No war-like situation in Manipur; mere internal disturbance does not warrant use of excessive force

Supreme Court: The Court came down heavily on the Manipur Police and the armed forces of the Union, including the Army for the fake encounters or extra-judicial executions said to have been carried out by them and held that the use of excessive force or retaliatory force by the Manipur Police or the armed forces of the Union is not permissible and 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.

In the matter where the petitioner had complied 1528 cases of extra-judicial executions carried out by the police and security forces in Manipur, the Attorney General had opposed the enquiry into such killings on the premise that a war-like situation is prevalent in Manipur. Rejecting the contention, the bench of Madan B. Lokur and U.U. Lalit, JJ. held that 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 but 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.

The Court also rejected the contention 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, 1950 and said that 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. The Court heavily relied upon the decision of the Constitution bench in Naga People’s Movement of Human Rights v. Union of India, (1998) 2 SCC 109, and held that 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. [Extra Judicial Execution Victim Families Association v. Union of India, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 685, decided on 08.07.2016]

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