SC notice on Rebati plight

The Supreme Court on Friday issued notices to the Union, Assam and Meghalaya governments for production of Rebati Phukan, a prominent mediator between the Centre and Ulfa. It also ordered a probe by the CBI or any other independent organisation into his alleged mysterious disappearance.

By Our Legal Correspondent
  • Published 2.06.18
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday issued notices to the Union, Assam and Meghalaya governments for production of Rebati Phukan, a prominent mediator between the Centre and Ulfa. It also ordered a probe by the CBI or any other independent organisation into his alleged mysterious disappearance.

A bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and M. Shantanagoudar sought a response from the three governments within two weeks after initially expressing reluctance to deal with the matter.

Justice Rao, who headed the bench, wondered why the petitioner, Kaushik Phukan, son of Rebati, did not approach Gauhati High Court instead of directly rushing to the apex court. The bench pointed out that since Assam police was looking into the matter and, even according to petitioner, chief minister Sarbanada Sonowal was personally monitoring the case, there was no reason why the apex court should entertain the petition.

"You have support of the chief minister. Then what is stopping you from approaching the high court? Why did you come to Delhi?" Justice Rao asked.

Senior advocate Geeta Luthra, appearing for the petitioner, told the court that though the Assam government was extending all cooperation, there had been no progress in the case and since the role of central agencies' are being inferred in the case, Assam police was not able to make much headway. Luthra said as per information obtained from a local journalist, Phukan was last spotted by a doctor in Meghalaya and since two states are involved in the case, the matter should be monitored by the apex court.

The court then issued notices to the Centre and the two states while posting the matter for further hearing after two weeks. Phukan's family had earlier filed a habeas corpus petition, saying that Phukan, who was reportedly involved in truce talks between Ulfa and government agencies, had disappeared on April 22.

A habeas corpus petition is filed before a court for production of a person whose whereabouts are not known despite a complaint being lodged with the police.

According to the family, Phukan disappeared after leaving his house at Geeta Nagar in Guwahati, Assam, where he was staying alone, for a morning walk.

According to the petition, Phukan had on April 20 attended a secret meeting with retired bureaucrat Shantanu Thakuria, and Pranab Pathak, advocate-general, Assam High Court, wherein a proposed memorandum to negotiate with Barua was discussed and the same was to be presented to Prime Minister Narendra Modi soon.

It stated that Phukan had been working directly with the Prime Minister's Office since 1991 for various peace missions between the Centre and Ulfa to bring peace in Assam. He had also worked with the Intelligence Bureau till 2016 on various missions in India, Myanmar, Bangladesh and China.

Quoting news reports, the petition said Phukan, just a few days before his disappearance, was negotiating on behalf of the Paresh Barua faction with the Centre through R.N Ravi, the Centre's interlocutor for Naga outfit NSCN (I-M). The petition quoted Barua's reported statement to a newspaper that Phukan might be in the custody of either the Intelligence Bureau, Research and Analysis Wing, Military Intelligence or National Investigating Agency.

The family had also urged the apex court to transfer investigations relating to Phukan's disappearance to the CBI or any other independent agency as they had no faith in Assam police.