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SC orders probe into killings

- Panel to investigate cases listed in Manipur petition

Imphal/New Delhi, Jan. 4: The Supreme Court today constituted a three-member commission of “unimpeachable credentials” to probe the first five cases of alleged extra-judicial killings in Manipur listed in a petition jointly filed by Extra-judicial Execution Victim Families Association Manipur and Human Rights Alert, Imphal.

The commission comprises former Supreme Court judge Santosh Hegde, former Chief Election Commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh and a police officer, subject to the consent of the appointees. The police officer’s name is yet to be announced. Manipur director-general of police Yumnam Joykumar Singh will be the secretary to the commission.

The bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai did not announce any time frame for submission of the report.

Details such as the time frame and name of the police officer will be mentioned in the order of the court, which the petitioners will get on Monday.

Babloo Loitongbam, executive director of Human Rights Alert, told The Telegraph over phone from Delhi, “We will get the Supreme Court order on Monday. Everything, including the time frame for submission of the report, will be known after getting the order.”

The petition had sought orders from the Supreme Court for setting up a special investigation team to probe all the killings listed in it and prosecute the guilty in accordance with the law.

The apex court repeatedly clarified that it would be purely a commission under the supervision of the bench and will not be functioning in any manner either as a special investigation team or under the CrPC provision.

The apex court made the observation as additional solicitor general Paras Kuhad opposed the setting up of an SIT as sought by the petitioner on the ground that it would send a “wrong message” across society and instead suggested that the cases be probed by the CBI.

The apex court also pulled up senior counsel Ranjit Kumar appearing for the Manipur government when he sought to question the credentials of the association for filing the petition after he inferred that the petition did not contain a whisper about the militancy in the disturbed areas of the state but was instead harping on the alleged extra-judicial killings.

The bench told the counsel that he cannot make such sweeping allegations against the NGO and pointed out that India’s rule of law was such that even when a former Prime Minister (Indira Gandhi) was assassinated and in the Mumbai terror attack the accused (Ajmal Kasab) were not “lynched” but tried under the due process of law.

The bench further clarified that at this stage it would not go into the issue of determining the validity of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act as it was a “complex issue”.

The petition lists 1,528 cases of alleged extra-judicial killings by the police and central forces in Manipur between 2007 and 2012.

The first five cases to be probed by the inquiry team concern killing of youths.

In the first case, Khumbongmayum Orsonjit, 19, of Imphal West was allegedly arrested by the police from Imphal city on March 16, 2010 and his body was found at the mortuary of Regional Institute of Medical Sciences the next day.

In the second case, Yumnam Kumarjit, 18, of Chandel was found shot dead on August 25, 2009 by a joint team of police commandos and the army. He had gone missing after he boarded an Imphal-bound bus from Zaphou baza-ar in Chandel on August 12.

In the third case, Chongtham Umakanta of Imphal West was taken away by a police team from his friend’s house in the district on May 4, 2009. He was found shot dead in Imphal East the next day.

In the fourth case, Elangbam Kumarjit, 22, was picked up by the police while he was fetching his cow in Thoubal district on April 23, 2009. He was found shot dead in Imphal East the next day.

In the fifth case, Nameirakpam Govind, 25, and his cousin Nameirakpam Bobo, 27, were picked up by the police while they were walking to their Imphal East home. They were found shot dead in Imphal West the next day.

The Supreme Court today postponed the hearing of another petition filed by former retired medical director of Manipur Th. Suresh, seeking repeal of the AFSPA from Manipur. The court is yet to fix a date for the next hearing on the petition, Suresh said from Delhi.