Supreme Court dismisses pleas for recusal of bench hearing Manipur fake encounter cases
It said the Indian Army, paramilitary forces and Manipur Police were disciplined forces strong enough to take "everything in their stride"
The Supreme Court Monday dismissed the pleas filed by some Manipur Police personnel seeking recusal of judges of the bench hearing the case of alleged fake encounters in Manipur in which CBI's Special Investigation Team (SIT) is conducting a probe. The applications claimed that on July 30, the court had allegedly termed the accused, charge sheeted by the SIT in some of the encounter cases, as "murderers". A bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and U U Lalit said that arguments raised before it that the Indian Army, paramilitary forces and Manipur Police have been "demoralised" by the oral observations made by the top court on July 30 was a "rather over-broad submission".
"In any event, in our opinion, it should be clear to everyone that officers and personnel of the Indian Army, paramilitary forces and the state police are made of much sterner stuff than is sought to be projected and they can hardly be demoralised by observations said to have been made by anybody," the bench said in its 20-page order. "It is unfortunate that a bogey of demoralization of the Indian Army, paramilitary forces and the State Police is being raised. We are unable to comprehend the reason for this," the bench said, adding that this submission was made for some "unfathomable reason". It said the Indian Army, paramilitary forces and Manipur Police were disciplined forces strong enough to take "everything in their stride".
"To contend that some observations said to have been made by this court have demoralized the Indian Army, the paramilitary forces and the Manipur Police is suggestive of a weakness in them. Be that as it may, this is really stretching the argument to the vanishing point," the bench said. It said there was no reason for the petitioners to have any doubt that the SIT or the judiciary would be influenced by the observations said to have been made by the top court. It made it "absolutely clear" that the observations made on July 30 by the court were not intended to and should not in any manner be construed as compromising the independence, integrity and fairness of the SIT and the concerned judges. "Institutional integrity of the CBI and the judiciary is positively required to be maintained," the bench said, adding that so far no allegation of unfairness was made against the functioning of the SIT.
It said that apprehension of petitioners that "justice will not be done to them is misplaced if not unfounded". The bench noted that case related to the alleged extra-judicial killings in Manipur pertained to the allegations of serious violations of human rights of persons "described as insurgents". "There is no allegation of any nature with respect to the impartiality and integrity of the SIT. Indeed, the Attorney General made it clear that no one was disputing the capability, expertise and fairness of the CBI and the investigations carried out by the SIT," it said. The apex court said that law of the land was clear that no one could interfere in the investigations being carried out by the investigating officer or an investigating team.
"The purpose of a continuing mandamus (a judicial order issued as a command to subordinate court or authority for performing a statutory duty) is only to ensure that there is no interference during the course of investigations from anybody, whether due to political pressure or executive pressure or any other pressure (including, as it seems, 'judicial pressure') that could compromise the investigations," it said. The court also said that a probe would be meaningful and fair only when the investigating officer or the investigating team was given a free hand. It said that once the judicial process has begun with the filing of final report or a charge sheet in a case, the concerned court was in complete charge and full control of the proceedings and no one could interfere in it.
"We are fortunate to have an independent judiciary and as far as the EEVFAM (extra-judicial execution victim families association) case is concerned, there has been no allegation of any kind that any trial judge dealing with the case has shown a lack of independence," it said. "The applicants/petitioners are indirectly, perhaps unwittingly, questioning the fairness and independence of the judiciary," the bench said. It also noted that, "We have been given to understand that these petitions have the support of a few hundred officers from the Indian Army, the paramilitary forces and Manipur Police".
The Centre had on September 28 supported the plea by the Manipur policemen and questioned the apex court for its reported remark, saying it has "completely shaken" the morale of the armed forces and security men operating in insurgency-hit areas. The court, which is hearing a PIL seeking a probe into as many as 1,528 cases of alleged extra-judicial killings in Manipur, had on July 14 last year constituted the SIT and ordered lodging of FIRs and probe into them.
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