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Manipur fake encounters: Govt should probe what allows these kinds of killings, asks Vrinda Grover
Reacting to the recent report of the Supreme Court-appointed committee that six cases of encounter carried out by armed forces in Manipur were 'fake', noted human rights lawyer Vrinda Grover has said that the findings show there is a 'pattern in which people are being killed by the security forces under the garb of national security'.

The report is seen as a huge blow to the Okram Ibobi Singh-led Congress government and the armed forces, which carried out the encounters in question.

A bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai, which perused the committee's report, said that none of the six cases qualify as encounters and they are fake. The court termed the report as distressing and said in straight forward words that the Central government should be blamed more than the state government for the situation in Manipur.

“The Supreme Court identified six cases for the beginning. And I think if all the 6 cases have proven to be false, it is very clear that there is a pattern. And therefore it implies that the pattern needs to be examined and we need to therefore go beyond the individual cases and see that in all the individual cases justice is done as well as what are the systemic reasons for them (security forces) to be able to kill with this kind of impunity. What are the laws, what are the procedures, what are the lacunae in the law, what is allowing this kind of killing to take place,” Grover told this citizen journalist .

The report will buttress the claims of various human rights activists and politicians who have been crying from the rooftops that Armed Forces Special Powers Act or AFSPA which provides unbridled power to armed forces is being misused for promotions and medals by various security agencies.

The court will pass appropriate directions on April 9 in the wake of findings of the probe panel. Grover said that in its direction the court should ensure a system which ends impunity given to security forces.
“Well, we hope the directions will be of a systemic nature. And will not be about these six cases only but will see this as a pattern. And will therefore provide relief that it will both look into all the cases, examine the patterns and set in place a system which stops this kind of impunity,” said Grover.

“Other aspect that needs to be looked at is that in this country encounter killings take place all the time. Until and unless the family of the victim does not come forward seeking investigation in the particular cases, the machinery of law does not on its own investigate these cases. And that is a huge shortcoming in the Indian system,” Grover remarked.

After an association formed by the victims’ family reached the apex court with their PIL claiming that their dead relatives were not militants and had been killed in fake encounters, the court formed a probe panel on January 4, headed by former Supreme Court Judge justice Santosh Hegde, ex-CEC J M Lyngdoh and ex-DGP Ajay Kumar Singh. The court directed them to investigate the six cases.

Notably the association had demanded setting up of a special investigation team to inquire into around 1,528 such encounters while alleging in its plea that over 2,000 odd extra-judicial killings have taken place in the state, but no one has been held guilty till date. The association in its PIL has claimed that innocent people with no criminal records have been killed by security forces and no proper investigation has been done in such cases.

The panel had been given the task to investigate whether the encounters were genuine or fake as claimed by the near and dear ones of the deceased. The committee during its investigation found that none of the killed people including a 12-year-old boy had any criminal records. The same fact has been mentioned in the final report submitted to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, families of the victims who have formed an association, ‘Extrajudicial Execution Victims' Families Association, Manipur (EEVFAM), who have been fighting for decades now to get justice, have welcomed the Supreme Court decision.

Takhellambam Renu president, EEVFAM said the whole world has now realised that fake encounters have been taking place in Manipur "for the last 30 years and over 1500 youths including young children were killed in fake encounters by army, paramilitary personnel and state forces".

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