AFPSA and the TEN COMMANDMENTS OF SUPREME COURT

 

REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CRIMINAL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION

WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO.129 OF 2012

 

Extra Judicial Execution Victim Families Association (EEVFAM)  & Anr................................Petitioners          

                                                            versus

Union of India & Anr. ……………………………………………...........................................Respondents

J U D G M E N T

Madan B. Lokur, J.

1.     This writ petition  under  Article  32  of  the  Constitution  raises important and fundamental questions of human rights violations – not in  the context of the accused but in the context of the victims.  Do  the  next  of kin of deceased victims have any  rights  at  all,  other  than  receipt  of monetary compensation?

2.     The allegations made in the writ petition concern what are  described as fake encounters or extra-judicial executions said to  have  been  carried out by the Manipur Police and the armed forces of the Union,  including  the Army. According to the  police  and  security  forces,  the  encounters  are genuine and the victims were militants or terrorists  or  insurgents  killed in counter insurgency or anti terrorist operations. Whether the  allegations are completely or partially true or are entirely  rubbish  and  whether  the encounter is genuine or not is yet to be determined, but in any  case  there is a need to know the truth.

3.     The right to know the truth has  gained  increasing  importance  over the  years.  This  right  was  articulated  by  the  United   Nations   High Commissioner for Human Rights in  the  sixty-second  session  of  the  Human Rights Commission. In a Study on the right to the truth, it  was  stated  in paragraph  8  that  though  the  right   had   its   origins   in   enforced disappearances,  it  has  gradually  extended  to   include   extra-judicial executions. This paragraph reads as follows:

“With the emergence of  the  practice  of  enforced  disappearances  in  the 1970s, the  concept  of  the  right  to  the  truth  became  the  object  of increasing attention from international and  regional  human  rights  bodies and special procedures mandate-holders. In particular, the  ad  hoc  working group  on  human  rights  in  Chile,  the  Working  Group  on  Enforced   or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID)  and  the  Inter-American  Commission  on Human Rights (IACHR) developed an important  doctrine  on  this  right  with regard to the crime of enforced disappearances. These  mechanisms  initially based the legal source for this  right  upon  articles  32  and  33  of  the Additional  Protocol  to  the  Geneva  Conventions,  of  12   August   1949. Commentators have taken the same approach. However, although this right  was initially referred to solely within the context of enforced  disappearances, it has been gradually extended to other  serious  human  rights  violations, such as extrajudicial executions and torture.  The  Human  Rights  Committee has urged  a  State  party  to  the  International  Covenant  on  Civil  and Political Rights to guarantee that the victims of  human  rights  violations know the truth  with  respect  to  the  acts  committed  and  know  who  the perpetrators of such acts were.”[1]

It is necessary to know the truth so that the law is tempered with  justice. The exercise for  knowing  the  truth  mandates  ascertaining  whether  fake encounters or extra-judicial executions have taken place and if so, who  are the perpetrators of the human rights violations and how can the next of  kin be commiserated with and what further steps ought to be taken, if any. The background

4.     The Extra Judicial Execution Victim Families Association  (petitioner no.1) in W.P. (Crl.) No. 129 of 2012 says that  it  is  a  registered  trust having as its members the wives and mothers of persons whom  they  say  have been extra-judicially executed  by  the  Manipur  Police  and  the  security forces (mainly the Assam Rifles and  the  Army).   The  Human  Rights  Alert (petitioner no.  2)  also  claims  to  be  a  registered  trust.   They  are hereinafter compendiously referred to as the petitioners.

5.     The petitioners claim to have compiled  1528  alleged  extra-judicial executions carried out by the police and security forces in Manipur.  It  is alleged that a majority of them have been carried out in  cold  blood  while the victims  were  in  custody  and  allegedly  after  torturing  them.  The compilation was presented in the form of a Memorandum to the United  Nations Special  Rapporteur  on  extra-judicial,  summary  or  arbitrary  executions during his mission to India in March 2012. We do not know  what  action  has been taken on the Memorandum, but a perusal  of  the  compilation  indicates that the place of  encounter  is  not  documented  in  some  cases  and  the identity of the victim is not known in  some  cases.  Of  these  1528  cases documented  by  the   petitioners,  they   have   made   a   more   elaborate documentation of 62 cases.  For the purposes  of  the  writ  petition  filed under Article 32 of the Constitution, they  have  referred  to  10  specific cases (out of 62) where, according to them, eye-witness  accounts  exist  of extra-judicial executions but  the  police  and  the  security  forces  have justified them as encounters with militants.  The details of these 10  cases are mentioned in the writ petition  but  it  is  not  necessary  for  us  to individually discuss them.

6.     The petitioners say that not a single First Information  Report  (for short ‘FIR’) has been registered by the Manipur police  against  the  police or the security forces even though several  complaints  have  been  made  in respect of the alleged  extra-judicial  executions.   As  a  result  of  the failure of the Manipur police to register an FIR not a single  investigation or prosecution has commenced and the cries of anguish  of  the  families  of the victims have fallen on deaf ears.

7.      The  petitioners  say  that  the  victims  of   the   extra-judicial executions include innocent persons with no criminal record  whatsoever  but they are later on conveniently labeled as militants.  The  petitioners  also say that the National Human Rights Commission (the NHRC) which  is  mandated to investigate human rights abuses and recommend punishment  of  the  guilty has turned out to be a toothless  tiger.  The  Manipur  State  Human  Rights Commission is defunct  due  to  the  non-appointment  of  members  and  non- allocation of resources despite  an  order  of  the  Manipur  Bench  of  the Gauhati High Court  in  PIL  W.P.  No.  15  of  2011.   It  is  under  these circumstances that the petitioners have  been  compelled  to  approach  this Court under Article 32  of  the  Constitution  for  appropriate  orders  for setting up  a  Special  Investigation  Team  (for  short  ‘SIT’)  of  police officers from outside the State  of  Manipur  to  investigate  instances  of alleged extra-judicial executions and thereafter prosecute the offenders  in accordance with law.

8.     Dr. Th. Suresh Singh is the petitioner in W.P. (C) No.  445  of  2012 and he says that he is a vigilant citizen  who  safeguards  the  fundamental rights of all people in Manipur. In his  individual  capacity  as  a  public interest litigant he prays  for  a  direction  that  the  areas  in  Manipur declared as a “disturbed area” in terms of Section 3  of  the  Armed  Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (for short ‘the  AFSPA’)  be  withdrawn  and  the notification issued in this regard be quashed.

9.     At the outset it may be stated that though both  the  writ  petitions were listed for hearing over several days, the  sum  and  substance  of  the submissions related to the setting up of an SIT to investigate  the  alleged extra-judicial executions with a clear understanding that W.P. (C)  No.  445 of 2012 would be taken up for consideration later. Therefore, we are not  at all considering the prayers made in W.P. (C) No. 445 of 2012. Affidavits filed by the Union of India

10.    During the course of hearing, a detailed reference was  made  by  the learned Attorney General to the counter affidavit  filed  by  the  Union  of India on 15th December, 2012 in W.P. (C) No. 445 of 2012. This was more  for convenience in placing the detailed facts rather than anything else. In  the affidavit, it has been stated, inter alia, that the security of  the  nation is of paramount importance and this involves the security of the  States  as well.  A reference is made to Article 355 of the Constitution which casts  a duty on the Union to protect every State  against  external  aggression  and internal disturbances and also to ensure that the Government of every  State is carried on in accordance with the provisions of the  Constitution.[2]   A reference is also made to Entry 2A of List I of the Seventh Schedule of  the Constitution (the Union List) relating to the deployment of armed forces  of the Union in any State in aid of the civil power.[3]

11.    It is stated that militant groups are operating in  north-east  India demanding separation from the country and indulging in violence  by  way  of killing innocent civilians with a  view  to  create  a  fear  psychosis  and indulging in extortion so as to promote  their  ideology  and  goals.  These militant groups possess sophisticated arms and  have  cross  border  support from countries inimical to the country’s interests;  they  have  no  respect for the law of the land and indulge in crimes without  having  any  fear  of the law and order machinery.

12.    It is submitted that violence has become a way of life in the  north-eastern States and the State Governments do  not  possess  the  strength  to maintain public order and as such military aid by the Union  to  the  States becomes inevitable.

13.    With specific regard  to  Manipur  it  is  stated  that  there  is  a constant threat from armed militant groups and therefore  there  is  a  need for counter insurgency operations through the armed  forces  in  conjunction with the civil administration. These operations also hold out  a  threat  to the lives of the armed forces personnel since  the  militants  wield  deadly weapons.  It is in this background that the AFSPA came  to  be  enacted  and amended subsequently  keeping  in  view  the  hostile  environment  and  the imperative to give  legal  and  logistic  protection  to  the  armed  forces personnel posted on duty so as to enable them to operate with  the  required thrust and drive.

14.    It is stated that to sensitize the armed forces  personnel  on  human rights aspects, the Ministry of Defence  of  the  Government  of  India  has issued ‘Dos’ and  Don’ts’.   The  armed  forces  follow  these  instructions strictly and observe restraint in their operations.

15.    It  is  submitted  that  a  review  of  the  security  situation  and potential militancy levels in the “disturbed area” is a  highly  specialized issue requiring requisite expertise in the domain of internal security.  The actions that need to be taken by the appropriate  Government  to  deal  with such situations of internal disturbances are not issues that can be  decided in a court of law.

16.    It is stated that AFSPA was withdrawn from the Imphal Municipal  Area in August 2004[4] illustrating that  the  appropriate  government  has  been periodically reviewing the security situation in the  “disturbed  area”  and wherever necessary, the application of AFSPA has been withdrawn.

17.    With reference to the allegation that in view of Section 4(a) of  the AFSPA a person can be killed without any reason by the  armed  forces,  this is categorically denied by stating that there  are  several  safeguards  and pre-requisite conditions that need to be  fulfilled  under  AFSPA  before  a person might be killed by the  armed  forces.   These  safeguards  and  pre-requisite conditions  have  been  mentioned  in  the  affidavit  and  it  is concluded that it is absolutely wrong  to  suggest  that  the  armed  forces personnel can kill any person without  any  reason,  as  alleged.  The  pre-conditions, inter alia, are:

There has to be a declaration of disturbed area by a  high  level  authority as mentioned in the Act. The concerned officer has to be of the opinion that it is  necessary  to  do for the maintenance of public order. He has to give such due warning as he may consider necessary. The person against whom action is  being  taken  by  armed  forces  must  be “acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force  in the disturbed area”.

Such law or order must relate to prohibiting the assembly of  five  or  more persons or the carrying of weapons or of things capable  of  being  used  as weapons or of fire-arms, ammunition or explosive substances. 

18.    It is submitted that though Manipur is facing an  insurgency  problem and the police and the armed forces are dealing with  that  problem  to  the best of their ability, the common man  is  not  generally  affected  by  the counter insurgency operations.  It is stated  that  the  people  of  Manipur have been actively participating in the electoral  process  and  by  way  of example it is stated that in the 1990 elections for the assembly seats,  the voting turnout was 89.95% and  similarly  in  the  2012  elections  for  the assembly seats the voting percentage was 83.24%.  It is submitted  that  the voting percentage in Manipur is amongst the highest in the country.

19.    It is emphasized that only 5000 militants are  holding  a  population of about 23 lakhs in Manipur to ransom and keeping the  people  in  constant fear. It is further stated that the root cause of militancy  in  Manipur  is the constant endeavour of insurgent groups to extort  money  so  that  their leaders can lead  a  luxurious  life  in  foreign  countries.  Additionally, ethnic rivalries,  the  tribal  divide  and  factions  in  society  and  the unemployed youth are being exploited by militant outfits to fuel tension.

20.    It is pointed out that the militant groups take advantage of  a  long international border of over 250 kms that is shared with  Myanmar  and  that the border is heavily forested  and  has  a  very  difficult  terrain.   The border area is inhabited by the same tribes on  either  side.  These  tribes have family relations and social interactions and therefore a free  movement regime to move upto 16 kms on both sides is permitted.  Taking advantage  of this, the  militant  outfits  utilize  the  other  side  of  the  border  in conveniently conducting their operations of extortion, kidnapping,  killing, looting and ambushing the security forces.

21.    With regard to the amendments to the AFSPA  it  is  stated  that  the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee was set up by  the  Government  of  India  in 2004 and it submitted a report on 6th June, 2005 recommending the repeal  of AFSPA and suggesting amendments  to  the  Unlawful  Activities  (Prevention) Act, 1967 (for short ‘the UAPA’) to achieve the purpose of AFSPA.   However, the Cabinet Committee on Security has not approved the proposal and a  final decision has not yet been taken by the Cabinet and the exercise of  amending the AFSPA is under consideration of the Government of India.

22.    It is submitted in this context that the 2nd  Administrative  Reforms Commission had endorsed the view of the Justice Jeevan Reddy  Committee  and the Group of Ministers in the Government of India decided  on  17th  August, 2012 to consult the State Governments and that process is still on.

23.    It is submitted that several militants have surrendered as  a  result of a dialogue between the Government and militant outfits willing to  abjure violence. The Government has also framed  a  surrender  policy  whereby  the militants who surrender are  provided  incentives  including  assurances  of livelihood.

24.    On the human rights issue, it is stated that a Human Rights  Division in the Army Headquarters ensures that prescribed ‘Dos’  and  Don’ts’  (while dealing with militants and insurgents) are adhered  to.   Additionally,  the Chief of Army Staff has also issued ‘Ten Commandments’  and  this  indicates that the armed forces consistently (and constantly) keep a watch  on  issues of human rights.

25.    It is submitted that complaints  of  violation  of  human  rights  as reported by the NHRC are received by the Ministry of Defence in  respect  of alleged violations by the Army and in the Ministry of  Home  Affairs  (Human Rights Division) in the case of Central Armed Police Forces. As far  as  the Ministry of Defence is concerned,  the  complaints  are  sent  to  the  Army Headquarters (Human Rights Division) and they are then investigated  by  the District Magistrate and the  local  police.   A  separate  enquiry  is  also conducted by the Army and wherever necessary appropriate  action  is  taken. In respect of allegations against the Central  Armed  Police  Forces,  State level investigations are conducted and the factual position determined.   It is then that a decision is taken whether an encounter is genuine or fake.

26.    It is further submitted that  as  many  as  70  personnel  have  been punished for human rights violations and therefore it is  incorrect  to  say that no one has been punished for human rights violations.

27.    The Union of India has  filed  two  substantive  affidavits  in  W.P. (Crl.) No. 129 of 2012. The first is an affidavit dated 5th  December,  2012 which is a somewhat abridged version of the  subsequent  affidavit  of  15th December, 2012 in W.P. (C) No. 455 of  2012.  The  second  is  an  affidavit filed in September 2013. There is a third affidavit which is a  response  to the report of the Justice Hegde Commission[5] but we are not concerned  with its contents in any detail.

28.    In the affidavit of 5th December, 2012 it is stated that the  persons killed allegedly  through  ‘extra-judicial  executions’  as  stated  by  the petitioners  are  those  killed  during  counter-insurgency  operations   in Manipur. It is further stated that “in most of these  cases,  persons  might have been killed in the lawful exercise of the powers and/or performance  of the official duties by personnel from the police and armed forces.”

29.    Attention is then drawn to provisions of law that permit the  killing of a human being by a police officer or armed forces  personnel  subject  to certain conditions and which may not amount  to  an  offence  but  might  be justifiable under law.  Reference in this regard is made to  Section  46  of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (for short ‘the  Cr.P.C.’)  and  it  is submitted that in certain extreme situations it may be justifiable  even  if the death of a person being arrested is caused if the  conditions  mentioned in the Section are satisfied and if the person being arrested is accused  of an offence punishable with death or with imprisonment for life.

30.    Reference is also  made  to  Sections  129  to  132  of  the  Cr.P.C. relating to the  “Maintenance  of  Public  Order  and  Tranquility”.   These sections allow the use of force, including by the armed forces, to  disperse an unlawful assembly and in extreme situations use of such  force  may  even lead to causing the death of a person  while  dispersing  such  an  unlawful assembly.

31.    The affidavit also refers to Chapter 4 of the Indian Penal Code  (for short ‘the IPC’) particularly Sections 99 to 106 which deal with  the  right of private defence.  It is submitted that when personnel from the police  or armed forces  are  attacked  with  firearms  etc.  by  insurgents  or  other criminals, uniformed personnel have the right to  exercise  their  right  of private defence which may extend to causing the death of such  an  insurgent or criminal.

32.    Reliance is  placed  on  Section  4  of  the  AFSPA  where,  for  the maintenance of public order in a “disturbed area” the armed forces may  fire upon or otherwise use force even to the extent of  causing  death.  However, this power is given only to certain personnel of the armed forces  and  that power may be exercised only  if  that  person  is  of  opinion  that  it  is necessary to do so for the maintenance of public order,  after  giving  such due warning as he may consider necessary.  It  is  also  provided  that  the person fired upon must be acting in contravention of any law  or  order  for the time being in force in the disturbed area prohibiting  the  assembly  of five or more persons or carrying of weapons or of things  capable  of  being used as weapons or of firearms, ammunition or explosive substances.

33.    It is stated that  without  going  into  the  alleged  extra-judicial executions, the death  of  1528  persons  in  the  cases  mentioned  by  the petitioners is caused by uniformed  personnel  in  the  lawful  exercise  of powers vested and in circumstances that justify the use of such force  under the legal provisions mentioned above.

34.    It is emphasized that  only  around  1500  militants  are  holding  a population of about 23 lakhs in Manipur to ransom and keeping the people  in constant fear.[6]

35.    In the affidavit of September 2013, a broad  overview  of  insurgency in the north-east is given by the Union of India.  With  specific  reference to Manipur, it is stated that a large number of terrorist groups are  active in the State with varying demands including outright secession  from  India. These terrorist groups have safe havens across  the  border  and  they  have  been indulging in the cold blooded murder  of  dignitaries,  security  force personnel and innocent citizens including  political  leaders,  bureaucratic functionaries etc.  These groups have resorted  to  burning  copies  of  the Constitution of India and the national flag and have, to a  certain  extent, subverted the local administration and muzzled the voice of  the  people  by violence and threats of violence.

36.    It is further stated that the armed forces conduct operations  within the framework of the military ethos wherein  local  customs  and  traditions are deeply valued  and  respected  and  restraint  is  exercised.   This  is reflected, significantly, in the number of casualties suffered since 1990  - approximately for every two terrorists killed, one security force  personnel has been killed and for every two security force personnel killed, three  of them have been wounded in operations.

37.    The Union of India has filed  detailed  written  submissions  on  4th May, 2016 which essentially reiterate and reaffirm the submissions  made  on affidavit. However, it is pointed out  that  “a  militant  or  terrorist  or insurgent, is an ‘Enemy’ within the aforesaid definition  [Section  3(x)  of the Army Act, 1950] and it is the bounden duty of all Army Personnel to  act against a militant or a terrorist or an insurgent, while he is  deployed  in a ‘disturbed area’ under AFSPA. In case Army personnel do  not  act  against an enemy or show cowardice, it is a Court-martial  offence  under  Army  Act Section 34, punishable with death.”[7]  Reference  is  made  to  Ex-Havildar Ratan Singh v. Union of India[8] to conclude that a  militant  is  an  enemy within the definition of Section 3(x) of the Army Act, 1950.  This  view  is carried forward by submitting that the victims have been persons waging  war against the Government of India and in terms  of  Section  121  of  the  IPC anyone who joins  an  insurrection  against  the  Government  of  India  has committed an offence of waging war. In this regard,  reference  is  made  to State (NCT of Delhi) v. Navjot Sandhu[9]  wherein  it  is  held  that  under Section 121 of the IPC ‘war’ is not  contemplated  as  conventional  warfare between two nations. Organizing and  joining  an  insurrection  against  the Government of India is also a form of war. Affidavits filed by the State of Manipur

38.    The State of Manipur has filed five affidavits  in  W.P.  (Crl.)  No.129 of 2012 but only two of them are substantive.  In  the  affidavit  dated 17th November, 2012 it is stated that  of  the  10  cases  detailed  by  the petitioners in the writ petition, reports have been furnished by Manipur  to the NHRC in all of them and significantly, in none of these  cases  has  the NHRC given a finding of violation of human rights.  In this context,  it  is submitted that the NHRC is a high-powered body whose Chairman is  a  retired Chief Justice of India and under the circumstances, it cannot  be  described as a toothless tiger. However, it is submitted that this Court  may  require the NHRC to indicate the status of the 10 cases and intervene  only  if  the NHRC has failed to  perform  its  statutory  functions  to  safeguard  vital fundamental rights.

39.    With regard to the problem of insurgency in  Manipur,  it  is  stated that Manipur has an international border  of  over  360  kms  with  Myanmar. About 30 extremist organizations operate in Manipur  and  all  of  them  are very powerful  and  heavily  armed  with  sophisticated  weapons,  including rocket launchers. Their aim and object is to form an independent Manipur  by its secession from India.  They have been indulging  in  violent  activities including killing of civilians and security forces and law abiding  citizens of Manipur to achieve their objective.  They have  also  been  intimidating, extorting and looting civilians for collection of funds and  making  efforts to get established abroad for influencing public opinion and securing  their assistance by way of arms  and  training  in  achieving  their  secessionist objective.  Though  these  organizations  have  been  declared  as  unlawful organizations under the UAPA, the ordinary criminal  laws  are  insufficient to deal with insurgency problems which have  warranted  enforcement  of  the AFSPA.  The State of Manipur has also given  the  following  statistics  for the period 2000 to October 2012 of  police  personnel  killed  and  injured, security forces personnel  killed  and  injured  and  civilians  killed  and injured to highlight the problem of insurgency in the State:

Police Killed

Police injured

Security forces killed

Security forces injured

Civilians killed

Civilians injured

105

178

260

466

1214

1173

 

40.    It is further stated that the facts indicate that the insurgents  are different from other criminals  inasmuch  as  they  are  heavily  armed  and operate from foreign countries and  it  is  not  possible  to  identify  the members of the banned organizations and though they may be  few  in  number, they have many supporters and sympathizers who  provide  logistical  support to them.

41.    The other affidavit filed by the State  of  Manipur  on  3rd  August, 2013 is  effectively  a  reply  to  the  Court  appointed  Committee  (which Committee is referred to a  little  later).  The  affidavit  reiterates  the presence of a large number of  underground  groups  who  propagate  freedom, independence  and  sovereignty  of  the  State  of   Manipur   and   possess sophisticated  arms,  some  of  which  are  transported  from   neighbouring countries. The affidavit reiterates the statistics and submissions  made  in the earlier affidavit of 17th November, 2012 and indicates that the  genesis of declaring the  entire  State  as  a  “disturbed  area”  goes  back  to  a notification dated 15th October, 1970 and it has continued  to  be  declared as a “disturbed area” since then.  In August 2004 the Imphal Municipal  Area in the State was de-notified as a “disturbed area”  under  the  AFSPA.   The State Government has been trying to de-notify more and more areas but  given the circumstances, it is finding it difficult and unable to do so.

42.     It  is  stated  that  to  synergize  security  issues  and   counter insurgency operations in Manipur a Unified Headquarter  was  established  on 16th September, 2004. This consists of the Combined Headquarters  headed  by the Chief Minister of Manipur  as  its  Chairman,  Strategy  and  Operations Group  headed  by  the  Chief  Secretary,  Manipur  as  its   Chairman   and Operational Intelligence Group headed by the Director General of  Police  as its Chairman.  Under the circumstances, it is stated that  even  though  the number of incidents of militancy are large and  casualties  are  heavy,  the State Government will not tolerate even one false encounter  and  will  also ensure that no innocent security personnel is victimized or harassed for  an innocent act performed in good faith and without any mala fide intentions.

43.    With regard to the specific cases dealt with by the  Court  appointed Commission and the recommendations made by the said  Commission,  the   State of Manipur has  raised  several  preliminary  objections  and  made  several submissions. For the present purposes, it is not  necessary  for  us  to  go into this aspect of the matter. It is stressed that  the  implementation  of AFSPA is necessary and that it has  yielded  positive  results  in  reducing militancy in Manipur.

44.    The State of Manipur has filed a supplementary counter  affidavit  on 4th December, 2012 detailing its viewpoint  with  regard  to  the  10  cases identified by the petitioners. For our purposes,  it  is  not  necessary  to deal with the merits of these cases.  Written  submissions  have  also  been filed by Manipur on 3rd May, 2016 and these are a reiteration of  the  views expressed in the affidavits filed.  Affidavits filed by the NHRC

45.    The NHRC has filed as many as four affidavits in W.P. (Crl.) No.  129 of 2012.

46.    In the first affidavit  dated  30.11.2012/03.12.2012,  it  is  stated that the NHRC has issued guidelines on 29th  March,  1997  recommending  the correct procedure to be followed by all the States  in  relation  to  deaths due to encounters between the police  and  others.   These  guidelines  were forwarded with a request to all the States to issue  appropriate  directions through the Director General of Police to all the Police Stations.

47.    The guidelines were revised on 2nd December, 2003  on  the  basis  of experience  gained  over  the   previous   six   years.    It   was   noted, unfortunately, that most of  the  States  were  not  following  the  earlier guidelines in their true spirit.

48.    One of the important modifications made in the guidelines  issued  on 2nd December, 2003 was the requirement  of  a  Magisterial  Enquiry  in  all cases of death  which  occur  in  the  course  of  police  action.   Another significant modification was that all States were required to  furnish  six-monthly statements to the NHRC in respect of all deaths in  police  stations in a prescribed  format  along  with  the  post-mortem  report  and  inquest report.

49.    The guidelines were further modified on 12th  May,  2010  once  again  with the NHRC observing that most of  the  States  were  not  following  the recommendations  earlier  made  in  their  true  spirit.  These   guidelines recommended that the Magisterial Enquiry must be compulsorily conducted  and completed in all cases of death which occur in the course of  police  action preferably within three months.  It was also recommended that  a  report  be sent to the NHRC in a format prescribed in the guidelines in  all  cases  of death in police action within 48 hours of the death occurring.

50.    The NHRC has generally stated in the affidavit that in all cases  the State Governments invariably take more than reasonable time  to  submit  the Magisterial  Enquiry  report,  post-mortem  report,   inquest   report   and ballistic expert report and in view of these delays the NHRC  is  not  in  a position to conclude its proceedings at an early date.

51.    With regard to deaths due to action taken by  members  of  the  armed forces, the NHRC says that it has no option, in view of Section  19  of  the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993  except  to  seek  a  report  from  the Central Government and thereafter make a recommendation and publish it  with the action taken by the Central Government.[10]

52.    It is stated that between 2007 and 2012, the NHRC has  received  1671 complaints/information  regarding  fake  encounters  (not  necessarily  from Manipur) and it has  awarded  monetary  compensation  to  the  tune  of  Rs.10,51,80,000/- (Rs. Ten Crores Fifty One Lakhs and Eighty Thousand)  in  191 cases. It is further  stated  that  on  receiving  the  Magisterial  Enquiry report and other related reports, if the  NHRC  finds  itself  in  agreement with them, and if as per the report the  encounter  has  been  found  to  be genuine, then it closes the complaint by passing an order  to  that  effect. However, if it is found that the encounter  was  fake,  then  a  show  cause notice  is  issued  to  the  concerned  State  Government  to  appropriately compensate the family of the victim. In other words, between 2007  and  2012 the NHRC has found 191 cases of fake encounters. It is not  clear  which  of these, if any, relate to the 1528 cases from Manipur.

53.    By way of a complaint (if we may call it that)  the  NHRC  states  in the affidavit that it has written to the Central Government to increase  its staff but the request has not been acted upon.  It also states that to  give more teeth to the guidelines issued by the NHRC, it would be appropriate  if this Court directs all the States to  strictly  comply  with  them  both  in letter and spirit.

54.    In the second affidavit dated 3rd January, 2013 it is stated that  as far back as on 10th August, 1995 the NHRC had advised  all  Chief  Ministers to introduce video-filming of the post-mortem examination with  effect  from 1st October, 1995 in all cases of deaths in police action  or  armed  forces action to avoid any distortions of facts due  to  alleged  pressure  of  the local police.

55.    In a communication dated 27th March,  1997  the  NHRC  expressed  its distress to all the Chief Ministers on the quality  of  post-mortem  reports being prepared and sent to the  NHRC.   Along  with  the  letter,  the  NHRC annexed a Model Autopsy Form prepared by it based on the U.N. Model  Autopsy Protocol and recommended to all the State Governments to prescribe the  said Model Autopsy Form and the Additional Procedure for Inquest as indicated  in the letter dated 27th March, 1997.

56.    In the affidavit, the  NHRC  expresses  helplessness  in  taking  any coercive measures since it has no power to take action  against  persons  or authorities who do not follow the guidelines laid down by  it  nor  does  it have  power  to  give  directions  or  pass  orders  but   can   only   make recommendations.  By way of an example, it is stated that the Government  of Delhi by its letters dated 9th  February,  2011  and  14th  June,  2011  has refused to conduct a Magisterial Enquiry in case of  police  encounters  and has clearly stated that if the Home Department is  satisfied  that  such  an enquiry is to be conducted, only then would it be conducted.

57.    The NHRC has again lamented the shortage of staff available  with  it resulting in delays taking place  and  follow  up  action  being  made  more difficult. The NHRC has also lamented the poor quality  of  the  Magisterial Enquiry reports received by it wherein the family of the  person  killed  is not examined nor independent witnesses examined.

58.    The NHRC has annexed some statistics of disposal of cases along  with the affidavit but they are not necessary  for  the  present  purposes.   The NHRC has prayed that in view of the circumstances and on the  basis  of  its experience of several years the suggestions incorporated  in  the  affidavit may be made an order of this Court.

59.    With regard  to  the  alleged  fake  encounter  killings,  the  third affidavit dated 21st February, 2014 filed by the NHRC  is  extremely  vague. All that it says is that the NHRC held a camp  sitting  in  Imphal,  Manipur between 23rd October, 2013 and 25th October, 2013 to  consider  the  pending complaints of extra-judicial killings by the  armed  forces/police.   During the sittings the NHRC had listed 46 cases, as per the cause  list  attached, but only in 5 cases it could  reach  a  conclusion  that  the  victims  were murdered/killed  by  the  armed  forces/police  while  they  were  in  their custody.  Accordingly, monetary relief ranging from Rs. 5 lakhs  to  Rs.  20 lakhs was ordered to be given to their next of kin.  It is not at all  clear which five cases were dealt with. It is also not clear what happened to  the remaining cases.  All that the NHRC has annexed with the  affidavit  is  the record of proceedings in one case relating  to  late  Thangjam  Thoithoi  in which his next of kin was awarded Rs. 5 lakhs by way of compensation.

60.    In the fourth affidavit dated 27th July, 2015 the NHRC has given  the progress in respect of 62 cases of which  details  are  given  in  the  writ petition.  Subsequently, during the  course  of  hearing,  the  up  to  date information was given to us and therefore it is not necessary  to  refer  to the information given in the affidavit.  All that needs to be said  is  that the NHRC has complained that the State of Manipur has  not  been  furnishing the required documents and information within the prescribed  time  and  has also  not  been  submitting  the  compliance  report  in  respect   of   the recommendations made for providing monetary relief.

61.    As mentioned above, the NHRC has furnished information in respect  of the 62  cases  during  the  course  of  hearing  and  also  in  the  written submissions filed on 4th May, 2016.  The  gist  of  the  information  is  as follows:

Compensation awarded by NHRC or High Court

Show cause notices pending for award of compensation

Pending disposal with the NHRC

Cases closed

No of cases registered with the NHRC

Total

27

4

17

7

7

62

 62.    The above chart clearly suggests that 31 of the 62 cases  were  those of a fake encounter or an extra-judicial killing. In 7 of the  62  cases  no complaint was made to the  NHRC.  As  regards,  the  cases  that  have  been closed, we find from a perusal of some orders produced before us  that  some of these complaints have been closed without any  application  of  mind  and simply because of the conclusion  arrived  at  in  the  Magisterial  Enquiry report, which is really an administrative report.

63.    The written submissions submitted by the NHRC are  a  reiteration  of the submissions made in the various affidavits filed by it and presently  do not need any detailed discussion. However, it is pointed out  (perhaps  with a tinge of frustration) that the petitioners might  not  be  very  wrong  in describing the NHRC as a toothless tiger! Proceedings in this Court

64.    The petition was taken up for consideration by this Court  from  time to time on the above broad pleadings.  At this  stage  it  is  necessary  to have a brief overview of the proceedings that took place in this Court  over the last couple of years.

65.    On 1st October, 2012 notice was issued in the writ  petition  to  the respondents, that is, the Union of  India  and  the  State  of  Manipur.   A request was also sent to  the  National  Human  Rights  Commission  for  its response in the matter. Ms. Menaka Guruswamy an advocate of this  Court  was requested to assist as Amicus Curiae.

66.    On 4th January, 2013 the case was heard at great length  and  it  was proposed to appoint a high-powered Commission to  inform  this  Court  about the correct facts with regard to the killing of persons in the  cases  cited by the petitioners.  Accordingly, a three-member Commission was  constituted with Mr. Justice N. Santosh Hegde, a former  Judge  of  this  Court  as  the Chairperson; Mr. J.M. Lyngdoh, former Chief Election  Commissioner  and  Mr. Ajay Kumar Singh, former Director General of Police  and  Inspector  General of Police, Karnataka as Members.

67.    The Commission was requested  to  make  a  thorough  enquiry  in  six identified cases and record a  finding  regarding  the  antecedents  of  the victims and  the  circumstances  in  which  they  were  killed.   The  State Government and all other agencies were directed to hand over to  the  three-member Commission all relevant records.  The Commission was free  to  devise its own procedure and also address the larger question of the  role  of  the State  Police  and  the   security   forces   in   Manipur   and   to   make recommendations.  The Commission was requested to  give  its  report  within twelve weeks.  The order passed by this Court is reported as  Extra-Judicial Execution Victim Families Association v. Union of India.[11]

68.    On 30th March, 2013 the Commission submitted its report and the  case was taken up on 4th April, 2013.  While  recording  its  gratitude  for  the painstaking effort put in by the three-member Commission, this  Court  noted that the Commission had found that in all the six cases, the killing of  the victims was not in any true  encounter  with  the  police  or  the  security forces.  A very brief resume of the conclusions arrived  at  by  the  three-member Commission was noted as follows:

Case 1 – Md. Azad Khan

The incident in which the deceased Md. Azad  Khan  was  killed  was  not  an encounter nor was he killed in exercise of the right of self-defence.

69.    The Commission further found that there was no evidence  to  conclude that the deceased was an  activist  of  any  unlawful  organization  or  was involved in any criminal activities. However, as per the report of the  NHRC now made available to us, it is  stated  that  the  High  Court  of  Manipur passed a direction in W.P. (Crl.) 49 of 2009 for monetary relief  of  Rs.  5 lakhs to the mother of the deceased since the  police  personnel  and  Assam Rifles personnel were responsible for the death.

Case 2 – Khumbongmayum Orsonjit

The incident in which the deceased Khumbongmayum Orsonjit  died  is  not  an encounter nor can the security forces plead that it was in the  exercise  of their right of private defence.

70.    The Commission further found  that  Khumbongmayum  Orsonjit  did  not have any adverse criminal antecedents. As  per  the  latest  report  of  the NHRC, a notice has been issued to  the  Ministry  of  Home  Affairs  of  the Government of India to show cause why monetary relief should not be paid  to the next of kin of the deceased. Apparently, the  matter  is  still  pending with the NHRC.

Case 3 – Nameirakpam Gobind Meitei & Nameirakpam Nobo Meitei

The incident in question is  not  an  encounter  but  an  operation  by  the security forces wherein death of the victims was caused knowingly.

71.    The Commission further found that the two deceased did not  have  any criminal  antecedents.  As  per  the  latest   report   of   the   NHRC,   a recommendation has been made to the Government of  Manipur  for  payment  of Rs. 5 lakhs to the next of kin of the two  deceased.  The  matter  is  still pending with the NHRC on the request of the State  Government  awaiting  the decision of the present petition by this Court.

Case 4 - Elangbam Kiranjit Singh

Even if the case put forward by the  complainant  cannot  be  accepted,  the case put forth by the security forces cannot also be accepted  because  they exceeded their right of private defence.  Therefore, this Commission  is  of the opinion that the incident, in  question,  cannot  be  justified  on  the ground of self-defence.

72.    The Commission further found that there were no  adverse  antecedents against the deceased. As per the latest report of the  NHRC,  a  notice  has been issued to the Government of Manipur to show cause why  monetary  relief be not paid to the next of kin of the deceased.  Apparently  the  matter  is pending with the NHRC awaiting compliance by the State Government.

Case 5 - Chongtham Umakanta

This incident in which Umakanta  died  has  compelled  us  to  come  to  the conclusion that though the manner in which he was picked up,  as  stated  by the  complainant,  cannot  be  accepted.   The  manner  in  which  he   died definitely indicates that this could not have been an  encounter.   For  the reasons stated above, we are of the considered opinion  that  the  case  put forth on behalf of the security forces that the incident  was  an  encounter and that Umakanta was killed in an encounter or in  self-defence  cannot  be accepted.

73.    The Commission further found that  although  there  were  allegations against  the  deceased,  the  veracity  of   those   allegations   was   not  established. We have been informed that the NHRC has made  a   recommendation to the Government of Manipur for payment of Rs. 5 lakhs to the next  of  kin of the deceased. Apparently the matter is pending with the NHRC.

Case 6 - Akoijam Priyobrata @ Bochou Singh

       The deceased did not die in an encounter.

74.    The Commission further found that there is no acceptable material  to come to the conclusion that the deceased had any  adverse  antecedents.  The NHRC has recommended to the Government of Manipur to pay Rs. 5 lakhs to  the next of kin of the deceased. The matter is still pending with  the  NHRC  on the request of the State Government awaiting our decision in this petition.

75.    In other words, in all the six cases, the Commission found  that  the encounter (if any) was not genuine or that the use of force was excessive.

76.    We may mention that  during  the  course  of  oral  submissions,  the learned Attorney General was rather critical of  the  procedure  adopted  by the Commission and the conclusions arrived at. His principal  grievance  was that the right of self-defence has no role in an  encounter  with  militants and terrorists. [This is contrary to the stand taken by the Union  of  India in the affidavit filed in December 2012]. He also relied on Kailash Gour  v. State of Assam[12] to contend that the rules of evidence and  the  standards of evaluating the  evidence  cannot  be  given  a  go-by  even  by  a  Court appointed Commission.

77.    It is not necessary for us to  deeply  go  into  the  report  of  the Commission in the view that  we  are  taking.   For  the  present,  we  must acknowledge the efforts put in by the Commission and also  acknowledge  that it has put us on the right track and has convinced us that  the  allegations made by the petitioners cannot be summarily rubbished. There is  some  truth in the allegations, calling for a deeper probe. How the whole  truth  should be arrived at is  the  question  that  concerns  us.  However,  before  that exercise is undertaken, the position in law must be clear and that  is  what we will endeavour to do.

Maintainability of the writ petition

78.    An objection was raised  by  the  learned  Attorney  General  to  the effect that in a writ petition like the present one, a  prayer  to  order  a police investigation  is  not  maintainable.   It  was  submitted  that  the procedure laid down in the Cr.P.C. is quite adequate and  if  there  is  any inaction on the part  of  the  authorities,  recourse  may  be  had  to  the grievance redressal procedure laid down in  the  Cr.P.C.   In  this  context reliance was placed on Hari Singh v. State of U.P.,[13] Aleque  Padamsee  v. Union of India,[14] Sunil Gangadhar Karve v. State  of  Maharashtra[15]  and Doliben Kantilal Patel v. State of Gujarat.[16]

79.    We are not impressed by this submission.  This  is  not  an  ordinary case of a police complaint or a simple case of an FIR not being  registered.  This case involves allegations that the law enforcement  authorities,  that is, the Manipur Police along with the armed forces  acting  in  aid  of  the civil power are themselves perpetrators of gross  human  rights  violations.  This is also not a case where the ordinary criminal law remedy  provides  an adequate  answer.   A  particular  situation  of  internal  disturbance  has prevailed for decades and the ordinary citizens of Manipur have  had  little access and recourse to law  in  the  situation  that  they  find  themselves placed in. To make matters worse, FIRs  have  been  registered  against  the victims by the local police thereby leaving the next of kin of the  deceased with virtually no remedy under the Cr.P.C.

80.    This case immediately brings  to  mind  the  view  expressed  by  Dr. Ambedkar with respect to Article 32 of the Constitution: “If I was asked  to name any particular article in this Constitution as the most important -  an article without which this Constitution would be a nullity  -  I  could  not refer to any other article except this one. It is  the  very  soul  of  the Constitution and the very heart of it.” If in a case such  as  the  present, the petitioners are precluded,  at  the  threshold,  from  approaching  this Court or a High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution, possible  grave injustice would have been done to the next of the kin  of  the  victims  who are alleged to have been killed in a fake encounter or have been victims  of alleged extra-judicial executions. We are not satisfied that  this  petition under Article 32 of the Constitution should not be entertained.   The  truth has to be found out however inconvenient it may be for  the  petitioners  or for the respondents. In matters concerning gross violations of human  rights this Court and  every  constitutional  court  should  adopt  an  ‘open  door policy’. The preliminary objection is rejected.

Constitutional provisions

81.    The background of the case, as we have understood  it,  leads  us  to conclude that we are concerned in this petition not so much with a  law  and- order situation in Manipur, but a public order situation.

82.    Maintenance of public order falls within the jurisdiction of a  State in  view  of  Entry  1  of  List  II  of  the  Seventh   Schedule   to   the Constitution.[17] But, the Union Government may deploy its armed  forces  in any State in aid of the civil power in terms of Entry 2A of List  I  of  the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution.[18] This has been  the  constitutional position ever since Entry 1 of List II of the Seventh Schedule  was  amended by the Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act,  1976  and  Entry  2A  was inserted in List I of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution by  the  same Amendment Act. What is of importance is that deployment of the armed  forces should only be in aid of the civil power.

83.    Article 352 of the Constitution finds place  in  Part  XVIII  of  the Constitution relating to emergency provisions. This Article was  amended  by the Constitution (Forty-fourth Amendment) Act, 1978 and the  amendment  that concerns us is the substitution of the words ‘armed rebellion’ by the  words ‘internal   disturbance’   in   clause   (1)   of   Article   352   of   the Constitution.[19]

84.    The impact of the above substitution of words was the subject  matter of consideration by a Constitution Bench of  this  Court  in  Naga  People’s Movement of Human Rights v. Union of India.[20] It  was  held  therein  that though an internal disturbance is cause for concern, it  does  not  threaten the security of the country or a part  thereof  unlike  an  armed  rebellion which could pose a threat to the security of the country or a part  thereof. Since the impact of a proclamation of emergency under  Article  352  of  the Constitution is rather serious, its invocation is limited to  situations  of a threat to the security of the country or a part thereof either  through  a war or an external aggression or an armed rebellion,  but  not  an  internal disturbance. To put it negatively, an internal disturbance is not  a  ground for a proclamation of emergency  under  Article  352  of  the  Constitution. This is what the Constitution Bench had to say in this regard:

“Prior to the amendment of Article 352 by the Forty-fourth Amendment of  the Constitution it was open  to  the  President  to  issue  a  proclamation  of emergency if he was satisfied that a  grave  emergency  exists  whereby  the security of India or of any part of  the  territory  thereof  is  threatened  whether by war or external aggression  or  “internal  disturbance”.  By  the Forty-fourth Amendment the words “internal disturbance” in Article 352  have been substituted by the words “armed rebellion”.  The  expression  “internal disturbance” has a wider connotation than “armed  rebellion”  in  the  sense that “armed rebellion” is likely to pose a threat to  the  security  of  the country or a part thereof, while “internal disturbance”, though  serious  in nature, would not pose a threat to the security of the  country  or  a  part thereof. The intention underlying the substitution  of  the  word  “internal disturbance” by the word “armed rebellion” in Article 352 is  to  limit  the invocation of the emergency powers under Article 352 only  to  more  serious situations where there is a threat to the security of the country or a  part thereof on account of war or external aggression or armed rebellion  and  to exclude the  invocation  of  emergency  powers  in  situations  of  internal disturbance which are of lesser  gravity.  This  has  been  done  because  a proclamation of emergency under Article 352 has serious implications  having effect on the executive as well as the legislative powers of the  States  as well as the Union.”

85.    However, a proclamation of emergency could be made in  the  event  of an internal disturbance (not covered by Article 352 of the Constitution)  by resort to Article 356 of the Constitution.[21] This  has  been  so  held  in Naga People’s Movement of Human Rights in the following words:

“There can be a situation arising out  of  internal  disturbance  which  may justify  the  issuance  of  a  proclamation  under  Article   356   of   the Constitution enabling the President to assume to himself all or any  of  the functions of the Government of the State. That would depend on  the  gravity of the situation arising on account of such internal disturbance and on  the President being satisfied that a situation has arisen where  the  Government of the State cannot be carried on  in  accordance  with  provisions  of  the Constitution.”

86.    There is therefore a clear distinction  between  an  armed  rebellion that threatens the security  of  the  country  or  a  part  thereof  and  an internal disturbance. The former comes within the  purview  of  Article  352 and Article 356 of the  Constitution  while  the  latter  comes  within  the purview only of Article 356 of the Constitution and not Article 352  of  the Constitution. However, as observed by  the  Justice  Punchhi  Commission  on Centre-State Relations in March 2010 an  ‘internal  disturbance’  by  itself cannot be a ground for invoking  the  power  under  Article  356(1)  of  the Constitution  “if  it  is  not  intertwined  with  a  situation  where   the government  of  a  State  cannot  be  carried  on  in  accordance  with  the provisions of the Constitution.”[22] This is what was said:

“The  44th  Constitutional  Amendment  substituted  “armed  rebellion”   for “internal  disturbance”  in  Article   352.   “Internal   disturbance”   is, therefore, no  longer  a  ground  for  taking  action  under  that  Article. Further, it cannot, by itself, be a ground  for  imposing  President's  rule under Article 356(1), if it is not intertwined with a  situation  where  the government  of  a  State  cannot  be  carried  on  in  accordance  with  the provisions of the Constitution.”

87.    At this stage, it is also important to refer to Article  355  of  the Constitution.[23] This Article makes it the duty of the Union Government  to protect a State  from  external  aggression  and  internal  disturbance.  By necessary implication, an external aggression for this  purpose  includes  a war and an armed rebellion that threatens the security of the country  or  a part thereof. We therefore have four situations:  war,  external  aggression and armed rebellion, all of which can threaten the security of  the  country or a part  thereof  and  fourthly  an  internal  disturbance.  In  providing protection  against  an  internal  disturbance,  the  Union  Government   is entitled and empowered to deploy the armed forces of the Union  under  Entry 2A of List I of the Seventh Schedule to the  Constitution  “in  aid  of  the civil power”.

88.    The conclusion therefore is that in the  event  of  a  war,  external aggression or an armed rebellion that threatens the security of the  country or a part thereof, it is the duty of the Union  Government  to  protect  the States and depending on the gravity of the situation,  the  President  might also issue a proclamation of emergency. That  apart,  the  Union  Government also has a duty to protect the States from an internal disturbance.  However the President cannot,  in  the  event  of  the  latter  situation,  issue  a proclamation of emergency except by using the drastic  power  under  Article 356  of  the  Constitution  which  has  in-built  checks  and  balances.  In providing protection to the States in the event of an internal  disturbance, the armed forces of the Union may be deployed “in aid of the  civil  power”.

What does the expression “in aid of the civil power” mean?

89.    In Naga People’s Movement of  Human  Rights  the  Constitution  Bench sought to explain this expression by implication, namely, a  situation  that has made the deployment of the armed forces of the Union necessary  for  the maintenance of public order. It was made clear  that  such  deployment  does not mean that the civil power becomes dormant – the  civil  power  continues to function and the armed forces do not supplant  or  substitute  the  civil power - they only supplement it. This is what this Court had to say:

“The expression “in aid of the civil power” in Entry 1  of  the  State  List and in Entry 2-A of the Union List implies  that  deployment  of  the  armed forces of the Union shall be for the purpose of enabling the civil power  in the State to deal with the situation affecting maintenance of  public  order which has necessitated the deployment of the armed forces in the State.  The word “aid” postulates the continued existence of the authority to be  aided. This would mean that even after deployment of the  armed  forces  the  civil power will continue to function. The power  to  make  a  law  providing  for deployment of the armed forces of the Union in aid of  the  civil  power  in the State does not comprehend the power to enact a law  which  would  enable the armed forces of the Union to supplant or act as  a  substitute  for  the civil power in the  State.  We  are,  however,  unable  to  agree  with  the submission of the learned  counsel  for  the  petitioners  that  during  the course of such deployment the supervision and control over the use of  armed forces has to be with the civil authorities of the State concerned  or  that the State concerned will have the exclusive power to determine the  purpose, the time period and the areas  within  which  the  armed  forces  should  be requested  to  act  in  aid  of  civil  power.  In  our  opinion,  what   is contemplated by Entry 2-A of the Union List and Entry 1 of  the  State  List is that in the event of deployment of the armed forces of the Union  in  aid of the civil power in a State, the said forces shall operate  in  the  State concerned  in  cooperation  with  the  civil  administration  so  that   the situation which has necessitated the  deployment  of  the  armed  forces  is effectively dealt with and normalcy is restored.”

90.    On a reading of the above passage, it is clear that the  Constitution Bench  does not limit the deployment of the armed forces of  the  Union  only to a  situation affecting public order. The armed forces of the  Union  could be deployed for  situations  of  law  and  order  (although  this  would  be extremely unusual and rare) as also for humanitarian  aid  such  as  in  the event of an earthquake or floods, should it be  necessary,  in  aid  of  the civil power. This is because Entry 2A of List I of the Seventh  Schedule  to the Constitution (for short Entry 2A of the Union List) does not  limit  the deployment of the armed forces to any  particular  situation.  The  view  of this Court, beginning with the decision  of  the  Federal  Court  in  United Provinces v. Atiqa Begum[24] has always been that legislative  entries  must not be read in a narrow or restricted  sense  and  that  each  general  word should be held to extend to all ancillary or subsidiary  matters  which  can fairly and reasonably be comprehended in it.[25]  But  we  are  making  this observation only en passant.

91.    Be that as it may, what is of significance is  that  this  Court  has implied that the armed forces of the  Union  could  be  deployed  in  public order situations to aid the civil power and on such deployment,  they  shall operate in cooperation and conjunction with  the  civil  administration  and until normalcy is restored. This view is predicated on and  postulates  that normalcy would be restored within a reasonable period.  What  would  be  the consequence if normalcy is not restored for  a  prolonged  or  indeterminate period? In our opinion, it would be indicative of the failure of  the  civil administration to take effective  aid  of  the  armed  forces  in  restoring normalcy or would be indicative of  the  failure  of  the  armed  forces  in effectively aiding the civil administration in restoring normalcy  or  both.  Whatever be the case, normalcy not being restored cannot be a fig  leaf  for prolonged,  permanent  or  indefinite  deployment  of   the   armed   forces (particularly for public order or law and order purposes) as it  would  mock at our democratic process and  would  be  a  travesty  of  the  jurisdiction conferred by Entry 2A of the Union List for  the  deployment  of  the  armed forces to normalize a situation particularly of an internal disturbance.

92.    This discussion is intended to lay down three broad principles: The public order situation in Manipur is, at best, an internal  disturbance. There is no threat to the security of the country or a part  thereof  either by war or an external aggression or an armed rebellion. For tackling the internal disturbance, the armed forces of the Union can  be deployed in aid of the civil power. The armed forces  do  not  supplant  the civil administration but only supplement it. The deployment of the armed forces is intended to restore  normalcy  and  it would be extremely odd if normalcy were not restored within some  reasonable period, certainly not an indefinite period or an indeterminate period. Statutory provisions

(i) The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958

93.    The  Armed  Forces  (Special  Powers)  Act,  1958  (hereinafter  ‘the AFSPA’) was originally enacted as  the  Armed  Forces  (Assam  and  Manipur) Special Powers Act, 1958. It was initially extended to the  State  of  Assam and the Union Territory of Manipur. Since then the  entire  Union  Territory of Manipur (and subsequently the entire State of Manipur) has been  declared a disturbed area in terms of Section 3 of the AFSPA.[26]   In  other  words, Manipur has been a disturbed area for  about  sixty  years!   A  declaration that the State of Manipur is a disturbed area can be made  by  the  Governor of Manipur or the Central Government if either is of opinion that the  State of Manipur or a part thereof “is in such a disturbed or dangerous  condition that the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power  is  necessary”.  The declaration under Section 3 of the AFSPA  is  made  through  a  notification published in the Official Gazette. As mentioned above, Manipur  has  been  a disturbed area since 1958 as a result of declarations issued  under  Section 3 of the AFSPA from time to time. However, the Imphal Municipal Area  ceased to be a ‘disturbed area’ from 12th August, 2004.

94.    The postulates for a declaration under Section 3  of  the  AFSPA  are that a public order situation exists and that the assistance  of  the  armed forces of the Union is required in  aid  of  the  civil  power.  In  such  a situation, the AFSPA enables the armed forces of the Union to exercise  vast powers.

95.    One of the vast powers exercisable by the armed forces of  the  Union in a disturbed area is in terms of Section 4(a) of the AFSPA. The  power  so exercisable includes the use of force even to  the  extent  of  causing  the death of “any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order  for the time being in force in the disturbed area prohibiting  the  assembly  of five or more persons or the carrying of weapons  or  of  things  capable  of being  used  as  weapons  or   of   fire-arms,   ammunition   or   explosive substances”.[27]

96.    Clearly, the power to cause death  is  relatable  to  maintenance  of public order in a disturbed area and  is  to  be  exercised  under  definite circumstances that is: (i) after giving such due warning as  the  authorized officer may consider  necessary; (ii)  the  alleged  offender  is  acting  in contravention of any law or order in force in the disturbed area  which  (a) prohibits the assembly of five or more persons  or       (b)  prohibits  the carrying of weapons or of things capable of being  used  as  weapons  or  of fire-arms, ammunition or explosive substances. In the present case,  we  are not concerned with other powers conferred by Section 4 of  the  AFSPA.  What we are concerned with is whether any of  the  victims  referred  to  by  the petitioners  contravened  any  prohibitory  order,   that   is,   an   order prohibiting an assembly of five or more persons or an order prohibiting  the carrying of any weapons or of things capable of being used as weapons or  of

fire-arms, ammunition or explosive substances. We  are  also  concerned,  in the facts of this case, with the power to cause death for violating  such  a prohibitory order.

97.    Section 6 of the AFSPA grants immunity, inter alia, from  prosecution to any person in respect of  anything  done  or  purported  to  be  done  in exercise of the powers  conferred  by  the  AFSPA  (including  Section  4(a) thereof), except with the previous sanction of the Central Government.[28] (ii) Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 98.    Section 4 of the Cr.P.C. as well as Section 5 of the Cr.P.C.  concern themselves with investigation,  enquiry,  trial  and  other  proceedings  in relation to offences.[29] The sum and substance of both these provisions  is that the investigation, enquiry, trial and other proceedings in  respect  of offences under the Indian Penal Code, 1860  (or  the  IPC)  and  other  laws shall be carried out in  accordance  with  the  provisions  of  the  Cr.P.C. However, this does not preclude  any  enactment  regulating  the  manner  or place of investigating, inquiring into, trying  or  otherwise  dealing  with such offences.  Further, the applicability of any  other  special  or  local law or any special jurisdiction or power conferred or any special  procedure provided by any other law for the time being in force shall not be  affected by the Cr. P.C. For example, there  are  special  requirements  for  dealing with juveniles in conflict with law and therefore that special law would  be applicable  to  those  juveniles  to  the  extent  it   provides   for   the investigation, enquiry or procedure different  from  the  Cr.P.C.  In  other words, unless a statute specifically provides  for  it,  the  investigation, enquiry, trial and other proceedings in respect of offences  under  the  IPC and other laws shall be carried out in accordance  with  the  provisions  of the Cr.P.C. This is mentioned in  the  context  of  the  submission  by  the learned Attorney General that the provisions of the  Cr.P.C.  would  not  be applicable to offences committed by Army personnel on active duty. (iii) The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967

99.    The  Unlawful  Activities  (Prevention)  Act,  1967  (hereafter  ‘the UAPA’) is concerned, inter alia, with cession and secession  of  a  part  of the territory of India and terrorist activities. Section 2(m)  of  the  UAPA defines a terrorist organization as one listed in Schedule 1 to the UAPA  or an  organization   operating   under   the   same   name   as   the   listed organization.[30] Schedule  1  of  the  UAPA  lists  some  organizations  in Manipur such as People’s Liberation Army (PLA), United  National  Liberation Front  (UNLF),  People’s  Revolutionary  Party   of   Kangleipak   (PREPAK), Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP), Kanglei Yaol Kanba Lup (KYKL) and  Manipur People’s Liberation  Front  (MPLF).  By  definition,  therefore,  these  are terrorist organizations.

100.   An unlawful activity is defined in  Section  2(o)  of  the  UAPA  as, inter alia, an activity intended to or supporting any claim to cede  a  part of the territory of India or secede a part of the territory  of  India  from the Union.[31] Similarly, an unlawful  association  is  defined  in  Section 2(p) of the UAPA as an association that has, as its object, inter alia,  any unlawful activity.[32]

101.   In terms of Section 15 of the  UAPA  a  terrorist  act  is  one  that threatens or is likely to threaten, amongst others,  the  unity,  integrity, security or sovereignty of India or intends to strike terror  or  is  likely to strike terror in the people or any section of the people by  any  one  of the activities mentioned in the section such as using bombs or  firearms  or other lethal weapons that cause or are likely to cause death or injury.[33]

102.   In view of the above, there is no doubt  that  the  organizations  in Manipur that are mentioned above are not  only  terrorist  organizations  or terrorist gangs (as defined  in  Section  2(l)  of  the  UAPA)[34]  but  are unlawful associations, for they threaten the unity, integrity,  security  or sovereignty of India. Would membership of such an  organization  incriminate a person? This will be discussed a little later. (iv) The Army Act, 1950

103.   The Army Act, 1950 (for short ‘the  Army  Act’)  is  of  considerable importance for deciding the present controversy. A  person  subject  to  the Army Act is said to be in active service if  that  person  is,  inter  alia, attached to or  forms a part of a force engaged in an  operation  against  an enemy. There is no dispute that the Army personnel in Manipur are on  active service. An  ‘enemy’  is  inclusively  defined  as  armed  mutineers,  armed rebels, armed rioters, pirates and any person in arms  against  whom  it  is the duty of any person subject to military law to act.[35]  The  enemy  must be armed.

104.   The Army Act also provides for offences  in  relation  to  the  enemy which are punishable with death,[36] offences not punishable with  death[37] and offences that are more severely punishable while on active  service.[38] The significance of these provisions is best understood  in  the  background of the submission of the learned Attorney General that under the AFSPA,  the armed forces are entitled while maintaining  public  order  in  a  disturbed area to cause the  death  of  an  enemy,  that  is  a  militant,  terrorist, insurgent,  underground  element  or  secessionist  who  belongs  to  or  is associated with a terrorist  organization  or  terrorist  gang  or  unlawful association  and  is  threatening  or  is  likely  to  threaten  the  unity, integrity, security or sovereignty of India.

105.   For an offence committed by a person subject to  the  Army  Act,  the alleged offender may  be  tried  by  a  Court  Martial  but  the  period  of limitation for the trial  of  such  an  alleged  offender  is  regulated  by Section 122 of the Army Act. The limitation provided is a  period  of  three years commencing from  (a)  the  date  of  the  offence;  or  (b)  when  the commission of the offence is not  known  to  the  person  aggrieved  or  the competent authority, the date on which the commission  of  such  an  offence comes to the knowledge of the person aggrieved or  the  competent  authority whichever is earlier; or (c) when  the  identity  of  the  offender  is  not known, the date on which the identity is known to the  person  aggrieved  or the competent authority, whichever is earlier.

106.   Section 125 and Section 126 of  the  Army  Act  are  of  considerable importance in this context and as far as this case is concerned.[39]   These Sections ought to be read in conjunction with Section 4  and  Section  5  of the Cr.P.C.  These Sections provide that when both a criminal  court  and  a Court Martial have jurisdiction in respect of an offence, the  first  option would be with the Army to  decide  whether  the  accused  person  should  be proceeded against in a criminal court or before a Court  Martial.   However, if the  criminal  court  is  of  opinion  that  the  proceedings  should  be instituted before itself, it may   require  the  Army  to  send  the  alleged offender to the nearest Magistrate to be proceeded against  or  to  postpone the proceedings pending a reference to the  Central  Government.   In  other words, in the event of  a  conflict  of  jurisdiction,  whether  an  alleged offender should be tried by a criminal court constituted under  the  Cr.P.C. or by a Court Martial constituted under the Army Act,  that  conflict  shall be referred to the Central Government for passing an appropriate order.

107.   In this context, it is necessary to refer to the Criminal Courts  and Court  Martial  (Adjustment  of  Jurisdiction)  Rules,  1978.  These   Rules provide, inter alia, that when a person subject to the Army Act  is  brought before a Magistrate and is charged with an offence also triable by  a  Court Martial, then such Magistrate shall  not  proceed  to  try  that  person  or commit the case to the Court of Session unless he  is  moved  thereto  by  a competent Army authority or the Magistrate records his  opinion  in  writing that he should so proceed without being so moved.[40] In the  latter  event, the  Magistrate  shall  give  a  written  notice  of  fifteen  days  to  the Commanding Officer of that person and shall until then effectively stay  his hands.[41]

108.   In the event a Magistrate concludes that  a  person  subject  to  the Army Act has  committed  an  offence  triable  by  the  Magistrate  but  the presence of such a person cannot be procured except  through  the  competent Army authority, then the Magistrate “may by a  written  notice  require  the Commanding Officer of such  person  either  to  deliver  such  person  to  a Magistrate to be named in  the  said  notice  for  being  proceeded  against according to law, or to stay the proceedings against such person before  the Court Martial …… and to make a  reference  to  the  Central  Government  for determination  as  to  the  court  before  which   proceedings   should   be instituted.”[42] Is there a war-like situation in Manipur?

109.   The principal contention of the learned Attorney General in  opposing any investigation or inquiry into the  alleged  extra-judicial  killings  is that a war-like situation has been and is prevailing in Manipur.  It  is  to control any escalation of the situation that vast powers have been given  to the armed forces under AFSPA and the constitutionality  of  AFSPA  has  been upheld by the Constitution Bench in Naga People’s Movement of Human  Rights. It is only due to the efforts of the Manipur Police and the armed forces  of the Union that the security environment in Manipur has not deteriorated  but has vastly improved over the years. The efforts made in  the  past  and  the successes gained, the efforts being presently  made  and  the  efforts  that will be made in the future should  not  get  hamstrung  through  wanton  and sometimes irresponsible allegations of violations of human  rights  and  use of excessive force. These have a deleterious and demoralizing impact on  the security forces to no one’s advantage except the militants,  terrorists  and insurgents. This is apart from the submission that the  deaths  caused  were justified, being deaths of militants, terrorists and insurgents  in  counter insurgency or anti terrorist operations.

110.   There is no doubt from the records of the case that Manipur has  been and  is  facing  a  public  order  situation  equivalent  to   an   internal disturbance. The tragedy is that this situation has continued since  1958  – for almost 60 years. This goes so far back that when  we  requested  learned counsel for the State of Manipur to place before us the  declarations  under AFSPA and the prohibitory orders issued under Section  144  of  the  Cr.P.C. only fairly recent declarations and prohibitory orders  were  produced,  the rest having perhaps been lost in antiquity. A generation or two has gone  by and issues have festered for decades. It is high  time  that  concerted  and sincere efforts are continuously made  by  the  four  stakeholders  –  civil society in Manipur, the insurgents, the State of Manipur and the  Government of India to find a lasting and peaceful solution to the  festering  problem, with a little consideration from all quarters.  It  is  never  too  late  to bring peace and harmony in society.

111.   Be that as it may, we need to be clear that the situation in  Manipur has never been one of a war or an external aggression or an armed  rebellion that threatens the security of the  country  or  a  part  thereof.  No  such declaration has been made by  the  Union  of  India  –  explicitly  or  even implicitly - and  nothing  has  been  shown  to  us  that  would  warrant  a conclusion that there is a  war  or  an  external  aggression  or  an  armed rebellion in Manipur. That is not anybody’s case at  all  nor  has  it  even been suggested.

112.   In support of his contention that a war-like  situation  was  and  is prevailing in Manipur, the learned Attorney General relied on Navjot  Sandhu to submit that under Section  121  of  the  IPC  ‘war’  is  not  necessarily conventional warfare  between two nations and even organizing and joining  an insurrection against  the  Government  of  India  is  a  form  of  war.  The militants in Manipur were creating a situation of an insurrection  and  this was resulting  in  a  war-like  situation  in  Manipur.  Alternatively,  the victims were members  of  banned  organizations  under  the  UAPA  and  were provoking cession or secession from India and  were  therefore  ‘enemy’.  On this basis it was contended that even if  there  is  no  war-like  situation prevailing  in  Manipur,  the  victims  being  ‘enemy’,  their  killing   is justified in counter insurgency or anti terrorist operations.

113.   Navjot Sandhu  was  a  case  in  which  Parliament  was  attacked  by terrorists. There can be no doubt that those who attacked the heart  of  our democracy were  our  enemies  for  all  practical  purposes,  regardless  of whether they were carrying out a war against our country or not. It  is  not necessary for us to dwell at length on the facts of that case since we  have already observed that there is no declaration of a war in Manipur,  even  as per the case of the  Union  of  India.  However,  the  question  is:  Is  an internal disturbance equivalent to a  war-like  situation?  In  this  regard certain observations in Navjot Sandhu are of significance.

114.   This Court analyzed the law on the subject in Navjot Sandhu and  held (inter alia) in paragraphs 282 and 283 of the Report that in the context  of ‘war’ (i) the animus of  the  party is important;  (ii) the use of force  or arms is necessary; (iii) the number of members in the party is not  relevant and  even  a  few  can  cause  devastation;  (iv)   ‘pomp   and   pageantry’ accompanying a war is irrelevant and even a stealthy operation  could  be  a war. However, what is important is that it was made clear that all  acts  of violent resistance, even against  the  armed  forces  and  public  officials could not be branded as acts of war. It was held as follows:

“282. On the analysis of  the  various  passages  found  in  the  cases  and commentaries referred to above, what are the highlights we come across?  The most important is the intention or purpose behind  the  defiance  or  rising against  the  Government.  As  said  by  [Sir  Michael]  Foster,  “The  true criterion is quo animo  did  the  parties  assemble?”  In  other  words  the intention and  purpose  of  the  warlike  operations  directed  against  the governmental machinery is an important criterion. If the object and  purpose is to strike at the sovereign authority of the Ruler or  the  Government  to achieve a public and general purpose in contradistinction to a  private  and a particular purpose, that  is  an  important  indicia  of  waging  war.  Of course, the purpose must be intended to be achieved  by  use  of  force  and arms and by defiance of government troops or  armed  personnel  deployed  to maintain public tranquillity. Though the modus  operandi  of  preparing  for the  offensive  act  against  the  Government  may  be  quite  akin  to  the preparation in a regular war, it is often said that  the  number  of  force, the manner in which they are arrayed, armed or equipped is immaterial.  Even a limited number of persons  who  carry  powerful  explosives  and  missiles without regard to their own safety can cause more devastating damage than  a large group of persons armed with ordinary weapons or  firearms.  Then,  the other settled proposition is that there need not be the pomp  and  pageantry usually associated with war such as  the  offenders  forming  themselves  in battle line and arraying in a warlike manner. Even a stealthy  operation  to overwhelm the armed or other personnel deployed by  the  Government  and  to attain a commanding position  by  which  terms  could  be  dictated  to  the Government might very well be an act of waging war.

283. While these  are  the  acceptable  criteria  of  waging  war,  we  must  dissociate ourselves from the old English  and  Indian  authorities  to  the extent that they lay down a too general test of attainment of an  object  of general public nature or a  political  object.  We  have  already  expressed reservations in adopting this test in its literal sense  and  construing  it in a manner out of tune with the present day. The court must be cautious  in adopting an approach which has the effect of bringing  within  the  fold  of Section 121 [of the IPC] all acts of lawless and violent acts  resulting  in destruction of public properties, etc., and all acts of  violent  resistance to the armed personnel to achieve certain political objectives.  The  moment it is found that the object sought to be attained is  of  a  general  public nature or has a political hue, the offensive violent acts  targeted  against the armed forces and public officials should  not  be  branded  as  acts  of waging war. The expression “waging war” should not be stretched too  far  to hold that all the acts of disrupting public order and peace irrespective  of their magnitude and repercussions could be reckoned as acts  of  waging  war against  the Government. A balanced and realistic approach is called  for  in construing the expression “waging war” irrespective of how it was viewed  in the long long  past.  An  organised  movement  attended  with  violence  and attacks against the public officials and armed forces  while  agitating  for the repeal of an unpopular law  or  for  preventing  burdensome  taxes  were viewed as acts of treason in the form of levying war. We doubt whether  such construction is in tune with the  modern  day  perspectives  and  standards. Another aspect on which a clarification is called for is in  regard  to  the observation made in the old decisions that “neither the number engaged,  nor the force employed, nor the species  of  weapons  with  which  they  may  be armed” is really material to prove the offence of levying/waging  war.  This was said by Lord President Hope in R. v. Hardie[43] in  1820  and  the  same statement finds its echo in many other English cases  and  in  the  case  of Maganlal Radhakishan v.  Emperor.[44]  But,  in  our  view,  these  are  not irrelevant factors. They will certainly help the court in  forming  an  idea whether the intention  and  design  to  wage  war  against  the  established Government exists or the offence  falls  short  of  it.  For  instance,  the firepower or the devastating potential of the arms and explosives  that  may be carried by a group of persons — may be large or small, as in the  present case, and the scale of violence that follows  may  at  times  become  useful indicators of the nature and dimension of the  action  resorted  to.  These, coupled with the other factors, may give rise  to  an  inference  of  waging war.” (Emphasis supplied by us).

115.   Therefore, animus to wage a war or  any  other  similar  activity  is important before a non-conventional war or war-like situation  can  be  said to exist. Every act of violence, even though it may be directed against  the armed forces or public officials would not lead to an inference that  a  war is going on or that war-like conditions are prevailing. Similarly,  sporadic but organized killings by  militants  and  ambushes  would  not  lead  to  a conclusion of the existence of a war or war-like  conditions.  Were  such  a blanket proposition accepted, it would reflect poorly on  our  armed  forces that they are unable to effectively tackle  a  war-like  situation  for  the last almost six decades. It would also reflect poorly on the Union of  India that it is unable to  resort  to  available  constitutional  provisions  and measures to  bring  a  war-like  situation  under  control  for  almost  six decades. We cannot  be  expected  to  cast  or  even  countenance  any  such aspersions on our armed forces or the Union of India. All that  we  can  and do say is that in such a situation,  our  Constitution  recognizes  only  an internal disturbance, which is what the situation in  Manipur  is  and  that ought to be dealt with by the civil administration with the services of  the armed forces that are available in aid of the civil power.

116.   The submission of the learned Attorney General is nothing but a  play on words and we reject it and hold  that  an  internal  disturbance  is  not equivalent to or akin to a war-like situation and proceed on the basis  that there is no war or war-like  situation  in  Manipur  but  only  an  internal disturbance, within the meaning of that expression  in  the  Constitution  - nothing more and nothing less.

117.   Therefore, the questions before us are  quite   straightforward  –  to quell this internal disturbance, has there been use of  excessive  force  by the Manipur Police and the armed forces in the 1528 cases  compiled  by  the petitioners through fake encounters or extra-judicial executions during  the period of internal disturbance in Manipur as  alleged  by  the  petitioners.

Secondly, has the use of force by the armed forces been retaliatory  to  the point of causing death and was the retaliatory force permissible in  law  on the ground that the victims were ‘enemy’ as defined in Section 3(x)  of  the Army Act? Use of excessive force and retaliation 

118.   At the outset, a distinction must be drawn between the right of self- defence or private defence and use of excessive force or  retaliation.  Very simply put, the right of self-defence or private defence  is  a  right  that can be exercised to defend oneself but not to retaliate.[45] This  view  was reiterated  but  expressed  somewhat  differently   in   Rajesh   Kumar   v. Dharamvir[46] when it was said: “To put it differently, the right is one  of defence and not of requital or reprisal. Such being  the  nature  of  right, the High Court could not have exonerated the accused persons of the  charges levelled against them by bestowing  on  them  the  right  to  retaliate  and attack the complainant party.”

119.    A  similar  opinion  was  expressed  somewhat  more  lucidly  in  V. Subramani v. State of Tamil Nadu[47] when it was said:

“Due weightage has to be given to, and hypertechnical  approach  has  to  be avoided in considering what happens on the spur of the moment  on  the  spot and  keeping  in  view  normal  human  reaction  and  conduct,  where  self- preservation is the paramount consideration.  But,  if  the  fact  situation shows that in the guise of self-preservation, what really has been  done  is to assault the original  aggressor,  even  after  the  cause  of  reasonable apprehension has disappeared, the plea  of  right  of  private  defence  can legitimately be negatived. The court dealing with the plea has to weigh  the material to conclude whether the plea is acceptable. It is  essentially,  as noted above, a finding of fact.”

120.   In Rohtash  Kumar  v.  State  of  Haryana[48]  this  Court  cautioned against the use of retaliatory force even against  a  dreaded  criminal.  It

was held:

“It also appears that he [the appellant] was declared absconder. But  merely because a person is a dreaded criminal or a proclaimed offender,  he  cannot be killed in cold blood. The police must  make  an  effort  to  arrest  such accused. In a given case if a dreaded criminal launches a  murderous  attack on the police to prevent them from doing their duty, the police may have  to retaliate and, in that retaliation, such a criminal  may  get  killed.  That could be a case of genuine encounter. But in the facts of this case, we  are unable to draw such a conclusion.”

121.   Finally,  reference  may  be  made  to  Darshan  Singh  v.  State  of Punjab[49] wherein this Court held:

“When there is real apprehension that the aggressor  might  cause  death  or grievous hurt, in that event the right of private defence  of  the  defender could even extend to causing of death. A  mere  reasonable  apprehension  is enough to put the right of self-defence into operation, but  it  is  also  a settled position of law that a right of self-defence  is  only  a  right  to defend oneself and not to retaliate. It is not a right to take revenge.”

122.   From the above, it is  abundantly  clear  that  the  right  of  self-defence or private defence falls in one basket and use  of  excessive  force or retaliatory force falls in another basket. Therefore, while a  victim  of aggression has a right of private defence  or  self-defence  (recognized  by Sections 96 to 106 of the IPC) if that victim exceeds the right  of  private defence or self-defence by using excessive force  or  retaliatory  measures, he  then  becomes  an  aggressor   and   commits   a   punishable   offence. Unfortunately occasionally, use of excessive force or retaliation  leads  to the death of the original aggressor. When the State uses such  excessive  or retaliatory force leading to death, it is referred to as  an  extra-judicial killing or an extra-judicial execution or as this Court put it  in  People's Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India and  another[50]  it  is  called “administrative liquidation”. Society and the courts  obviously  cannot  and do not accept such a death caused by the State since it  is  destructive  of the rule of law and plainly unconstitutional.

123.   The problem before the courts tends to become vexed when the  victims are alleged to be militants, insurgents or terrorists. In  such  cases,  how does anyone (including the court) assess the degree of force required  in  a given situation and  whether  it  was  excessive  and  retaliatory  or  not? Scrutiny by the courts in such cases leads to complaints  by  the  State  of its having to fight militants, insurgents and terrorists with one hand  tied behind its  back.  This  is  not  a  valid  criticism  since,  and  this  is important, in such cases it is not the encounter or the  operation  that  is under scrutiny but the smoking gun  that  is  under  scrutiny.  There  is  a qualitative difference between use of force in an operation and use of  such deadly force that is akin to using a sledgehammer to kill a fly; one  is  an act of self-defence while the other is an act of retaliation.

124.   This concern, both from the perspective of the  State  and  from  the perspective of preserving and  protecting  human  rights  of  a  citizen  is adverted to by Prof. Aharon Barak a former President of  the  Supreme  Court of Israel who acknowledges that sometimes a democracy must  fight  with  one hand tied behind its back in the following words:

“While terrorism poses difficult  questions  for  every  country,  it  poses especially challenging  questions  for  democratic  countries,  because  not every effective means is a legal means. I discussed this  in  one  case,  in which our Court held that violent interrogation of a suspected terrorist  is not lawful, even if doing so may save human  life  by  preventing  impending terrorist acts:

“We are aware that this decision does not make it easier to deal  with  that  reality. This is the fate of democracy, as not all means are  acceptable  to it, and not all methods employed by its enemies are open to it. Sometimes  a democracy must fight with one hand tied behind  its  back.  Nonetheless,  it has  the  upper  hand.  Preserving  the  rule  of  law  and  recognition  of individual liberties constitute an important component of its  understanding of security. At the end of the day, they strengthen its spirit and  strength and allow it to overcome its difficulties.” [51]

125.   It is this preservation of the rule  of  law,  recognition  of  human rights and check on  the  abuse  or  misuse  of  power  that  has  been  the highlight of a few decisions placed before us.  In  Matajog  Dobey  v.  H.C. Bhari[52]  a  cautious  step  by  step  approach  was   advocated   by   the Constitution Bench of this Court in the  matter  of  grant  of  sanction  to prosecute  an  official  under  the  provisions  of  the  Code  of  Criminal Procedure, 1898. The first step is to ascertain whether the  act  complained of is an offence and  the  second  step  is  to  determine  whether  it  was committed in the discharge of official duty. “There  must  be  a  reasonable connection between the act and the official duty. It does  not  matter  even if the act exceeds what is strictly  necessary  for  the  discharge  of  the duty, as this question will arise only at  a  later  stage  when  the  trial proceeds on the merits. What we must find out is whether  the  act  and  the official duty are so inter-related that one can  postulate  reasonably  that it was done by the accused in the performance of the official  duty,  though possibly in excess of the needs and requirements of the situation.”  Causing the death of a person is certainly an  offence,  but  whether  there  was  a “reasonable connection” between the death and the official  act  or  whether excessive force or  retaliatory  force  was  used  in  the  act  has  to  be determined at an appropriate stage. It does not matter  whether  the  victim was a common person or a  militant  or  a  terrorist,  nor  does  it  matter whether the aggressor was a common person or the State. The law is the  same for both and is equally applicable to both. It is for this reason that  with regard to the abuse or misuse of power by the  State  this  Court  expressed the following view in Naga People’s Movement of Human  Rights  in  paragraph 61 of the Report:

“In order that the people may feel assured that there is an effective  check against misuse or abuse of powers by the members of the armed forces  it  is necessary that a complaint containing an allegation about  misuse  or  abuse of the powers  conferred  under  the  Central  Act  [the  AFSPA]  should  be thoroughly inquired into and, if it is found that there is substance in  the allegation, the victim should be suitably compensated by the State  and  the requisite sanction under Section 6 of the Central Act should be granted  for instruction of prosecution and/or a civil suit or other proceedings  against the person/persons responsible for such violation.”

126.   In other words, the decision of the Constitution Bench requires  that every death caused by the armed forces, including in the disturbed  area  of Manipur “should be thoroughly enquired into” if  there  is  a  complaint  or allegation of abuse or misuse  of  power.  All  of  us  are  bound  by  this direction of the Constitution Bench which  has  been  given  to  assure  the people that there is no abuse or misuse of power by the armed forces. 127.   Om Prakash v. State of  Jharkhand[53]  dealt  with  an  alleged  fake encounter by the police and use of excessive force resulting in  the  death, inter alia, of the complainant’s son. The version of  the  police  was  that they were fired upon and they had to retaliate to save themselves  and  that resulted in the death. The complainant preferred a private complaint  before the concerned Chief Judicial  Magistrate  and  also  before  the  NHRC.  The decision of this Court arose out of the private complaint.  Be  that  as  it may, the complaint  made  to  the  NHRC  was  enquired  into  and  the  NHRC concluded that it was not a case of a fake encounter. This Court  also  took a similar view. Though the case related primarily to the grant  of  sanction to prosecute under Section 197 of the Cr.P.C., it was held, relying upon  K. Satwant Singh v. State of Punjab[54] and State of Orissa v.  Ganesh  Chandra Jew[55] that if there is a  “reasonable  connection”  between  the  official duty and the use of excessive force, then the use of  excessive  force  will not be a ground for denial of protection under Section 197  of  the  Cr.P.C. Thereafter, it was held in paragraph 42 of the Report that  it  is  not  the duty of the police to kill a person even if he is  a  dreaded  criminal  and that such killings must be deprecated. It was said:

“It is not the duty of the  police  officers  to  kill  the  accused  merely because he is a dreaded criminal. Undoubtedly, the  police  have  to  arrest the accused and put them up for trial. This Court has repeatedly  admonished trigger-happy police personnel, who  liquidate  criminals  and  project  the incident as an encounter. Such killings must be  deprecated.  They  are  not recognised as legal by our  criminal  justice  administration  system.  They amount to State-sponsored terrorism. But, one cannot  be  oblivious  of  the fact that there are cases where the police, who are performing  their  duty, are attacked and killed. There is a rise  in  such  incidents  and  judicial notice must be taken of this fact. In such circumstances, while  the  police have to do their legal duty of arresting the criminals, they  have  also  to protect  themselves.  The  requirement  of  sanction  to  prosecute  affords protection to the policemen, who are  sometimes  required  to  take  drastic action against criminals to protect life and property of the people  and  to protect themselves against  attack.  Unless  unimpeachable  evidence  is  on record to establish  that  their  action  is  indefensible,  mala  fide  and vindictive, they cannot be subjected to prosecution.”

128.   How does anyone determine whether the action of causing the death  of a person was “indefensible, mala  fide  and  vindictive”?  It  can  only  be through a thorough enquiry as postulated in Naga People’s Movement of  Human Rights and in Om Prakash that enquiry had been conducted at the instance  of the NHRC by the Criminal Investigation Department or the CID.

129.   Similarly, in State of Maharashtra v.  Saeed  Sohail  Sheikh[56]  the issue related to the  alleged  high-handedness  of  jail  officials  in  the transfer of prisoners under the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime  Act, 1999.  The prisoners were in custody in connection with  what  is  known  as the Bombay Blast case.

130.   On the  directions  of  the  Bombay  High  Court,  a  Sessions  Judge conducted an inquiry into the incident and submitted his report. The  report was accepted by the High Court and on the basis thereof the  Government  was directed to hold a departmental inquiry against the  officials  for  use  of excessive force in bringing the situation in the jail under control.

131.   This Court then considered the question whether the  High  Court  was justified in giving the direction that it did. It was held that  the  report was preliminary[57] and “flawed in many respects”. Nevertheless  this  Court held that the inquiry report could provide  “no  more  than  a  prima  facie basis for the Government to consider whether any further investigation  into the incident was required to be conducted either for disciplinary action  or for launching prosecution of those found guilty.”

132.    It  was  further  observed  in  paragraph  39  of  the  Report  that --accountability is a facet of the rule of law and in a  country  governed  by the rule of law “police excesses whether inside or outside the  jail  cannot be countenanced in the name of maintaining discipline or dealing with  anti-national elements.”  It was said:

“In a country governed by the rule of law police excesses whether inside  or outside  the  jail  cannot  be  countenanced  in  the  name  of  maintaining discipline or dealing with anti-national elements. Accountability is one  of the facets of the rule of law. If anyone is found to have  acted  in  breach of law  or  abused  his  position  while  exercising  powers  that  must  be exercised only ithin the parameters of law, the breach and  the  abuse  can be punished. That is especially so when the abuse is alleged  to  have  been committed under the cover of authority exercised by people in  uniform.  Any such action is also  open  to  critical  scrutiny  and  examination  by  the courts.”

133.   In People’s Union  for  Civil  Liberties  it  was  alleged  that  two persons from Manipur were killed in a fake encounter  by  the  police.  This was denied by the police who averred that the  deceased  were  killed  in  a cross-fire between the police and an unlawful organization in Mizoram. In  a writ petition filed in this Court,  the  District  and  Sessions  Judge  was directed to conduct an inquiry and submit a report. In his report  given  to this Court, the District and Sessions Judge  concluded  that  there  was  no encounter and that the two deceased were shot dead by the  police  while  in custody. Objections to the report were filed by the  State  of  Manipur  but were rejected by this Court.

134.   It was submitted by the learned counsel  for  the  State  of  Manipur that it was  a  disturbed  area  and  that  several  terrorist  groups  were operating in the State. On a consideration of the submissions  put  forward, this Court held in paragraph 6 of the Report that the actions of the  police could not be countenanced even in a disturbed area and that  “administrative liquidation” was not a course open to them. It was said:

“It is true that Manipur is a disturbed area, that there  appears  to  be  a good amount of terrorist activity affecting public order and, may  be,  even security of that State. It may also be that under these conditions,  certain additional and unusual powers have to be given to the police  to  deal  with terrorism. It may be necessary to fight terrorism with a strong  hand  which may involve vesting of good amount of discretion in the police  officers  or other paramilitary forces engaged in fighting them. If the  version  of  the police with respect to the incident in question were true, there could  have been no question of any interference by the court. Nobody can say  that  the police should wait till they are shot at. It is for the force  on  the  spot to decide when to act, how to act and where to act. It is not for the  court to say how the terrorists should be fought. We cannot be blind to  the  fact that even after fifty years of our independence, our  territorial  integrity is not fully secure. There are several types  of  separatist  and  terrorist activities in several parts  of  the  country.  They  have  to  be  subdued. Whether they should be fought politically or be dealt with  by  force  is  a matter of policy for the Government to determine. The courts may not be  the appropriate forum to determine those questions. All this is beyond  dispute. But the present case appears to be one where two  persons  along  with  some others were just seized from a hut, taken to  a  long  distance  away  in  a truck  and  shot  there.  This  type  of  activity   cannot   certainly   be countenanced by the courts even in the  case  of  disturbed  areas.  If  the  police had information that terrorists were gathering at a particular  place and if they had surprised them and arrested  them,  the  proper  course  for them was to deal with them according to  law.  “Administrative  liquidation” was certainly not a course open to them.”

135.   It must be held, and there can be no doubt about it, that in view  of the consistent opinion expressed  by  this  Court,  that  an  allegation  or complaint of  absence of a reasonable connection between an official act  and use of excessive force or retaliatory force will not be countenanced and  an allegation of this ature would always  require  to  be  met  regardless  of whether the State is concerned  with  a  dreaded  criminal  or  a  militant, terrorist or insurgent. It must also be held that to  provide  assurance  to the people, such an allegation must be thoroughly  enquired  into.  This  is the requirement of a democracy and the requirement of  preservation  of  the rule of law and the preservation of individual  liberties.  A  consequential question that will arise is who should conduct that thorough enquiry.

136.   In this regard, it was submitted  by  the  learned  Attorney  General that apart from anything else, an internal enquiry is conducted through  the Human Rights Division of the Army and the  Ministry  of  Defence  to  ensure that any violation of human rights is duly punished. In this regard, it  was submitted that though the enquiry may be internal, it is  nevertheless  fair and over the years as many as 70 personnel  have  been  punished  for  human rights violations. Therefore, there is  no  need  to  have  any  independent enquiry into the alleged fake encounters.

137.   We are not inclined to accept  this  submission.  We  had  asked  the learned Attorney General  to  hand  over  sample  files  so  that  we  could understand the nature of the internal enquiry and how it was conducted.   We were handed over a sealed cover which upon opening revealed  that  what  was handed over to us were four files relating to four cases  enquired  into  by the Justice Hegde Commission.  These four cases are Case 1 - Md. Azad  Khan, Case 3 - Nameirakpam Gobind Meitei &  Nameirakpam  Nobo  Meitei,  Case  4  - Elangbam Kiranjit Singh and Case 5  -  Chongtham  Umakanta.   In  all  these cases the respondents have come to the conclusion that the allegations  were not supported by  any  credible  evidence  and  therefore  the  case  needed closure. However as we have noticed above,  on  a  thorough  enquiry  having been made by the Justice Hegde Commission the view taken was that all  these persons were killed in a fake encounter or that the force used against  them was excessive. Under these circumstances, we do not wish to comment  on  the nature of the internal enquiry conducted by the respondents but only  record that these cases apparently never reached the Human Rights Division  of  the Army or the Ministry of Defence.

Retaliation against an enemy

138.   It was contended by the learned Attorney  General  that  the  general principles of self-defence  or  private  defence  provided  for  in  several decisions of this Court, including Darshan Singh would not be applicable  to the disturbed area of Manipur since the armed  forces  in  that  State  were engaged with militants and terrorists who are ‘enemy’ as defined in  Section 3(x) of the Army Act. This is a shift from  the  stand  taken  in  affidavit filed by the Union of India but we let it pass. Reliance was placed  by  the learned Attorney General on an observation in  Ratan  Singh  that  militants are “undisputedly” included in  the  expression  ‘enemy’  as  defined  under Section 3(x) of the Army Act. In that case,  the  record  shows  that  Ratan Singh was a member of the IPKF (Operation  Pawan)  in  Sri  Lanka  and  when fired upon by militants, he quit his post. It was in this context that  this Court observed that “The operation in which the appellant  was  engaged  was directed against  the  militants  who  were  undisputedly  included  in  the expression ‘enemy’ within Section 3(x) [of the  Army  Act].”  The  reference was specific to “the militants” against whom the IPKF was required  to  act.  There was no general or blanket conclusion arrived at  by  this  Court  that all militants in every situation are ‘enemy’.

139.   In any event, before a person can be  branded  as  a  militant  or  a terrorist or an insurgent, there must be the commission or some  attempt  or semblance of a violent overt act. A person carrying a weapon in a  disturbed area in violation of a prohibition  to  that  effect  cannot  be  labeled  a militant or terrorist or insurgent. In Navjot Sandhu this  Court  cited  Sir James Stephen with approval in paragraph 276 of the Report to the  following effect:

“Unlawful assemblies, riots, insurrections, rebellions, levying of  war  are offences which run into each other and not capable of being  marked  off  by perfectly definite boundaries. All of  them  have  in  common  one  feature, namely, that the normal tranquillity of a civilised society is, in  each  of the cases mentioned, disturbed either by actual force or  at  least  by  the show and threat of it.”[58] (Emphasis supplied by us).

140.   Similarly, though in a slightly different context,  it  was  held  by this Court in Indra Das  v.  State  of  Assam[59]  after  referring  to  and relying upon Arup Bhuyan v. State of Assam[60] that  mere  membership  of  a banned organization does not incriminate a person. He  might  be  a  passive member and not an active one and so it is necessary to  prove  that  he  has indulged in some act of violence or imminent  violence.  This  is  what  was said:

“In Arup Bhuyan case we  have  stated  that  mere  membership  of  a  banned organisation cannot incriminate  a  person  unless  he  is  proved  to  have resorted to acts of violence or incited  people  to  imminent  violence,  or does an act intended to create disorder or disturbance of  public  peace  by resort to imminent violence. In the present case,  even  assuming  that  the appellant was a member of ULFA which is a banned organisation, there  is  no evidence to show that he did acts of the nature abovementioned.  Thus,  even if he was a member of ULFA it has not been proved  that  he  was  an  active member and not merely a passive member. Hence the decision  in  Arup  Bhuyan case squarely applies in this case.”

141.   In so far as  the  present  case  is  concerned,  the  Justice  Hegde Commission found that none of the victims in the six cases  examined  by  it at the instance of this Court had any criminal  antecedents  or  that  there was any credible evidence to show that they had affiliations with  a  banned or unlawful organization. Therefore it would not  be  correct  to  say  that merely because a person was carrying arms in a prohibited area, that  person automatically became an enemy or an active member of a  banned  or  unlawful organization. We note, without comment, the contention  of  the  petitioners that in most cases the arms are planted on the victims.

142.   Significantly, the word ‘enemy’ is used in conjunction with the  word ‘alien’ in Article 22 of the Constitution. But the Army Act provides  for  a broader and more inclusive meaning. Nevertheless it inherently  connotes  an overt or covert act of violence or an imminent act of violence  or  such  an attempt by  any  armed  person.  There  can  be  little  doubt  that  ‘armed mutineers’ and ‘armed rebels’ by definition deal  in  violence.  This  Court has associated  ‘mutiny’  with  violence  in  Union  of  India  v.  Tulsiram Patel[61] and Shivaji Atmaji  Sawant  v.  State  of  Maharashtra.[62]  Armed rioters are also involved in violence. Section 146 of the  IPC[63]  explains rioting as use of force or violence  by  an  unlawful  assembly  or  by  any member thereof in  prosecution  of  the  common  object  of  such  assembly. Similarly, an act of piracy inherently involves  violence.  Article  101  of the United Nations Convention on the Law  of  the  Sea  explains  piracy  as follows:

“Piracy consists of any of the following acts:

(a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any  act  of  depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a  private  ship or a private aircraft, and directed:

(i) on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or  against  persons or property on board such ship or aircraft;.

(ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a  place  outside  the jurisdiction of any State; 

(b) any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or  of  an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;

(c) any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating  an  act  described in subparagraph (a) or (b).”

Therefore merely because a person is carrying arms in a disturbed  area,  he does not ipso facto become an enemy.  There has to be  something  much  more       to brand such a person as an enemy. That a person is not a mere  law-breaker     but an enemy can be determined only by a thorough enquiry as  postulated  by          Naga People’s Movement of Human Rights.          

143.   In cases such as the present, there is a greater duty of care and  an equally greater necessity of a thorough enquiry since, we must  not  forget, the alleged ‘enemy’ in this case is a citizen of  our  country  entitled  to all fundamental rights including under Article 21 of  the  Constitution.  In this regard, it is worth recalling what the Constitution Bench said in  Naga People’s Movement of Human Rights - our armed  forces  are  not  trained  to fight and kill our own countrymen  and  women.  To  this  we  may  add  that ordinarily our armed forces should not be used against  our  countrymen  and women. This Court observed in Naga People’s  Movement  of  Human  Rights  in paragraph 39 of the Report:

“The primary task of the armed forces of the Union is to defend the  country in the event of war or when it is  faced  with  external  aggression.  Their training and orientation is to defeat the hostile  forces.  A  situation  of internal disturbance involving the local  population  requires  a  different approach. Involvement of armed forces in handling such  a  situation  brings them in confrontation with  their  countrymen.  Prolonged  or  too  frequent deployment of armed  forces  for  handling  such  situations  is  likely  to generate a feeling of alienation among the people against the  armed  forces who by their sacrifices in the defence of their country have earned a  place in the hearts of the people. It also has an adverse  effect  on  the  morale and discipline of the personnel of the armed forces.”

If members of our armed forces are deployed and employed  to  kill  citizens of our country on the mere allegation or suspicion  that  they  are  ‘enemy’ not only the rule of law but our democracy would be in grave danger.

144.   In view  of  our  discussion,  it  is  not  possible  to  accept  the contention of the learned Attorney General that a  person  carrying  weapons in violation of prohibitory orders in the disturbed area of Manipur is  ipso facto an enemy or that the security forces in Manipur in  such  a  case  are dealing with an ‘enemy’ as defined in Section 3(x) of the Army Act. This  is far too sweeping and general an allegation and cannot be accepted as  it  is or at its face value. Each instance of an alleged extra-judicial killing  of even such a person would have to be examined or thoroughly enquired into  to ascertain and determine the facts. In the enquiry, it might  turn  out  that the victim was in fact an enemy and an unprovoked aggressor and  was  killed in an exchange of fire. But the question  for  enquiry  would  still  remain whether excessive or retaliatory force was used to kill that enemy.

145.   The learned Attorney General also relied upon  the  UAPA  to  contend that a terrorist is an enemy, though not specifically mentioned  in  Section 3(x) of the Army Act and it is the duty of a person subject to military  law  to act against a terrorist. The argument of  the  learned  Attorney  General proceeds on the basis that in the present case every victim  is  a  militant or a terrorist. There is no such presumption one way or the other and  there is also no presumption one way or the other  that  all  the  operations  and encounters were faked as sought to be  contended  by  the  petitioners.  The facts have not yet been determined in this regard in  all  cases.  Moreover, the stand of the State of Manipur in its affidavit of  17th  November,  2012 is that the ordinary criminal laws including  the  UAPA  are  inadequate  to deal  with  the  problem  of  insurgency  in   Manipur   necessitating   the enforcement of the AFSPA.  Hence, reliance on the UAPA does not advance  the case of the learned Attorney General.

146.   Undoubtedly, the challenges of militancy and terrorism staring us  in the face are grave. In People’s  Union  for  Civil  Liberties  v.  Union  of India[64] the legislative competence of Parliament to enact  the  Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 was under question.  In  that  decision,  this  Court described terrorism as an  “undeclared  war”  as  well  as  a  “proxy  war”. Adverting to the reality of terrorism, this Court  observed  that  terrorist acts are meant, in several ways, to  destabilize  the  nation  and,  amongst others, demoralize the security forces.  It was observed that  terrorism  is a new challenge for law enforcement and that the  terrorist  threat  we  are facing is now on an unprecedented global  scale.  It  was  further  observed that  to  face  terrorism  we  need  new  approaches,   techniques,  weapons, expertise and of course new laws.  It is under these circumstances that  the Prevention of Terrorism Act was enacted.

147.   In a similar vein, Section 15 of the UAPA which was relied on by  the learned Attorney General virtually defines a terrorist  as  the  perpetrator of an act  with  intent  to  threaten  or  likely  to  threaten  the  unity, integrity, security, economic security  or  sovereignty  of  India  or  with intent to strike terror or likely to strike terror  in  the  people  or  any section of the people in India by any of the  acts  mentioned  in  the  said section.

148.   This Court had occasion to advert to the challenges from  terrorists, the response of the State and the constitutional commitment of  the  Courts. In Saeed Sohail Sheikh it  was  held  in  paragraph  40  of  the  Report  as follows:

“Having said that we cannot ignore the fact that  the  country  today  faces challenges and threats from extremist elements  operating  from  within  and outside India.  Those dealing with such elements have  at  times  to  pay  a heavy price by sacrificing their lives in the  discharge  of  their  duties. The glory of the constitutional democracy that we have adopted, however,  is that whatever be the challenges posed by such  dark  forces,  the  country’s commitment to the rule of law remains steadfast.   Courts  in  this  country have protected and would continue to protect the ideals  of  the  rights  of the citizen  being  inviolable  except  in  accordance  with  the  procedure established by law.”

149.   Killing an ‘enemy’ is not the only available  solution  and  that  is what  the  Geneva  Conventions   and   the   principles   of   international humanitarian law tell us. Equally importantly, the  instructions  issued  by the Army Headquarters under the caption:  “List  of  Dos  and  Don’ts  while acting under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958”  read  with  “List of Dos and Don’ts while providing aid to civil authority” restrain the  Army from using excessive force. In Naga People’s Movement  of  Human  Rights  it was held by the Constitution Bench in paragraph 58 of the Report:

“The instructions in the form of “Dos and Don’ts”  to  which  reference  has been made by the learned Attorney General have  to  be  treated  as  binding instructions which are required to be followed by the members of  the  armed forces exercising powers under the Central Act and a serious note should  be taken of violation of the instructions and  the  persons  found  responsible for such violation should be suitably punished under the Army Act, 1950.”

Therefore, even while dealing with the ‘enemy’ the rule of law  would  apply and if there have been excesses beyond the call of duty,  those  members  of the Manipur Police or the armed  forces  who  have  committed  the  excesses which do not have a reasonable connection  with  the  performance  of  their official duty would be liable to be proceeded against.  

 150.   Advocating caution and use of minimal force against our  own  people, it was held in Naga People’s Movement of Human  Rights  that  power  can  be exercised under Section 4(a) of the AFSPA only under certain  circumstances. It was said in this context:

“The powers under Section 4(a) can be exercised only when (a) a  prohibitory order of the nature specified in that clause is in force  in  the  disturbed area; (b) the officer exercising those powers forms the opinion that  it  is necessary to take  action  for  maintenance  of  public  order  against  the person/persons acting in contravention of such prohibitory order; and (c)  a due warning as the  officer  considers  necessary  is  given  before  taking action. The laying down of these conditions gives an indication  that  while exercising the powers the officer  shall  use  minimal  force  required  for effective action against the person/persons acting in contravention  of  the prohibitory order.”

151.   In this context it is important to quote the Ten Commandments  issued by the Chief of Army Staff. These read as follows  and  nothing  can  better elucidate how the security forces are expected to act in Manipur:

                                        COAS TEN COMMANDMENTS

           Remember that people you are dealing with, are  your  own  countrymen.   All your conduct must be dictated by this one significant consideration.    Operations must  be  people  friendly,  using  minimum  force  and  avoiding collateral damage – restrain must be the key.

          Good intelligence is the key to success –  the  thrust  of  your  operations must be intelligence based and must include the militant leadership.

          Be compassionate, help the people and win their  hearts  and  minds.  Employ all resources under your command to improve their living conditions.

         No operations without police representative.  No  operations  against  women cadres under any circumstances without  mahila  police.  Operations  against women insurgents be preferably carried out by police.

         Be truthful, honest and maintain highest  standards  of  integrity,  honour, discipline, courage and sacrifice.

         Sustain physical and moral strength, mental robustness and motivation. Train  hard,  be  vigilant  and  maintain  highest  standards  of   military professionalism. Synergise your actions with the  civil  administration  and  other  security forces.

        Uphold Dharma and take pride in your country and the army.

It is quite clear from  the  various  instructions  issued  (and  which  are  binding on the armed forces) that minimum force is to be used  even  against terrorists, militants and  insurgents.  This  is  very  much  in  tune  with international law  even in times of war when the Geneva Conventions  and  the principles of  international  humanitarian  law  are  applicable.  There  is absolutely no reason why an equally toned down response cannot be  given  by our armed forces in times  of  internal  disturbances  and  why  no  enquiry should be held if the response is alleged to be disproportionate.

152.   At this stage, we would like to make it clear that Section 6  of  the AFSPA and Section 49 of the UAPA[65] presently have no application  to  this case. It  has  yet  to  be  determined  whether  the  deaths  were  in  fake encounters as alleged or whether the deaths were in  genuine  encounters  in counter insurgency operations and it has also to be determined  whether  the use of force was disproportionate or retaliatory or not. If  any  death  was unjustified, there is no blanket immunity available  to  the  perpetrator(s) of the offence. No one can act with impunity particularly when  there  is  a loss of an innocent life. Army Act and the Cr.P.C.

153.   A contention was raised by  the  learned  Attorney  General  that  an offence committed by a member of  armed  forces  must  be  tried  under  the provisions of the Army Act through Court Martial proceedings and  not  under the Cr.P.C. In other words, if anyone from the Army is found  to  have  used excessive force, he should be proceeded against under the provisions of  the Army Act and not in a criminal court. Reliance was placed in this regard  on Balbir Singh v. State of Punjab.[66] 154.   If we go further back, in Som Datt Datta  v.  Union  of  India[67]  a Constitution Bench of this  Court  was  concerned  with  a  challenge  to  a finding of guilt by a Court Martial for an offence punishable under  Section 304 and Section 149 of the IPC. The contention of the  petitioner  was  that the Court Martial had no jurisdiction to try him and that  only  a  criminal court constituted under the Cr.P.C.  had  jurisdiction  to  try  him.  On  a consideration  of  Section  69  and  Section  70  of  the  Army   Act,   the Constitution Bench held that under the Army Act there are  three  categories of offences, namely:

Offences committed by a person  subject  to  the  Act  triable  by  a  Court Martial in respect whereof specific punishments have been assigned;

Civil offences committed by a person subject to the Act at any place  in  or beyond India, but deemed to be offences committed  under  the  Act  and,  if charged under Section 69 of the Act, triable by a Court Martial; and

Offences of murder and culpable homicide not amounting  to  murder  or  rape committed by a person subject to the Act against a  person  not  subject  to the military law.

It was held by the Constitution Bench that subject to a few exceptions,  the third category of cases is not triable by a Court  Martial  but  is  triable only by ordinary criminal courts. The exceptions are to be found in  Section 70 of the Army Act and one of them is if the offence  is  committed  by  the accused while in active service.

155.   The Constitution Bench then considered the provisions of Section  125 and Section 126 of the Army Act in this context. It was  held  that  Section 125 pre-supposes that in respect of an offence both a criminal court  and  a Court Martial have concurrent jurisdiction.  Section 125  of  the  Army  Act read with Section 126 thereof gives discretion to the officer  mentioned  in Section  125  to  decide  before  which  forum  the  proceedings  shall   be instituted. If it is decided  that  the  proceedings  should  be  instituted before a Court Martial then the accused  is  taken  into  military  custody.

However, if the criminal court is of opinion  that  the  offence  should  be tried before itself then it must follow the procedure laid down  in  Section 126 of the Army Act pending a reference to the Central Government.   It  was held that these  two  sections  of  the  Army  Act  provide  a  satisfactory machinery to resolve a  conflict  of  jurisdiction,  having  regard  to  the exigencies of the situation, in any particular case. It was said:

“Section 125 presupposes that in respect  of  an  offence  both  a  Criminal Court as well as a Court Martial have each concurrent jurisdiction.  Such  a situation can arise in a case of an act or omission  punishable  both  under the Army Act as well as under any law in force in India. It may  also  arise in the case of an offence deemed to be an offence under the Army Act.  Under the scheme of the two sections, in the first instance, it  is  left  to  the discretion of the officer mentioned in Section 125 to  decide  before  which court the proceedings shall be instituted, and, if the officer decides  that they should be instituted before a court Martial, the accused person  is  to be detained in military custody; but if a Criminal Court is of opinion  that the said offence shall be tried before itself, it may  issue  the  requisite notice under Section 126 either to deliver over the offender to the  nearest Magistrate or to  postpone  the  proceedings  pending  a  reference  to  the Central Government. On receipt of the  said  requisition,  the  officer  may either deliver over the offender to the said court or refer the question  of proper court for the determination of the  Central  Government  whose  order shall be final. These two sections of the Army Act  provide  a  satisfactory machinery to resolve the conflict of  jurisdiction,  having  regard  to  the exigencies of the situation in any particular case.”

On the facts of the case, it was held that the police had not completed  its investigation into the alleged offence and that the  accused  had  not  been brought before the Magistrate after the filing of the  charge  sheet,  hence the criminal court alone did not have jurisdiction over the accused.

156.   At this stage, it may be mentioned in the above context that  in  Ram Swarup v. Union India[68] a Constitution Bench of this Court held  that  the exercise of discretion by the competent authority  under  Sections  125  and

126 of the Army Act is not unguided and does not violate Article 14  of  the Constitution.

157.   In Balbir Singh the accused was in active service in  the  Air  Force and was tried and convicted by a criminal court for  an  offence  punishable under Sections 302 and 34 of the  IPC.  The  contention  urged  before  this Court was that the criminal court inherently lacked jurisdiction to try  the accused. This Court considered the provisions  of  Section  72  of  the  Air Force Act, 1950 (corresponding to Section 70 of the Army Act), Sections  124 and 125 of the said Act (corresponding to Sections 125 and 126 of  the  Army Act) and the Criminal Courts and Court Martial (Adjustment of  Jurisdiction) Rules, 1952. It was held that  in  the  event  of  a  Court  Martial  and  a criminal court both having  jurisdiction  to  try  the  offence,  the  first option to try a person subject to  the  Air  Force  Act  who  is  in  active service is with the Air Force authorities. If the Air Force  authorities  do not exercise that option or decide  not  to  try  that  person  by  a  Court Martial,  then  the  accused  could  be  tried  by  the  criminal  court  in accordance with the procedure laid down by the Cr.P.C. It was  further  held that if the criminal court decides to proceed  in  the  matter  despite  the contrary  view  of  the  Air  Force  authorities,  then  the   conflict   of jurisdiction shall be resolved  by  the  Central  Government  under  Section 125(2) of the said Act and the decision of the Central Government  would  be final.

158.   In paragraph 17 of the Report this was held as follows:

“A conjoint reading of the above  provisions  shows  that  when  a  criminal court and court-martial each have jurisdiction in respect of  the  trial  of the offence, it shall be in the discretion of  the  officer  commanding  the group, wing or station in  which  the  accused  is  serving  or  such  other officer as may be prescribed, in the first instance, to decide before  which court the proceedings shall be  instituted and if that officer  decides  that they should be instituted before  a  “court-martial”,  to  direct  that  the accused persons shall be detained in air force custody. Thus, the option  to try a person subject to the Air Force Act who commits an  offence  while  on “active service” is in the first instance with the  Air  Force  Authorities. The criminal court, when such an accused is  brought  before  it  shall  not proceed to try such a person or to inquire with a  view  to  his  commitment for trial and shall give a notice to the Commanding Officer of the  accused, to decide whether they would like to try the accused by a  court-martial  or allow the criminal court to proceed with the trial. In case, the  Air  Force Authorities decide either not to try such a person  by  a  court-martial  or fail to exercise the option when intimated by the criminal court within  the period prescribed by Rule 4 of the 1952 Rules (supra), the  accused  can  be tried by the  ordinary  criminal  court  in  accordance  with  the  Code  of Criminal Procedure. On the other hand if the Authorities under the  Act  opt to try the accused by the ‘court-martial’, the criminal court  shall  direct delivery of the custody of the accused to the Authorities under the Act  and to forward to the Authorities a statement of the  offence  of  which  he  is accused. It is explicit that the option to try the accused  subject  to  the Act by a court-martial is with the Air Force  Authorities  and  the  accused person has no option or right to claim trial by a particular forum.

……

However, in the event the criminal court is of the opinion, for  reasons  to be recorded, that instead of giving option  to  the  Authorities  under  the Act, the said court should proceed with the trial of  the  accused,  without being moved by the competent authority under the  Act  and  the  Authorities under the Act decide to the contrary, the conflict of jurisdiction shall  be resolved by the Central Government under Section 125(2) of the Act  and  the decision as to the  forum  of  trial  by  the  Central  Government  in  that eventuality shall be final.”

We may note that the provisions of the Criminal  Courts  and  Court  Martial (Adjustment of Jurisdiction) Rules, 1978 now  applicable  are  substantively similar  to  the  Criminal  Courts  and   Court   Martial   (Adjustment   of Jurisdiction) Rules, 1952 dealt with in Balbir Singh.

159.   This  issue  also  came  up  for  consideration  in  General  Officer Commanding, Rashtriya Rifles   v. Central Bureau of Investigation[69]  where the provisions of the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special  Powers  Act,

1990 and the AFSPA were considered.  The decision arose out a  charge  sheet filed in the criminal court in Srinagar on an allegation  of  deaths  caused by Army personnel in a  fake  encounter  and  a  charge  sheet  filed  in  a criminal court in Kamrup on a similar allegation of deaths  caused  by  Army personnel in a fake encounter. In both courts  the  view  canvassed  by  the Army was that the prosecution could not be  launched  without  the  previous sanction of  the  Central  Government,  the  action  complained  of  was  in performance of official duties and therefore the charge sheet  ought  to  be returned to the investigating agency.

160.   This Court explained that institution of proceedings is  required  to be understood in the context of the scheme of the Army Act  and  so  far  as criminal  proceedings  are  concerned  institution  does  not  mean  filing, presenting or initiating proceedings but it means taking cognizance  of  the offence as per the provisions of  the  Cr.P.C.  and  that  cognizance  means taking judicial notice of an offence  by  an  application  of  mind  to  the complaint or police report and thereafter proceeding  under  the  provisions of the Cr.P.C. Relying upon Matajog Dobey it  was  held  that  the  criminal court lacks jurisdiction to take cognizance of the offence  unless  sanction is granted by the Central Government.

161.   A reference was then made to Sections 125 and 126  of  the  Army  Act and it was held in paragraph 86 of the Report, following Som Datt Datta  and Balbir Singh as follows:

“Military authority may ask the criminal court dealing with  the  case  that the accused would be tried by the Court Martial in view  of  the  provisions of Section 125 of the Army Act. However, the option given by  the  authority is not final in view of the provisions of  Section  126  of  the  Army  Act. Criminal court having jurisdiction to  try  the  offender  may  require  the competent military  officer  to  deliver  the  offender  to  the  Magistrate concerned to  be  proceeded  with  according  to  law  or  to  postpone  the proceedings pending reference to the Central Government,  if  that  criminal court is of the opinion that proceedings  be  instituted  before  itself  in respect of that offence. Thus, in case  the  criminal  court  makes  such  a request, the military officer either  has  to  comply  with  it  or  make  a reference to the  Central  Government  whose  orders  would  be  final  with respect to the venue of the trial. Therefore, the  discretion  exercised  by

the military officer is subject to the control of  the  Central  Government. Such matter is being governed by the provisions of  Section  475  CrPC  read with  the  provisions  of  the  J&K  Criminal  Courts  and   Court   Martial (Adjustment of Jurisdiction) Rules, 1983.”

162.   This Court then recorded its  conclusions  in  paragraph  95  of  the Report and they read as follows:

“95.To sum up:

95.1. The conjoint reading of the relevant statutory  provisions  and  Rules make it clear that the term “institution” contained  in  Section  7  of  the 1990 Act means taking cognizance of the offence and  not  mere  presentation of the charge-sheet by the investigating agency.

95.2. The competent army authority has to exercise his discretion to opt  as to whether the trial could be by a Court Martial  or  criminal  court  after filing of the charge-sheet and not after the cognizance of  the  offence  is taken by the court.

95.3. Facts of this case require  sanction  of  the  Central  Government  to proceed with the criminal prosecution/trial.

95.4. In case option is  made  to  try  the  accused  by  a  Court  Martial, sanction of the Central Government is not required.”

163.   The law is therefore very clear that if an offence is committed  even by Army personnel, there is no concept of absolute immunity  from  trial  by the criminal court constituted under the Cr.P.C. To contend that this  would have a deleterious  and  demoralizing  impact  on  the  security  forces  is certainly one way of looking at  it,  but  from  the  point  of  view  of  a citizen, living under  the  shadow  of  a  gun  that  can  be  wielded  with impunity,  outright  acceptance  of  the  proposition  advanced  is  equally unsettling and demoralizing,  particularly  in  a  constitutional  democracy like ours.

164.   The result of the interplay between Section 4 and Section  5  of  the Cr.P.C. and Sections 125 and 126 of the Army Act makes it quite  clear  that the decision to try a person who has committed an offence  punishable  under the Army Act and who is subject to the provisions of the Army Act  does  not always or  necessarily lie only with the Army – the criminal court under  the Cr.P.C. could also try the alleged  offender  in  certain  circumstances  in accordance with the procedure laid down by the Cr.P.C. Issue of limitation

165.   The next contention of the learned Attorney  General  was  that  even today the Army would be entitled to hold a Court of  Inquiry  and  determine whether an offence had been committed by any of its personnel, identify  the offender (if any) and then punish him in accordance with the  provisions  of the Army Act. It was submitted that the issue of  limitation  postulated  by Section 122 of the Army Act would not come in the way.

166.   It may be mentioned that the  period  of  limitation  provided  under Section 122 of the Army Act commences from (a) the date of the offence  (the commission  of  which  is  denied  in  the  present  case);  (b)  where  the commission of the offence was not known  to  the  competent  authority,  the first day on which the commission of such offence comes to the knowledge  of the competent authority;  (c)  when  it  is  not  known  who  committed  the offence, the first day on which the identity  of  the  alleged  offender  is known to the competent authority.

167.   Reference was made by the learned Attorney General to Union of  India v. V.N. Singh[70] in which  the  allegation  related  to  irregularities  in local purchases. It was only much later when a Staff Court of  Inquiry  gave its recommendations blaming the respondent that  Court  Martial  proceedings were initiated against him. This Court took the  view  that  the  period  of limitation for convening a Court Martial would commence  from  the  date  on which the competent  authority  of  the  respondent  came  to  know  of  the involvement of the respondent in the irregularities.

168.   Similarly, J.S. Sekhon v. Union of India[71] concerned an  allegation of irregularities in some purchases. It is only after  a  Court  of  Inquiry gave an adverse recommendation against the appellant that he  had  defrauded the Army through irregular purchases that a Court Martial was convened.

169.   None of decisions really take us  much  further  in  understanding  a situation such as the present in which the Army categorically says  that  no offence has been committed by any of its personnel. If that be so, there  is no question of holding any Court of Inquiry and Section 122 of the Army  Act does  not even come into picture, nor does the question whether a  particular person is guilty of any offence or not.  Therefore,  even  holding  a  Court Martial cannot arise. But if the Army has an open mind on the issue, it  can certainly hold a Court of Inquiry, if the law permits it to do  so  at  this distant point of time.

170.   However, we make it clear that even if the   armed  forces  decide  to take action and inquire into the allegations at their own  level,  it  would not preclude any other inquiry or investigation into the allegations made.

171.   Insofar as holding a Magisterial Enquiry is concerned, the  NHRC  has stated in their affidavits that the guidelines issued from time to time  are not  being  followed  in  their  true  spirit.  That  apart,  the  NHRC  has complained that the  State  Governments  (including  perhaps  the  State  of Manipur) invariably take more  than  reasonable  time  to  submit  important documents such as the port-mortem report, inquest report and  the  ballistic expert report as well as the  Magisterial  Enquiry  report.   Therefore,  it appears that the Magisterial Enquiry is not given its due importance but  in any event since  it  is  an  administrative  enquiry  (which  is  apparently conducted in a casual manner) and not a judicial enquiry, not much  credence can be attached to the Magisterial Enquiry report.  In this context, it  may also be mentioned that the NHRC has also complained about the  poor  quality of the Magisterial Enquiry reports received by it  and  it  is  pointed  out that in some instances the family of the person killed is not  examined  nor any independent witness is  examined  by  the  Magistrate.  That  being  the position, it is not possible to attach any  importance  to  the  Magisterial Enquiry conducted at the behest of the  State  Government,  even  though  it might have been conducted under Section 176 of the Cr.P.C.

172.   Therefore, we make  it  clear  that  even  if  the  State  Government decides to hold Magisterial  Enquiries  and  take  suitable  action  on  the report given, it would not preclude any other inquiry or investigation  into the allegations made. In situations of the kind that we  are  dealing  with, there can be no substitute for a judicial inquiry or an inquiry by the  NHRC or an inquiry under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952.

Conclusions

173.   On an overall consideration of the submissions made and the  material before us, we conclude :

This  writ  petition  alleging  gross  violations   of   human   rights   is maintainable in this Court under Article 32 of the Constitution.   

(b) We respectfully  follow  and  reiterate  the  view  expressed  by  the Constitution Bench of this Court in Naga People’s Movement of  Human  Rights that the use of excessive force or retaliatory force by the  Manipur  Police or the armed forces of the Union is not permissible.   As  is  evident  from the Dos and Don’ts and the Ten Commandments of the Chief of Army Staff,  the Army believes in this ethos and accepts  that  this  principle  would  apply even in an area declared  as  a  disturbed  area  under  AFSPA  and  against militants,  insurgents  and  terrorists.   There  is  no  reason  why   this principle should not apply to the other armed forces of the  Union  and  the Manipur Police.

    (c) We respectfully follow and  reiterate  the  view  expressed  by  the Constitution Bench of this Court in Naga People’s Movement of  Human  Rights that an allegation of excessive force resulting in the death of  any  person by the Manipur Police or the armed forces  in  Manipur  must  be  thoroughly enquired into. For the time being, we leave it  open  for  decision  on  who should conduct the inquiry and appropriate directions in  this  regard  will be given after the exercise mentioned below is conducted. We respectfully follow and reiterate the view expressed by this  Court  that in the event of an offence having  been  committed  by  any  person  in  the Manipur Police or the armed forces through the use  of  excessive  force  or retaliatory force, resulting in the death of any person, the proceedings  in respect thereof can be  instituted  in  a  criminal  court  subject  to  the appropriate procedure being followed.

Further steps

174.    Unfortunately,  we  have  not  been  given  accurate  and   complete information  about  each  of  the  1528  cases  that  the  petitioners  have complained about. Therefore, there is a need  to  obtain  and  collate  this information before any final directions can be  given.  Learned  Amicus  has told us that there are 15 cases out of 62 in which it has been held  by  the Justice Hegde Commission or by judicial inquiries conducted at the  instance of the Gauhati High Court that the  encounters  were  faked.  On  the  other hand, the NHRC has informed us that there are 31 cases out of  62  in  which it has been concluded that the encounters were not genuine and  compensation awarded to the next of kin of the victims or the award  of  compensation  is pending.

175.   Therefore, as a first step, we direct: Of the 62 cases that the petitioners have documented,  their  representative and the learned Amicus will prepare a simple  tabular  statement  indicating whether in each case a judicial enquiry or an inquiry  by  the  NHRC  or  an inquiry under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 has  been  held  and  the result of the inquiry and whether any First Information Report or  complaint or petition has been filed by the next of kin of the deceased.   We  request the NHRC to render assistance to the learned Amicus in this regard. We  make it clear that since a Magisterial Enquiry is not a judicial inquiry and,  as mentioned above, it is not possible to attach any importance to  Magisterial Enquiries, the tabular statement will not include Magisterial Enquiries.  The representative of the petitioners and the learned  Amicus  will  revisit the remaining cases (1528 minus 62) and carry out an identical  exercise  as above. This exercise is required  to  be  conducted  for  eliminating  those cases in which there is no information about the identity of the  victim  or the place of occurrence or any other relevant detail  and  then  present  an accurate and faithful chart of cases in a simple tabular form.

176.   We propose to consider the grievance of the NHRC that it  has  become a toothless tiger, after hearing the Union of India and  the  NHRC  on  this important issue. We also propose to consider the nature  of  the  guidelines issued by the NHRC – whether they are binding or only advisory.

177.  For the time being we keep open the  question  whether  Court  Martial proceedings can be initiated by the Army against an  offender,  if  any,  to await the result of the first step as mentioned above.   We  are  making  it clear that we have  not  precluded  the  petitioners  from  contesting  this issue.  We are not deciding it for the time being only  because  full  facts are not available to us. However, if the law permits  and  the  Army  is  so inclined, it may hold a Court of Inquiry in each case.

178.   We record  our  appreciation  for  the  assistance  rendered  by  the learned Amicus at every stage of hearing of the case and  for  the  valuable assistance rendered and  expect  her  to  continue  assisting  us  till  the closure of this petition.

179.  List the matter for further proceedings immediately after four weeks.                                                                 

                                                     (Madan B. Lokur) ………………………….J

        (Uday Umesh Lalit) ………………………….J

New Delhi;                                          

July 8, 2016

 

-----------------------

[1]  Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: Study on  the  right  to  the truth. Report of the Office of the  United  Nations  High  Commissioner  for Human Rights; 8th February, 2006. Commission on Human  Rights,  Sixty-second session, Item 17 of the provisional agenda.

[2]  355. Duty of the Union to protect States  against  external  aggression and internal disturbance. - It shall be the duty of  the  Union  to  protect every State against external aggression  and  internal  disturbance  and  to ensure that the government of every State is carried on in  accordance  with the provisions of this Constitution.

[3]  2-A. Deployment of any armed force of the Union or any other force subject to the control of the Union or any contingent or unit thereof in any State in aid of the civil power; powers, jurisdiction, privileges and liabilities of the members of such forces while on such deployment.

[4]  12th August, 2004

[5]  Referred to later.

[6]  This may be contrasted with the assertion  in  the  affidavit  of  15th December, 2012 in W.P. (C) No. 445 of 2012 of the number of  militants.  The Census of 2011 suggests a population of over 27 lakhs in Manipur.

[7]  Section 3(x)  of  the  Army  Act,  1950:  “enemy”  includes  all  armed mutineers, armed rebels, armed rioters,  pirates  and  any  person  in  arms against whom it is the duty of any person subject to military law to act.

[8]  1992 Supp (1) SCC 716

[9]  (2005) 11 SCC 600

[10]    19. Procedure with  respect  to  armed  forces.—(1)  Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, while dealing with complaints  of  violation of human rights by members of the armed forces, the Commission  shall  adopt the following procedure, namely:—

    (a) it may, either on its own motion or on receipt of a  petition,  seek a report from the Central Government;

    (b) after the receipt of the report, it may,  either  not  proceed  with the complaint or, as the case may  be,  make  its  recommendations  to  that Government. 

    (2) The Central Government shall inform the  Commission  of  the  action taken on the recommendations within three months or  such  further  time  as the Commission may allow.

     (3)  The  Commission  shall  publish  its  report  together  with   its  recommendations made to the Central Government and the action taken by  that Government on such recommendations. 

    (4) The Commission shall provide a copy of the  report  published  under sub-section (3) to the petitioner or his representative.

[11]    (2013) 2 SCC 493

[12]    (2012) 2 SCC 34

[13]    (2006) 5 SCC 733

[14]    (2007) 6 SCC 171

[15]    (2014) 14 SCC 48

[16]    (2013) 9 SCC 447

[17]     1. Public order (but not including the use of any  naval,  military or air force or any other armed force of the Union or  of  any  other  force subject to the control of the Union or of any contingent or unit thereof  in aid of the civil power).

[18]    See footnote 2.

[19]    For the present purposes, the relevant portion  of  Article  352  of the Constitution as it now stands is of importance: 

    352. Proclamation of Emergency.—(1) If the President is  satisfied  that a grave emergency exists whereby the security of India or  of  any  part  of  the territory thereof is threatened, whether by war or  external  aggression or armed rebellion, he may, by Proclamation,  make  a  declaration  to  that effect in respect of the whole of India or of such  part  of  the  territory thereof as may be specified in the Proclamation.    

     Explanation.—A Proclamation of Emergency declaring that the security  of India or any part of the territory  thereof  is  threatened  by  war  or  by external aggression or by armed rebellion may  be  made  before  the  actual occurrence of war or of any such aggression or rebellion, if  the  President is satisfied that there is imminent danger thereof. 

    (2) A Proclamation issued under clause (1) may be varied or  revoked  by a subsequent Proclamation.

[20]    (1998) 2 SCC 109

[21]    356. Provisions in case of failure of  constitutional  machinery  in States.—(1) If the President, on receipt of a report from the Governor of  State or otherwise, is satisfied that a situation has arisen  in  which  the government of the  State  cannot  be  carried  on  in  accordance  with  the provisions of this Constitution, the President may by Proclamation—

    (a) assume to himself all or any of the functions of the  Government  of the State and all or any of the powers  vested  in  or  exercisable  by  the Governor or any body or authority in the State other  than  the  Legislature of the State;

    (b) declare that the powers of the Legislature of  the  State  shall  be exercisable by or under the authority of Parliament;

    (c) make such incidental and consequential provisions as appear  to  the President to be necessary or desirable for giving effect to the  objects  of the Proclamation, including provisions for suspending in whole  or  in  part the operation of any provisions of this Constitution relating  to  any  body or authority in the State:

    Provided that xxx xxx xxx [Not relevant for the present purposes]

[22]    Page 101 in Volume 2 of the Report

[23]    See footnote 1.

[24]    (1940) FCR 110

[25]    Navinchandra Mafatlal v. Commissioner of Income Tax,  1955  (1)  SCR 189 (5 Judges Bench). This view has been followed by the Constitution  Bench in Jagannath Baksh Singh v. State of U.P., (1963)  1  SCR  220  and  several other decisions rendered by this Court.

[26]    3. Power to declare areas to be disturbed areas.—If, in relation  to any State or Union Territory to which this  Act  extends,  the  Governor  of that State or the Administrator of  that  Union  Territory  or  the  Central Government, in either case, if of the opinion that the whole or any part  of such State or Union Territory, as the case may be, is in  such  a  disturbed or dangerous condition that the use of armed forces  in  aid  of  the  civil power is necessary, the Governor of that State or the Administrator of  that Union Territory or the Central Government, as  the  case  may  be,  may,  by notification in the Official Gazette, declare the  whole  or  such  part  of such State or Union Territory to be a disturbed area.

[27]    4. Special powers of the  armed  forces.—Any  commissioned  officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer or any other person of  equivalent rank in the armed forces may, in a disturbed area,—

    (a) if he is  of  opinion  that  it  is  necessary  so  to  do  for  the maintenance of public order,  after  giving  such  due  warning  as  he  may consider necessary, fire upon or otherwise use force, even  to  the  causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of  any  law  or order for the time being in force in  the  disturbed  area  prohibiting  the assembly of five or more persons or the carrying of  weapons  or  of  things capable of being used as weapons or of fire-arms,  ammunition  or  explosive substances;

    (b) to (d) xxx xxx xxx [Not relevant for the present purposes]. 

[28]    6. Protection to persons acting under Act - No prosecution, suit  or other legal  proceeding  shall  be  instituted,  except  with  the  previous sanction of the  Central  Government,  against  any  person  in  respect  of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of  the  powers  conferred by this Act.

[29]    4. Trial of offences under the Indian Penal Code and  other  laws  - 

(1) All offences  under  the  Indian  Penal  Code  (45  of  1860)  shall  be investigated, inquired into, tried, and otherwise dealt  with  according  to the provisions hereinafter contained.

    (2) All offences under any other law  shall  be  investigated,  inquired into, tried, and otherwise dealt with according to the same provisions,  but subject to any enactment for the time being in force regulating  the  manner or place of investigating, inquiring into, trying or otherwise dealing  with such offences.

    5. Saving - Nothing contained in this Code shall, in the  absence  of  a specific provision to the contrary, affect any special or local law for  the time being in force, or any special jurisdiction or power conferred, or  any special form of procedure prescribed, by any other law for  the  time  being in force. 

[30]    (m) “terrorist organisation” means an  organisation  listed  in  the Schedule  or  an  organisation  operating  under  the  same   name   as   an organisation so listed;

[31]      (o)  “unlawful  activity”,  in  relation  to  an   individual   or association, means any  action  taken  by  such  individual  or  association (whether by committing an act or by words, either spoken or written,  or  by signs or by visible representation or otherwise),—

    (i) which is intended, or supports any claim, to  bring  about,  on  any ground whatsoever, the cession of a part of the territory of  India  or  the secession of a part of the territory of  India  from  the  Union,  or  which incites any individual or group of individuals to bring about  such  cession or secession; or

    (ii) which disclaims, questions, disrupts or is intended to disrupt  the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India; or 

    (iii) which causes or is intended to cause disaffection  against  India;  

[32]    (p) “unlawful association” means any association,— 

    (i) which has for its object any unlawful activity, or which  encourages

or aids persons to undertake any unlawful activity, or of which the  members undertake such activity; or

    (ii) which has for its object any activity  which  is  punishable  under Section 153-A or Section 153-B of the Indian Penal Code  (45  of  1860),  or which encourages or aids persons to  undertake  any  such  activity,  or  of which the members undertake any such activity :

    Provided that nothing contained in sub-clause (ii) shall  apply  to  the State of Jammu and Kashmir;

[33]    15. Terrorist  act.-  (1)  Whoever  does  any  act  with  intent  to threaten or likely to threaten  the  unity,  integrity,  security,  economic security, or sovereignty of India or with intent to strike terror or  likely to strike terror in the people or any section of the people in India  or  in any foreign country,—

     (a)  by  using  bombs,  dynamite  or  other  explosive  substances   or inflammable substances or firearms or other lethal weapons or  poisonous  or noxious gases or  other  chemicals  or  by  any  other  substances  (whether biological radioactive, nuclear or otherwise) of a hazardous  nature  or  by any other means of whatever nature to cause or likely to cause—

    (i) death of, or injuries to, any person or persons; or 

    (ii) loss of, or damage to, or destruction of, property; or

    (iii) disruption of any supplies or services essential to  the  life  of the community in India or in any foreign country; or

    (iii-a) damage to, the monetary stability of India by way of  production or smuggling  or  circulation  of  high  quality  counterfeit  Indian  paper currency, coin or of any other material; or

    (iv) damage or destruction of any property in  India  or  in  a  foreign country used or intended  to  be  used  for  the  defence  of  India  or  in connection with any other purposes of the Government  of  India,  any  State Government or any of their agencies; or

    (b) overawes by means of criminal force or the show  of  criminal  force  or attempts to do so or causes death of any public functionary  or  attempts to cause death of any public functionary; or 

    (c) detains, kidnaps or abducts any person  and  threatens  to  kill  or injure such person or does any other act in order to compel  the  Government of India, any State Government or the Government of a foreign country or  an international or inter-governmental organisation or any other person  to  do or abstain from doing any act; or,     commits a terrorist act.

    Explanation.—For the purpose of this sub-section,—

    (a) “public functionary” means the  constitutional  authorities  or  any other  functionary  notified  in  the  Official  Gazette  by   the   Central Government as public functionary;

    (b) “high quality counterfeit Indian  currency”  means  the  counterfeit currency as may be declared after examination by an authorised  or  notified forensic authority that such currency  imitates  compromises  with  the  key security features as specified in the Third Schedule.

    (2) The terrorist act includes  an  act  which  constitutes  an  offence within the scope of, and as defined in any of the treaties specified in  the Second Schedule.

[34]    (l) “terrorist gang” means any  association,  other  than  terrorist organisation, whether systematic or otherwise, which is concerned  with,  or involved in, terrorist act;

[35]     3.  Definitions.—In  this  Act,  unless   the   context   otherwise requires,—

    (i) “active service”, as applied to a person subject to this Act,  means the time during which such person—

    (a) is attached to, or forms part  of,  a  force  which  is  engaged  in operations against an enemy, or

    (b) is engaged in military operations in, or is on  the  line  of  march to, a country or place wholly or partly occupied by an enemy, or

    (c) is attached to or forms  part  of  a  force  which  is  in  military occupation of a foreign country;

    (x) “enemy” includes all armed mutineers, armed rebels,  armed  rioters, pirates and any person in arms against whom it is the  duty  of  any  person subject to military law to act;

[36]    Section 34

[37]    Section 35

[38]    Section 36

[39]    125. Choice between  criminal  court  and  court-martial  -  When  a criminal court and a court-martial have each jurisdiction in respect  of  an offence, it shall be in the discretion of the officer commanding  the  army, army corps, division or independent brigade in which the accused  person  is serving or such other officer as may be prescribed to  decide  before  which court the proceedings shall be instituted,  and,  if  that  officer  decides that they should be instituted before a court-martial, to  direct  that  the accused person shall be detained in military custody.

    126. Power of criminal court to require delivery of offender - (1)  When a criminal court having jurisdiction is of opinion  that  proceedings  shall be instituted before itself in respect of any alleged offence,  it  may,  by written notice, require the officer  referred  to  in  Section  125  at  his option, either to deliver over the offender to the nearest magistrate to  be proceeded against according to law, or to  postpone  proceedings  pending  a reference to the Central Government.

    (2) In every such case the said officer shall either  deliver  over  the offender in compliance with the requisition, or shall  forthwith  refer  the question as to the court before which the proceedings are to  be  instituted for the determination of the  Central  Government,  whose  order  upon  such reference upon such reference shall be final.

[40]    Rule 3: Where a person subject military, naval, air force  or  Coast Guard law, or any other laws relating to the Armed Forces of the  Union  for the time being in force is brought before a Magistrate and charged  with  an offence for which he is also liable to be tried by a Court Martial or  Coast Guard Court, as the case may be such Magistrate shall  not  proceed  to  try such person or to commit the case to the Court of Session, unless:-

    (a) he is moved thereto by a competent military,  naval,  air  force  or Coast Guard authority; or     

(b) he is of opinion, for reasons to be  recorded,  that  he  should  so proceed or to commit without being moved thereto by such authority.

 [41]     Rule  4:  Before  proceeding  under  clause  (b)  of  rule  3,  the Magistrate shall give a written notice to  the  Commanding  Officer  or  the competent military, naval, air force or Coast Guard authority, as  the  case may be, of the accused and until the expiry of  a  period  of  fifteen  days from the date of service of the notice he shall not :-

    (a) Convict or acquit the accused xxxx xxxx; or

    (b) frame in writing a charge against the accused xxx xxx; or

    (c) make an order committing the accused  for  trial  to  the  Court  of Session xxx xxx; or

    (d) make over the case for inquiry or trial under  section  192  of  the said Code.

 [42]    Rule 8: Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing  rules,  where  it comes to the notice of a Magistrate  that  a  person  subject  to  military, naval, air force or coast guard law, or any other law relating to the  Armed Forces of the Union for the time being in force has  committed  an  offence, proceedings in respect of which ought to be instituted before him  and  that the presence of such person cannot  be  procured  except  through  military, naval, air force or  coast  guard  authorities,  the  Magistrate  may  by  written notice require the commanding  officer  of  such  person  either  to deliver such person to a Magistrate to be  named  in  the  said  notice  for being proceeded against  according  to  law,  or  to  stay  the  proceedings against such person before the Court Martial or coast guard  court,  as  the case may be if since instituted, and to make  a  reference  to  the  Central Government for determination  as  to  the  court  before  which  proceedings should be instituted.

[43]    (1820) 1 State Tr NS 609, 610

[44]    AIR 1946 Nagpur 173, 185

[45]    Manjeet Singh v. State of H.P., (2014) 5 SCC 697

[46]    (1997) 4 SCC 496

[47]    (2005) 10 SCC 358

[48]    (2013) 14 SCC 290

[49]    (2010) 2 SCC 333

[50]    (1997) 3 SCC 433

[51]    Aharon  Barak:  The  Judge  in  a  Democracy,  page  283  (Princeton

University Press)

[52]    (1955) 2 SCR 925

[53]    (2012) 12 SCC 72

[54]    (1960) 2 SCR 89

[55]    (2004) 8 SCC 40

[56]    (2012) 13 SCC 192

[57]    There is nothing to indicate that the report was preliminary.

[58]    Digest of Criminal Law by Sir James Stephen

[59]    (2011) 3 SCC 380

[60]    (2011) 3 SCC 377

[61]    (1985) 3 SCC 398 at paragraph 161

[62]    (1986) 2 SCC 112 at paragraphs 6 and 7

[63]    146. Rioting - Whenever force or violence is  used  by  an  unlawful assembly, or by any member thereof, in prosecution of the common  object  of

such assembly, every member of such assembly is guilty  of  the  offence  of rioting.

[64]    (2004) 9 SCC 580

[65]    49. Protection of action taken in good faith - No suit,  prosecution or other legal proceeding shall lie against -

    (a) the Central Government or a  State  Government  or  any  officer  or authority  of  the  Central  Government  or  State  Government  or  District Magistrate or any officer authorised in this behalf  by  the  Government  or the District Magistrate or any other authority  on  whom  powers  have  been conferred under this Act, for anything  which  is  in  good  faith  done  or purported to be done in pursuance of this Act or  any  rule  or  order  made thereunder; and

    (b) any serving or retired member of the armed  forces  or  paramilitary forces in respect of any action taken or purported to be  taken  by  him  in good faith, in the  course  of  any  operation  directed  towards  combating terrorism.

[66]    (1995) 1 SCC 90

[67]    (1969) 2 SCR 177

[68]    (1964) 5 SCR 931

[69]    (2012) 6 SCC 228

[70]    (2010) 5 SCC 579

[71]    (2010) 11 SCC 586

 

Ċ
Harjinder Singh,
Jul 16, 2016, 3:00 AM
Comments