CBI couldn’t care, your honour

The fact that the Supreme Court strongly pulled up the CBI, after summoning its director Alok Verma to the court, for its failure to investigate and prosecute cases of extrajudicial killings by the security forces in Manipur is a sign of the seriousness the court attaches to the matter. But it also shows the reluctance on the part of the investigation agency to probe the cases in the face of resistance and non-cooperation by the forces and the Central and state governments. The court had, in 2016, ordered investigation of as many as 1,528 cases from 2002 to 2012 on the basis of a petition and after the Justice Santosh Hegde commission appointed by it had found that a number of such killings were indeed illegal and extrajudicial. The court has been following up the matter in hearing after hearing and seeking reports on the progress of the investigation, but the CBI is slow on the matter for obvious reasons. 

The CBI has completed its investigation in less than half a dozen cases. The court noted that there was “basic material’’ available in at least 41 cases but only two charge-sheets had been filed. Fourteen persons were charged in the two cases for murder and other offences but they were not arrested, forcing the court to ask the CBI director why murderers were allowed to roam free on the streets. Personnel of the army, the Assam Rifles and the state police were involved in the killings. The court had directed that the killings should be segregated on the basis of which force was responsible for them and then investigated. This has not been done. The court had told the CBI to conclude the investigations by the end of 2017, but they have hardly even started.  

Many excuses have been presented in the court to avoid the investigations. The government had said that the security forces had made internal enquiries in the cases. This is no justification, because the forces had an interest in covering up the offences and, in any case, nobody has been punished. The government also said that compensation has been paid to the dependants of the victims. This is an admission that illegal killings did take place. The court observed that compensation is no substitute for punishment of the guilty. It reminded the CBI director that “we are dealing with the lives of people’’. It has ordered strengthening of the Special Investigation Team (SIT), with more personnel and quicker filing of charges. The court’s interest and constant pressure will hopefully lead to quicker justice in some of the worst cases of human rights violations in the country.

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CBI couldn’t care, your honour

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