Internal disturbance in Manipur, not war-like situation: SC

Internal disturbance in Manipur, not war-like situation: SC

Internal disturbance in Manipur, not war-like situation: SC

The Supreme Court today termed it a tragedy that Manipur is facing internal disturbance from past six decades but made it clear that it was "not akin to a war-like situation" in this north eastern state.

The Centre's view in opposing any investigation into the alleged extra-judicial killings that a war-like situation was prevailing in Manipur did not go well with a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Uday Umesh Lalit which rejected it saying Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi's submission was nothing but a "play on words".

The AG had opposed any investigation or inquiry into the alleged extra-judicial killings contending that a war-like situation has been and is prevailing in Manipur.

"The submission of the Attorney General is nothing but a play on words and we reject it and hold that an internal disturbance is not equivalent to or akin to a war-like situation and proceed on the basis that there is no war or war-like situation in Manipur but only an internal disturbance, within the meaning of that expression in the Constitution - nothing more and nothing less," the bench said.

It also said there was no doubt from the case records that Manipur has been facing a "public order situation equivalent to an internal disturbance" and "the tragedy is that this situation has continued since 1958 – for almost 60 years".

The court said when it had asked the counsel for Manipur to place before it the declarations under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) and the prohibitory orders issued under Section 144 of the CrPC, only recent declarations and prohibitory orders were produced and the rest have been lost in antiquity.

"A generation or two has gone by and issues have festered for decades. It is high time that concerted and sincere efforts are continuously made by the four stakeholders – civil society in Manipur, insurgents, the State of Manipur and the Government of India to find a lasting and peaceful solution to the festering problem, with a little consideration from all quarters. It is never too late to bring peace and harmony in society," it observed.

Making it clear that the situation in Manipur has "never been one of a war or an external aggression or an armed rebellion that threatens the security of the country or a part thereof", the bench said no such declaration has been made by the Centre, "explicitly or even implicitly".

"Nothing has been shown to us that would warrant a conclusion that there is a war or an external aggression or an armed rebellion in Manipur," it said.

On the Centre's submission that a war-like situation exists in Manipur, the bench said every act of violence, even committed against the armed forces or public officials would not lead to an inference that a war is going on or that war-like conditions are prevailing.

"Similarly, sporadic but organised killings by militants and ambushes would not lead to a conclusion of the existence of a war or war-like conditions. Were such a blanket proposition accepted, it would reflect poorly on our armed forces that they are unable to effectively tackle a war-like situation for the last almost six decades.

"It would also reflect poorly on the Union of India that it is unable to resort to available constitutional provisions and measures to bring a war-like situation under control for almost six decades. We cannot be expected to cast or even countenance any such aspersions on our armed forces or the Union of India," the bench said.

It further said, "All that we can and do say is that in such a situation, our Constitution recognizes only an internal disturbance, which is what the situation in Manipur is and that ought to be dealt with by the civil administration with the services of the armed forces that are available in aid of the civil power."

The bench noted in its verdict that it was due to the efforts of Manipur Police and armed forces of the Centre that the security environment in this state has not deteriorated but has vastly improved over the years.

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