings of the public and the victim families may end. “There is satisfaction in our hearts. We felt earlier that justice will not be done but the order of the Supreme Court has brought new hope,” she said.
Renu appealed to the public and the civil organizations to come out voluntarily and help in the investigations which will be conducted by the CBI. “Please give any evidence and I urge individuals to testify. You need to come out bravely to end this fake encounters, punishment should be awarded to the guilty,” she appealed.
IMPHAL| July 14
The Attorney General (AG) representing the Union of India and others had submitted various arguments in regard to the fake encounters investigations and further registration of First Information Reports (FIR) against the Army and para-military forces.
The Supreme Court had observed that investigations regarding extra-judicial killings could have been done timely by the state. The submissions and considerations are reproduced partly below.
Submissions and considerations
AG- Some of the incidents are of considerable vintage at this point of time and it may not be appropriate to re-open the issues of investigation.
SC- We are not in agreement. If a crime has been committed, a crime which involves the death of a person who is possibly innocent cannot be overlooked only because of a lapse of time. It was the obligation of the state to have suo-motu conducted a thorough inquiry at the appropriate time and soon after each incident took place. Merely because the state has not taken any action and has allowed time to go by, it cannot take advantage of the delay to scuttle an inquiry.
AG- There were local pressures and the ground level situation was such that it would not be surprising if the inquiries were biased in favour of the citizens and against the state.
SC- The submission is noted and rejected. If there has been a breakdown of the rule of law in Manipur, government of India was under obligation to take necessary steps. To suggest that all inquiries were unfair and motivated is casting very serious aspersions on the independence of the authorities in Manipur at that point of time, which we don’t think is at all warranted.
AG- The next of kin of the deceased has not approached this court and there is no reason why we should entertain a petition filed by a third party. There is no reason for this court to take up the issue at the instance of a third party.
SC- We reject this submission…the next of kin could not access justice even if the local courts and petitioners have taken up their cause in public interest. Our constitutional jurisprudence does not permit us to shut the door on such persons and our constitutional obligation requires us to give justice and succour to the next of kin of the deceased.
AG- Compensation has been paid to the next of kin for the unfortunate deaths and therefore it may be not necessary to proceed further in this matter.
SC- We cannot agree. Compensation has been awarded to the next of kin for the agony they have suffered and to enable them to immediately tide over their loss and for their rehabilitation. This cannot override the law of the land otherwise all heinous crimes would get settled through payment of monetary compensation. Our constitutional jurisprudence does not permit this and we certainly encourage or countenance such a view.
By A Staff Reporer
IMPHAL| July 14
The Supreme Court in its observation has termed that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has been reduced to a ‘toothless tiger.’ It also felt imperative that the state governments should constitute a State Human Rights Commission for protection of the citizens.
EEVFAM in its petition to the apex court had appraised the cases which were inquired into by the NHRC. “As many as 20 deaths were reported to the NHRC as a result of fake encounters or the use of excessive or retaliatory force. Of these, seven complaints are still pending before the NHRC. We request the NHRC to take a decision on these complaints as soon as possible,” the SC said.
It also observed that there is no specific information regarding two complaints namely of Ningthoujam Premkumar and Laishram Lincoln who were shot dead by Manipur police commandos in separate incidents. The court also directed the CBI to ascertain the facts by the special investigating team in this regard.
The court also directed that FIRs be registered against the remaining 11 cases of fake encounters where compensation has been given.
“In the remaining complaints, the NHRC has awarded compensation to the next of kin of the deceased, meaning thereby that there is more than a prima facie case of a fake encounter or the use of excessive force. We direct registration of FIRs in respect of these complaints,” the court ruled.
It may be pointed out that the Manipur State Human Rights Commission has been lying defunct for about a decade.
The court observed that the NHRC and the state commissions are mandatory in protection of life and liberty of every individual. Whereas, it was submitted by the NHRC to the court that all its communications and guidelines have remained only on paper and not enforced by any state government.
The NHRC also stated that there are half hearted compliances and unexplained delays by the state governments, that the prescribed guidelines have not been followed. Moreover, it complained that there is inadequate staff and infrastructure to deal with the ever rising cases of human rights abuse throughout the country.
The NHRC had submitted to the apex court that the Manipur government has not given compensation to some cases of fake encounters, though it had recommended. The court has directed the Union of India to take remedies at the earliest regarding the concerns of the NHRC.
Supreme Court judgement’s constitutional, governance and global implications
By Amar Yumnam
The Supreme Court judgment in connection with the fake encounter cases in Manipur has implications much beyond to what would be the outcomes for the security personnel involved in those acts and the remedial justices rendered to the surviving families of the victims. The ultimate implications move much beyond these immediate results of punishment and compensation. My interest lies here.
I am rather interested in the long term social, political and economic implications of the judgment when the implications are fully rolled out. The first implication is one which would strengthen the social capital base of democratic functioning. Hugo Grotius wrote in 1625 in his classic The Rights of War and Peace thus: “First, individual citizens should not only refrain from injuring other citizens, but should furthermore protect them, both as a whole and as individuals; secondly, citizens should not only refrain from seizing one another’s possessions, whether these be held privately or in common, but should furthermore contribute individually both that which is necessary to other individuals and that which is necessary to the whole.”
On hindsight, it turns out that the protagonists of the filing of the cases to the Supreme Court must have been moved by such a dynamic principle. This lays a long term foundation for social and collective mobilisation for addressing pains and wrongs in a democracy.
The other social implication is that the democratic structure of India has components for addressing certain seemingly lop-sided approaches to the performance of state functions. Further, the wonderfully positive implication is that the judgement strengthens the roots of constitutional political economy.
In a classic turn of events, the judgement takes to two important directions. First, the constitutionality is fundamental and it applies to all – both state and non-state. Second, one frequent problem in a constitutional polity is the trade-off between rule of state law and rule of law. Those in government for the sake of political and personal convenience conveniently tend to adopt the rule of state law instead of rule law. The Supreme Court judgment has in a landmark judgment set the working principle of the Indian constitutional democracy in clear terms.
Now in India so many unwarranted things are happening taking the convenient cover of being in political power, like the gau-rakshaks. Now the Supreme Court judgment says the law would catch up sooner or later in whatever position you are and whether state or non-state.
I am reminded of what the great thinker of twentieth century, F. A. Hayek said: “The tragic illusion was that the adoption of democratic procedures made it possible to dispense with all other limitations on governmental power. It also promoted the belief that the ‘‘control of government’’ by the democratically elected legislation would adequately replace the traditional limitations, while in fact the necessity of forming organized majorities for supporting a programme of particular actions in favour of special groups introduced a new source of arbitrariness and partiality and produced results inconsistent with the moral principles of the majority.”
In other words, Richard Bellamy reiterated when he found while examining the democratic processes around the world thus: “….virtues of the democratic process……suggest that the constitutional goods of rights and the rule of law would be better served by developing rather than curtailing them via less effective and legitimate legal constitutional constraints.”
Further it also reminds us the Enlightenment principle that “Rather than deal with conflicting claims by trying to identify the elusive and shifting intersecting sets of people’s beliefs (which may in any case converge on falsehoods), the democratic approach involves recognizing the importance of truth as a regulative ideal in public debate, and institutionalizing means of bringing the truth to bear on contending political positions.”
Besides these the judgement has intense content of contemporary global thinking and commitment. The global spirit of honouring the fundamental needs and spirits of human beings are taken cognizance of. Even more, the world would now look to this judgement on how to go about constitutionalism and governance in a highly heterogeneous country.
(The author is Professor and Head: Department of Economics, Manipur University, India)
IMPHAL | July 14
In its first meeting in the hill N. Biren Singh Cabinet today resolved to hand over the case of Loktak scam to CBI. This was the first Cabinet meeting held in a district headquarters outside the state capital.
The Cabinet meeting was held at District Training Centre (DTC) Hall, near DC office, Churachandpur district headquarters.
Biren Singh was accorded a warm welcome by large number of people. He was stopped at Kangvai and Molnom to welcome him by villagers, CSOs, Iocal clubs, students and women bodies. School children, and women stood in long lines on both sides of the road to welcome Biren and members of his council of ministers from Kangvai to Churachandpur District HQ.
The team was felicitated by the district administration and people of Churachandpur at District Training Centre.
After thoroughly examining the projects taken up under Border Area Development Programme (BADP), the State Cabinet also resolved to review the mode of implementation in order to ensure a visible change in the Central Government-sponsored programme.
The Cabinet also decided to open district transport office, Moreh besides engagement of 32 drivers (30 heavy and two light) and 27 handymen on casual basis for the smooth running of the Manipur State Transport.
It also decided to fill up seven vacant posts (staff) for Manipur Human Rights Commission (MHRC).
Enhancement of upper age limit/entry of age from 62 years to 67 years and maximum age for tenure of service from 65 years to 70 years for the post of JNIMS director was also approved.
The Cabinet also gave its nod to creation of one post of public relations officer (PRO) in the governor’s secretariat, Raj Bhavan, Imphal apart from approving the proposal for re-designation of media consultant to the governor as officer on special duty (OSD) with the increase of special allowance from Rs 15,000 to Rs 30,000.
Earlier speaking on the reception Biren said it is a historic day for the new government that the first-ever cabinet meeting outside Imphal is being held today at Churachandpur district. He stressed that such remarkable step is just the beginning of the new government, which has committed to uplift the hill areas of the State.
Since its first day, the slogan of the new government is “Go to the Hills”, extra care and priority would be given for the development of the hill districts of the state, he added.
Stating the government seeks the love and support of the people of Churachandpur, he said that the government would not only discuss the problems and grievances faced by the people but will also discuss and review the developmental programmes undertaken in Churachandpur with district administration, CSOs and local leaders.
During the felicitation programme, the chief minister handed over the ex-gratia of Rs. 4 lakhs each to the family members of Shri Thangkholam Hanghal and Shri Mangtinlam Samte. The duo died after being drowned in Imphal River in the recent flash flood happened last month at W. Zoujang, Sangaikot Sub Division, Churachandpur district. Memoranda were submitted to the chief minister by various CSOs of the district during the programme.
On the occasion, he distributed the emergency medical kit to all the district level officers and police vehicles of the Churachandpur district.
Later, Biren along with ministers and officials planted trees at the premises of district training centre, Churachandpur.
IMPHAL July 14
Chief minister N. Biren Singh welcomed the ruling of the Supreme Court, saying his government is ready to extend all help to the investigating agency.
“We welcome the Supreme Court judgment. The state government will extend full cooperation and help to the investigating agency to find the truth behind the cases,” Biren Singh told The Imphal Free Press.
He said the state government is there to protect the rights and lives of the people. “It is our duty to protect people,” Biren said.
By A Staff Reporter
IMPHAL | July 14
The Communist Party of India (CPI) Manipur unit today urged the government to take sufficient measures to fight the current flood and agricultural crisis in the state.
Addressing reporters at its Irabat Bhawan office, secretary of CPI state secretary Moirangthem Nara said one of the worst flood in 20 years, is being neglected by Biren government.
The rate of damage and devastation during this flood is high and surely food crisis will follow but the government has not done any visible help to the present situation of the state, he said.
Flood control and irrigation departments are not effective enough to solve the problem very quickly and review of the total relief plan is necessary.
A new approach is need of the hour as this flood is kind of a man-made and is not a natural calamity. This is a serious matter and will be even more serious in the future if not properly maintained now.
Coming to the topic of agricultural crisis, he said that the three years of BJP governance has made the farmers’ community suffer a lot and according to reports, 52 farmers in the country suicide every day. Agricultural attention was given 3.7 per cent before the BJP government but after Modi led government came in, only 1.8 per cent is given to agricultural sector. Bumper crop is ignored and many food materials are imported, he continued.
If this flood situation continues, crop produce or agriculture produce of Manipur will suffer two third losses this year, the secretary continued. The NFSA scheme is also exercised in the state but with no credibility and no one can tell how many are benefitted by this scheme till date. And in view of the present flood situation, this scheme very important.
Nara also complained about corruption in the state. The anti-corruption cell which was opened to fight corruption in the state is useless and just for namesake. It does not work properly and as corruption is already injected into the system it cannot be changed again. The system is corrupted already so corruption cannot be removed very easily.
In connection to all these there will be a public consultation meeting on July 24, 25 and 26 in Imphal West and East districts, Thoubal and Kakching, and Bishnupur respectively, announced Nara.
By A Staff Reporter
IMPHAL | July 14
Altogether 391 pilgrims have been selected for this year’s Haj tour which is the largest number of pilgrims selected in the history of Manipur. Parliamentary secretary of MOBC and commerce industry, Ashab Uddin inaugurated three days training programme of pilgrims for Haj-2017.
The inauguration programme held today at Old High Court complex, North AOC which was organised by Manipur State Haj Committee, Imphal.
Addressing the inauguration function, executive officer, Haj committee, Md. Salaudin Khan said the training programme is meant for the pilgrims to give awareness and train them for the tour.
During the training scholars will teach the pilgrims on how to eat, dress codes for the tour, how to handle a situation in the crowd, and many others.
Disaster management team will give training on safety information with demonstration, flight safety information which will be guided by Jet airways and guidelines for Haj travelling will teach during the training programme, he added.
The pilgrims for entire North East will start the tour from Guwahati on July 24 to 30. The exact date for the tour is not decided yet due to the incomplete issue of visa by ministry of external affairs. But as the issue of visa is done, the exact date of departure for Haj will be announce to the pilgrims, Salaudin said.
The pilgrim will stay at Mecca, Saudi Arabia for 35 days and they will also visit the holiest place in the area.
He further said, in Islam there are five basic duties which Muslims must perform. They are known as the five pillars of Islam (Arkanul Islam). These are: Shahadah, the establishment of prayer (Salah), the payment of Zakah (paying the poor due), the Haj (pilgrimage to Mecca) and Sawm Ramadan (fasting the month of Ramadan). The five duties should perform by each Muslim.
And before tour free medical health checked up will be done by public hospital and research institute including vaccination of the pilgrims in order to protect them from any kind of communicable diseases, Salaudin added.