Pay compensation in addition to ex-gratia, HC directs Government

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IMPHAL, April 13: A single bench of Justice LK Mohapatra, acting chief justice High Court of Manipur, has directed the Union of India and State of Manipur to compensate with a sum of Rs 7 Lakh to the bereaved family of victims who were killed and injured in a cross fire incident which occurred in the intervening night of 22 and 23 April 2002 in Sugnu, Chandel district.

The victims were killed during a cross firing between BSF personnel and underground groups, and said to be sleeping when the firing broke out.

Even as ex-gratia was paid by the state Government, a petition was filed on August 8, 2002, by Mannuamching Zou, wife of late Manglianthang Zou of Sugnu Zou Veng village, Sugnu Police Chandel district, filed a writ petition before the court not being satisfied with the quantum of compensation paid by the state.

In the petition she sought compensation of Rupees 18 Lakhs for the death of her husband and two daughters and a sum of 10 Lakh for her injured son.

In response to the petition the court deemed it fit to direct the district and session judge to conduct a judicial inquiry in the cross firing incident on June 4, 2004.

Subsequently on May 31 2004, the district and session judge, submitted its report indicating that the victims were killed in the cross firing. However, the inquiry could not ascertain as to whether the death occurred due to the bullets fire by the BSF personnel or the bullets fired by the underground outfit.

The petitioner’s counsel, H Biesheswari, referring to verdicts of similar cases in other states, prayed for compensation as the matter was that of human casualties.

RS. Reisang, who appeared on behalf of the state respondents argued that having paid ex-gratia, the petitioner is no more entitled further compensation when the evidence showed that the state police was not involved in the operation.

In a similar note, C Kumol, the counsel of the BSF, also argued that there being no finding of the district judge that the death occurred due to the bullets fired by the BSF personnel, the BSF cannot be saddled with the liability of payment of compensation.

Having heard from both the petitioner, the chief justice (acting) declined to accept the argument submitted by the respondents that the state police not being involved in the operation no compensation can be awarded against the state. It upheld that BSF has been deputed in the state to control insurgency and in course of such operation if any such unfortunate incident takes place, the state cannot wash its hands off.

The court directed the respondents shall pay compensation of Rs 2 lakh each for the deceased and further rs one lakh for injuries inflicted to the petitioner’s son.

It further directed that of the total Rs 7 lakh compensation, 50 percent shall be paid by respondents 1 to 4 which included Union of India represented by secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, secretary, Ministry of Defence to the GOI, officer commanding C company, 2nd Battalion BSF Sugnu post, the deputy inspector General of BSF, Nagaland and Manipur Range at Koirengei.

The other half shall be paid by the state respondents which included State of Manipur through secretary Home, the secretary (rehabilitation) and deputy commissioner, Chandel district. The compensation is to be paid within three months from the communication of this court order.

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