SC Reprimands CBI For Delay In Registration Of FIRs In Fake Encounter Cases In Manipur
The Supreme Court special bench of Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice UU Lalit on Tuesday reprimanded the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), on account of its failure to register FIRs in respect of the fake encounters of innocent persons by police personnel and personnel in uniform in the state of Manipur.
By judgment dated July 14, 2017, the bench had held, “... it would be appropriate if the Central Bureau of Investigation (or the CBI) is required to look into these fake encounters or use of excessive or retaliatory force. Accordingly, the Director of the CBI is directed to nominate a group of five officers to go through the records of the cases mentioned in the three tables given above, lodge necessary FIRs and to complete the investigations into the same by 31st December, 2017 and prepare charge sheets, wherever necessary.”
At the previous hearing on January 8, the bench had observed, “Only eleven FIRs have been filed by 31st December, 2017 and no charge-sheet appears to have been filed at all ... It appears to us that the matter is not being taken up by the CBI and the Special Investigating Team with the seriousness that it deserves”.
In view of the same, the bench had directed Sharad Agrawal, Deputy Inspector General, Crime Branch, CBI, to be present in person along with the status report of the progress made in the investigation and filing of chargesheets in pursuance of the judgment dated July 14, 2017.
Senior counsel Colin Gonsalves, appearing on behalf of the petitioners, submitted, “The registration of a FIR is a cryptic process; neither is any site inspection to be undertaken, nor any forensic analysis is required. Still only 12 FIRs have been registered till date.”
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Maninder Singh contended, “Of the 48 matters referred to the CBI, the victims’ families in 6 cases have not approached the agency and 1 matter has been closed by National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).”
“So file a closure report in respect of cases which have been closed. But FIRs have to be registered,” replied the bench.
Further, Sharad Agrawal submitted, “The CBI has received voluminous enquiry reports of the Commission of Inquiry in respect of the matters referred to us. It is a time taking task to analyse the reports to see if any offence is made out or not before registration of the FIRs.”
To this submission, the bench retorted, “That is not your concern; it is the court’s job. Several matters referred to you are based on judgements of the Gauhati High Court. By not registering the FIR, you are committing contempt of court.”
In response to the ASG’s request to clarify whether FIRs maybe lodged even on the basis of the judgment of the high court and the NHRC and the enquiry report of the Commission of Inquiry or only as per the FIR registered by the local police, the bench retorted, “There is nothing to clarify. In the judgment dated July 14, 2017, only cases already assessed by the High Court, the NHRC or the Commission of Inquiry were referred to the CBI; matters in respect of which the groundwork has already been laid. The CBI was expected to carry on the investigation therefrom. If the CBI was required to commence with the foundation exercise, all 600 cases of encounter would have been referred. The FIRs have to be registered, Investigation conducted and then the report under section 173 CrPC has to be filed.”
Gonsalves also contended, “Even in respect of the 12 FIRs registered, not a single victim’s family has been examined under Section 161 CrPC.”
The bench directed the CBI to complete the exercise in respect of registration of FIRs by January 31.
In addition, senior counsel Colin Gonsalves expressed concerns regarding how the ASG, representing the Union of India in respect of the accused during the hearing of the main writ petition, could now appear for the CBI.