The Supreme Court on July 8 ruled that excessive or retaliatory force can’t be used by armed forces and police even in areas under Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
The judgment is likely to have ramifications in sensitive border areas across the country.
A bench led by Justice Madan B Lokur upheld the court’s power to entertain and deliver justice under Article 32 of the Constitution in a plea made by the families of civilians killed in over 1,528 cases of alleged fake encounters in Manipur.
The top court agreed to have an independent inquiry into the cases of alleged fake encounters in Manipur by the Army and the Manipur Police.
The court said it is open to the army conducting its own inquiries into alleged fake encounters.
The court observed that there are several ‘dos and don’ts’ in the rule books of defence forces and there is no justification whatsoever of breaching these rules of combat and conduct.
The agency to conduct an investigation will be decided after the court receives a collated data of all the cases from advocate Menaka Guruswamy, who is assisting the court in the case.
Guruswamy has to prepare a data of 62 cases that were earlier inquired into by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and a court-appointed committee.
The committee headed by former SC judge justice Santosh Hedge found 15 of the 62 cases fake, while the human rights watchdog said there were 31.
Afspa grants special powers to the armed forces to arrest, conduct searches and seizures and also provides immunity from prosecution to members of the armed forces.
Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi said security forces could not be blamed for collateral deaths that critics describe as extra-judicial murders in Manipur.
“The army is only discharging its sovereign function of defending the country from external aggression and terrorist attacks, it cannot be blamed if some people are killed. The killings are part of the sovereign function discharged by the Union of India through the army,” Rohatgi said.