New Delhi, April 18 2017: Rejecting Centre's plea that cases of extra-judicial killings allegedly by armed forces in insurgency-hit Manipur should not be re-opened as more than a decade has passed, the Supreme Court said that when Bangladesh could prosecute war criminals for atrocities committed in 1971, the Indian Government should also not shy away from punishing the culprits accused of killing innocent persons of the State in the last three decades.
A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and UU Lalit said that a fair and impartial probe was needed to find out the truth behind the killings in the State and favoured setting up of a committee comprising senior officials of CBI and State police to hold investigations in those cases.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, however, strongly opposed re-investigation of those cases saying that it would not be appropriate to open the cases after 14 years.
He said that many of the armed force personnel had retired after the incidents and the Court should confine itself to awarding compensation to the victims family.
The bench, however, reminded the Centre that neighbouring country Bangladesh was now prosecuting the armed personnel and politicians for war crimes perpetuated by them in 1971.The Court said that fresh probe was required to send a message that armed personnel could not be let off after killing innocent people.
The Court said that it would first direct probe in three cases of rape and murder which took place in 2003 as there were apparent flaws in the investigations done by Court of Inquiry directed by Army.
"It appears to us that three cases need to be probed by an independent team to find out the truth.
The probe will take time but it is needed as judicial inquiry and court of inquiry came to two divergent findings," the bench said.
The Court was hearing a PIL filed by the Extra-Judicial Execution Victims Families Association, a registered trust with the wives and mothers of persons whom they claim have been extra-judicially executed by the Manipur police and the security forces (mainly the Assam Rifles and the Army) as its members.
The petitioner alleged 1,528 extra-judicial killings by the Army and other security forces in the last three decades in Manipur.
The Court also pulled up the State Government for not protecting its people and said "State is in bad shape".
The Court asked the Centre, State and the petitioner to suggest name of officers who could be entrusted the task to carry out investigations.
In 2013, the apex Court had appointed a Commission of Inquiry (COI) headed by former SC Judge Santosh Hegde to investigate six "sample cases of alleged fake encounters" .
The commission in its report had said that all six cases were fake encounter and it was not carried out by the security forces in self-defence.