'They think they can do whatever they want' SC urges Centre to prosecute troops for killings
Source: The Sangai Express / Courtesy: MailOnline / Harish V Nair

New Delhi, November 29 2015: Amina, a 28-year-old Manipuri woman, was shot dead by Central Reserve Paramilitary Force (CRPF) personnel while putting her baby to sleep at home.

A probe report said Amina died when the CRPF team, while chasing a criminal, entered Naorem village near Imphal, surrounded her home and fired indiscriminately.

Yumnam Robita Devi, 52, was shot dead on April 9, 2002 by CRPF men as she waited for a bus at Pangei Bazar near Imphal.

A passing convoy of CRPF personnel was ambushed by insurgents.

"In retaliation," a Judge's report said, "the personnel turned to the civilians and fired indiscriminately.

Devi, who ducked to the floor of the market, was spotted and shot dead" .

On October 4, 2004, a 15-year-old school girl was brutally raped by two Army personnel.

She committed suicide the same day.

These are excerpts from the damning reports submitted by two panels of Judges, who confirmed that security forces personnel were involved in rapes and killing of innocents, mostly in Manipur.

Shocked, the Supreme Court on Friday directed the Centre to prosecute security personnel involved in fake encounter killings in the North East under the cover of draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA).

And this is a first from the apex Court.

"Better launch prosecution against the personnel involved.

Now it's like you kill 10 people, pay compensation and the matter ends there.

We also wonder why people are found to have been shot in their back," Justice Madan B Lokur said.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who represented the Centre, replied : "We are not running away from any probe.

We will set up a Court of inquiry.

But remember we are involved in counter insurgency operations.

Some accidental deaths may happen.

We cannot prosecute an entire column of army.

We have to strike a balance where armed forces do not lose their morale" .

Rohatgi assured that "the Court of inquiry shall comprise one Major General, two Brigadiers of different commands like Western or Southern to impart neutrality".

The bench also wondered as to why the personnel, who are witnesses to the killings of innocents by colleagues, were not coming forward to give their statements.

"Are the witnesses scared ? It is understandable if witnesses from the other side like relatives of those killed are not cooperating.

But what about those in the armed forces ?" the Court asked the Government.

The reports, one of them submitted by the Manipur Government, have triggered fresh demands for a probe by a special investigation team into "nearly 1,700 extra-judicial killings in the past 35 years" and withdrawal of the AFSPA from the North Eastern State.

"Crimes against women, more particularly relating to sexual harassment committed by forces, are now increasing in some States like ours.

They (forces) think themselves are placed at the elevated status of impunity by the legislation and think wrongly they are given licence to do whatever they like," said the latest report on incidents during 2004-08, which was compiled by a group of serving and retired Judges of district Courts in Manipur.

These reports were submitted in connection with a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) being heard by the apex Court.

The PIL was filed in 2012 by the Extra Judicial Executions Victims' Families Association.

Allegations .

In April 2013, a commission headed by former Supreme Court judge Santosh Hegde probed six killings by armed forces and police personnel and found the allegations to be true.

"It had concluded that seven victims, including a 12-year-old boy, in the six cases did not have criminal antecedents and were not involved in insurgency.

The report pointed out that "four out of these six cases shockingly followed an identical pattern" .

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