SC Links Extra-judicial Killings With Prolonged Deployment Of Armed Forces

SC Links Extra-judicial Killings With Prolonged Deployment Of Armed Forces

10 April 2013
Rising Kashmir


New Delhi: Reflecting the resentment among people in Jammu and Kashmir and north-eastern states against human rights violations, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said prolonged deployment of armed forces in disturbed areas was bound to result in extra-judicial killings. Dealing with the issues raised by public interest litigations alleging 1,528 extra-judicial killings in Manipur in the last three decades, a bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana P Desai said, 'Manipur's woes must be recognized. It has gone on for 10-15 years. If security forces are kept in a state for 10-15 years, these things are bound to happen. No one can prevent it.' It praised the efforts of the Justice Santosh Hegde committee to inquire and conclude that the six incidents of encounter referred to it were fake which resulted in the cold-blooded killing of seven persons including a 12-year-old boy. The bench said it could never express the depth of sorrow felt by it on reading the findings of the inquiry report. 'We cannot tell you how shameful the case is. Indians were being killed by Indian security forces. What is the use of our sitting here (in the Supreme Court) if people are killed like this,' the bench said. 'Those deaths (fake encounter killings) reflect utter callousness and no respect for human rights and no respect for the right to life,' the bench said. International groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been voicing concern over the involvement of Army and paramilitary forces in human rights violations in Kashmir. The common rights violations include unlawful (extrajudicial) killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other mistreatment of persons in custody, arbitrary and indefinite detention. Infact, there have been so many “disappearances” in Kashmir that there is now a term for women with missing husbands: they are called ‘half widows’. Maintaining that even a single fake encounter killing was unacceptable, the bench said, 'But we must also see the picture from the side of the security forces who are away from their families for long periods. These are young soldiers. The constant violence has a brutalizing effect on them. If you keep Army in a place for 10-15 years, these things are bound to happen. The security force personnel do not lead a normal life being stationed in the midst of constant violence.” Additional solicitor general Paras Kuhad made an impassioned presentation saying Justice Hegde committee's report was being considered at the highest level in Army headquarters, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Defence and the Union government and the authorities were one with the court that even a single fake encounter was unacceptable. When the bench made it clear that it would brook no objection to the Hegde panel report, Kuhad said, 'The response of the Union government and the Army will be restrained yet calibrated. We will have to show the constraints faced by the Army in difficult situations and terrain in which they operate. The Cabinet Committee on Security has to deliberate on it and formulate a final response.' The court accepted his request for four weeks time to file the response. The bench said, 'Most important part of the adjudication process in the court would be how to implement the guidelines and the dos and don'ts for the security forces to prevent fake encounter in future. But it is no less important to bring to book those guilty in the six fake encounters in 2009-10 in which seven were killed.' Appearing for the petitioners, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves said there were 32 cases of fake encounter - six found by the Hegde panel, 17 found by magisterial inquiries and nine found by commissions of inquiry instituted by the state government. 'Manorama killing too was a blatant fake encounter,' he said and demanded a special investigation team to probe and fix responsibility for the 33 killings. Kuhad agreed that there were transgressions by the armed forces in some cases but said hundreds of security force personnel too were killed in the operations. The bench asked him to provide details of militants killed in operations, casualty suffered by forces, death of civilians along with the response of the Union government. Manipur government through senior advocate V Giri submitted that it was ready to furnish all information including the nine cases of commission of inquiry, reports of which have not seen the light of day till now.