Prolonged use of security forces causing fake encounters: SC

The Supreme Court, decrying ''extra judicial'' and ''unjustified'' killings, said such 'encounter deaths' are bound to continue if armed forces are deployed for extended periods in disturbed areas like Jammu & Kashmir and the North-Eastern states.

"There is no respect for human life, an Indian's life. If you (union government) keep areas under security forces for a long period of time, then these things are bound to happen. This court, however, is extremely sensitive about such issues," observed a bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Ranjana P Desai while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) on the issue.

The bench praised the ''painstaking efforts'' of a judicial commission headed by retired judge Santosh Hegde, which declared that seven persons were killed in fake encounters in Manipur, 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.

The court did however note the problems of the security forces, saying these are also understandable, as they do not lead normal lives and have to stay away from their families, in violence-hit areas, for long periods of time.

The court snapped at additional solicitor general Paras Kuhad when he contended that such killings have reduced from around 350 to 50 in the last three-four years in Manipur. "Please don't argue on these lines,'' the bench said, adding that even a single fake encounter killing was unacceptable.

The centre should now do something for Manipur. Manipur has to be fully integrated with the country. You keep a state alienated for 10-15 years and such things will occur."

The bench made it clear that no objections to the commission's report will be entertained.

The PIL claimed that 1,528 extra-judicial killings had occurred in Manipur in the last three decades.

After the bench made it clear that it would entertain no objection to the Hegde committee 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 encounters - six found by the Hegde panel, 17 found by magisterial inquiries and nine found by commissions of inquiry instituted by the state government.