Cross examinations conclude before Supreme Court panel

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NEW DELHI, March 15: The cross examination of all witnesses related to six cases of alleged extra judicial killing being heard by the Supreme Court instituted Inquiry Commission have concluded in New Delhi today.

The six cases it may be mentioned, were selected at random from a total of 1528 applications submitted by two NGOs to the Supreme Court which had appealed that the cases be examined on the grounds that the deaths were a result of fake encounters.

The last day of proceedings saw Advocate Mukul Sinha cross examining witnesses as Counsel for the complainants. The final day of cross examinations started with the re-examination of a former SDPO who was the IO in the case relating to the death of Nameirakpam Gobind Meitei and Nameirakpam Nobo Meitei being questioned with regard to technical details of the case which had earlier been heard in Imphal.

The witnesses cross examined for the case relating to the death of Chongtham Umakanta (May 4, 2009) included a Jammandar who admitted during the course of cross examination that he had been involved in 2 cases of ‘operations’ that resulted in 2 deaths for the month of May in 2009. Incidentally, the same police personnal was a witness for the alleged fake encounter of Elangbam Kiranjit in April 2009 and was earlier cross examined before the Commission in Imphal.

When Mukul Sinha asked the witness whether he remembered any such ‘operations’ that led to death of others, the Jammandar replied that he did not remember.

The Counsel for the state Government of Manipur raised objections when the Jmmandar was shown documents prepared by other persons on the grounds that the witness was not prepared for it. There was a brief retort from the Chair of the Commission Justice N Hedgre over the nature of questions being allowed to ask to witnesses.

The Counsel for the Union of India at one point also said that the statements of other witnesses should not be used during the cross examination of others on the grounds that such a practice would prejudice the witness at a later stage.

The objection was over ruled. The same Counsel also submitted a complaint before the Commission that local newspapers in Manipur were reporting on the case ‘ad verbatim’ following which Justice N Hegre said that the media persons in question were being warned not to do the same.

However, it may be pointed out that the Commission had on the first day of the sittings in Delhi at said that media reporting on the proceedings were allowed though photographs would not be allowed at all. The Chair had ‘requested’ that identities of witnesses for both sides be protected ‘considering the sensitivity of the case’ but at no point of time was the media told that it was mandatory that names were not meant to be disclosed. It may also be noted that the media reporting for the first sittings of the Commison at Imphal had mentioned names. IFP’s news reports for the Imphal proceedings mentioned either names or mentioned earlier postings and the same was done for the Delhi sittings. At no point of the sittings in Delhi were the media asked to keep away from mentioning names except the final day today.

Keeping the heat on media reporting, a former SDPO who was cross examined today also alerted the Commission today that the Counsel for the complainants had through a press conference in Imphal, widely covered by the media in Manipur had defamed her. Justice Hegre replied saying that the Commission had nothing to do with what the Learned Counsel had to say to the media and said that she was free to take up a defamation case herself if she so desired. The final day of cross examinations today marked the end of inconsistencies and loop holes in different versions of the same case. The nature of ‘joint operations’ also reveal a lack of clear cut lines of operation and who takes responsibility. The arguments on the 7 deaths referred to the Commission will be made during the course of three days from March 19th to March 21st. In addition to a presentation by the Defense Ministry, the Government of Manipur will also be making a presentation before the Commission.

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