AFSPA cruelties under scanner
THE on-going hearing in the Supreme Court over alleged extra-judicial executions in Manipur, involving both Central and state security personnel, seems to be heading towards a face-off and blame-game between the army authorities and the state government if the army’s contention, that the judicial probes conducted into rape and murder charges against its personnel in Manipur were biased and slanted against them due to local factors, could be corroborated. Accusing the district judges, who were locals and had conducted the judicial inquiries into the alleged killings, that they did not probe the cases in the right earnest and spirit but were influenced due to local apprehensions or positions, suggest that the army is determined to take the case to its logical end rather than allow reports of the judicial investigations undermine the concordance between the central forces and state security personnel when joint counter-insurgency operations were launched to restore peace in Manipur. The army explaining technical constraints in conducting counter-insurgency operations in civilian areas and voicing disenchantment that their services to the nation have been subjected to inquiries on ground of suspicion could also be construed as testimony that the trust gap, if any, has been a cause of concern for the protectors of the nation. Taking into account of the army representative going to the extent of urging the apex court that no decision should be taken on the judicial inquiry reports of district judges, due to their local bias, it appears that the Supreme Court’s observation that the allegations over fake encounter cases should be re-opened and reinvestigated by an independent body is an opportunity for the army to establish righteousness in their attitude and conduct.
Seriousness of the allegations over extra-judicial killings in Manipur could also be comprehended from the opinions shared by Satyabrata Pal, a former Indian diplomat and former member of the National Human Rights Commission, in July 2016 wherein he conceded about the commission’s investigation reports not having the desired impact. Along with welcoming the Supreme Court’s judgment of July 8, 2016 on imposition of AFSPA in Manipur that the Act cannot justify the use of excessive force and rejected the claim that soldiers acting under its cover can only be tried in military courts, Satyabrata penned that the affidavits filed by the NHRC were not helpful in delivering justice to all concerned. In its judgment, the court says it found at least one of them vague. While opining that clear and precise affidavits would have explained to the court the painstaking process through which the NHRC had held that at least 31 of the 55 cases it had considered were fake encounters, he also endorsed the contention of BC Patel, formerly chief justice of the Delhi high court, that no institution was above the law, no law could grant absolute immunity to public servants and impunity from justice was unconstitutional. Satyabrata’s view that “if a democracy condoned or justified extra-judicial killings because the victims were, or were suspected to be, terrorists, it was defending itself through the means used by those who wanted to destroy it”, could be assumed as a recommendation that controversies, which blotted military operations, merit impartial probe for the sake of justice and should serve as a means to redeem reputation and assert reliability of the uniformed personnel, if at all they acted in compliance with the law of the land.