Final submission to SC panel calls for police and legal reforms

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NEW DELHI, March 22 (Agencies): The Supreme Court Appointed Commission, headed by Justice Santosh Hegde after cross examining dozens of affidavits submitted by the victims as well as the security forces in six cases of alleged extrajudicial executions in Manipur, Imphal and Delhi concluded yesterday in the nation`s capital. The report is expected to be submitted within a week.  In September 2012, the Extrajudicial Execution Victim Families’ Association, Manipur (EEVFAM) along with Human Rights Alert (HRA) submitted a list of 1528 extra-judicial executions in Manipur since 1979 praying for the constitution of an Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate.

After hearing out the arguments from the State of Manipur, Union of India and the National Human Rights Commission, the Supreme Court on 4 January 2013 constituted a high power Commission “to be fully satisfied about the truth of the allegations concerning the cases cited by the writ petitioners”. 

The Commission with Hon’ble Mr. Justice N. Santosh Hegde, former Judge, Supreme Court of India as the chairman and Mr. J.M. Lyngdoh, former Chief Election Commissioner and Dr. Ajay Kumar Singh, IPS. Retd. DGP and IGP of Karnataka as members was  mandated to make a thorough enquiry into and record a finding regarding the past antecedents and the circumstances in which the deaths of Azad Khan, Khumbongmayum Orsonjit, Nameirakpam Gobin Meitei, Nameirakpam Nobo Meitei, Elangbam Kiranjit Singh, Chongtham Umakanta and Akoijam Priyobroto took place.

The  Commission  will  make  a  report regarding the functioning of the State Police and  security  forces  in  the State of Manipur and in case it finds that the actions of the police  and/or the security forces transgress the legal bounds the  Commission  shall  make its recommendations for keeping the police and the  security  forces  within the legal bounds without compromising the fight against insurgency.”

The Commission invited affidavits from the public having knowledge of the facts and circumstances relating to the killings of the persons listed. Thereafter cross examinations of the witnesses were held at Classic Hotel Imphal from 3 to 7 March and in Vigyan Bhawan New Delhi from 13 to 21 March 2013.    

In the final submission to the Commission on behalf of the petitioners, suggestions were made that Special investigation teams (SIT) consisting of 25 senior investigation officers from outside the state of Manipur should be appointed to take up the investigation and prosecution of 25 serious cases where it is alleged that fake encounters have taken place. It also called for establishing 9 separate district courts to function exclusively as Human Rights Courts in accordance with Section 30 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 with the qualification that such courts will be empowered to entertain complaints of human rights violation directly and to devise its own procedure so that criminal proceedings are completed within a period of 6 months. The suggestions listed that there be a declaration be made that custodial killings and other human rights atrocities when committed require no sanction for prosecution either under the CrPC or UAPA or AFSPA as the commission of a human rights atrocity has nothing to do with the performance of public duty.

Another suggestion made to the Commission is that National and State Legal Aid Services Authorities should provide competent lawyers with a fair practice at the Bar and with at least 5 years experience for all the victims of human rights atrocities and such lawyers will be paid by the State at rates not inconsistent with the normal commercial rates for legal practitioners. A system of registering FIRs through email, registered post and other convenient methods and at public places other than police stations such as public hospitals should be put in place so that aggrieved individuals can have their FIRs registered forthwith and acknowledged by the police was also mooted.

The suggestions also include calling for a special State Unit for Victim and Witness Protection which shall be responsible to protect all persons right from the reporting of the human rights atrocity, the victims and their families and concerned witnesses from victimization and further harm; ensure that substantial financial assistance is provided to them, that generous compensation is paid and that the lives of the persons is restored to the same level and standard as compared to the situation prevailing prior to the atrocity.

A further suggestion was that in all cases where it is alleged by the family or friends of the deceased that a fake encounter has taken place, a district judge or a retired district judge should conduct an inquiry expeditiously to come to a prima facie conclusion as to whether a fake encounter has taken place or not and in all cases where, under the orders of the High Court, or as Commissions of Inquiries, inquiries have been done in respect of allegations of fake encounters, all such reports should be made public and copies given to the families of the victims and in cases where the findings are that the encounter was fake, criminal prosecution of the personnel concerned should immediately begin and fast tracked to finish within 6 months.

The suggestions also included a special note to the Honorable Commission to recommend to the Supreme Court that a Commission be formed – along the lines of the present Commission – to meet with all sections of society , study the situation and make recommendations for the restoration of democracy in Manipur, the withdrawal of the Army and for peace to be restored and to recommend that AFSPA be repealed and the security forces withdrawn.

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