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And Justice For All

Two developments within the space of ten days or so have succeeded, what all the verbal criss-crossing of the State with black topped roads and raining down promises of drinking water facilities have failed and that is instill confidence and trust in the justice delivery system and Government agencies. We say this not without reason.

On August 31, 2010, Th. Manorama suddenly came back to the consciousness of the people of Manipur, thanks to the ruling passed by the Principal seat of the Gauhati High Court. The ruling, as the people must be aware, set aside the contention of the Assam Rifles that the State Government is not authorized to institute a Judicial Inquiry and act upon it, as their men operate under the legal protection provided by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and asked the SPF Government to peruse the findings of the C Upendra Commission and then act accordingly.

This was something which we had not expected, as past Judicial Inquiries involving the military establishments remained just that-inquiries-with no follow up action. The other, latest, ‘piping hot’ development is the charge sheet filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation against nine policemen in connection with the killing of Ch Sanjit and Th. Rabina on July 23, 2009. The particular killing or incident occurred while the Assembly was in session then and everyone remembers how the Chief Minister was soundly criticized for trying to mislead the House with the Opposition being tongue lashed for meekly swallowing what the CM had to say.

Other than the month of July, which is common to both cases, (Manorama was picked up from her house on July 10, 2004 and her bullet riddled body was found on July 11, 2004, while Ch Sanjit and Th. Rabin were killed under questionable circumstances on July 23, 2009), the similarity of the case can also be traced to the acts of the men in uniform, whether they are police commandos or Central Para-military forces. Men who are supposed to be protectors, turning predators are a dangerous trend for behind such acts, lurk a distinct and highly kept secret policy pursued by the Government of the day.

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act is the legal mechanism or cover from which the trigger of the guns can be pulled indiscriminately by the soldiers, who are otherwise trained to fight the enemies and not their own people. There is also another policy, which is more subtle but more venomous, if we may say, for this comes under the category of the secret policy pursued by certain Governments, as we have noted above. It is in the latter case, that fake encounters, killing in custody, secret killings in a systematic and planned manner, become the leitmotif of the State agencies.

As a logical fall out, this leads to the criminalization of the State police force and certain instances that have come to light will provide the legitimacy of such claims or suspicions. Ch Sanjit was not the first man to be killed under dubious circumstances and will not be the last, but what makes his case stand out prominently may have something to do with natural justice fulfilling its responsibilities. For how long can one get away with murdering people and getting medals for it, while it should have been punishment of the highest order?

The same was the case, when the Assam Rifles personnel ‘˜drunk under the influence and power of AFSPA‘ dared to issue the warrant of arrest while picking up Manorama, which helped to pin point them down or else, the story would have ended like so many others earlier. Remember Sanamacha? Bijoykumar, just to name two cases? The two recent developments have the potential to not only shake the State Police Department but also cast India in a poor light before the international community.

Other than this the very act of charge sheeting nine policemen, including two Inspectors in connection with the July 23, 2009 incident, is in a way a question on the credibility and image of the State Government. Given the justice delivery system in India, the charge sheeted cops can be said to be innocent until proven guilty, but the CBI is not exactly well known for filing charge sheets against anyone on flimsy grounds. This is important. The charge sheet will not be seen as any other case of policemen being hauled up or coming under suspicion, but will also have a direct and powerful impact on the Congress led SPF Government. If the cops are proven guilty, then rest assured, we can start counting the days of Chief Minister O Ibobi in the chair, on our finger tips, and we may not need both hands to count the days.

Other than the impact on the State Police Department and the State Government, the course of investigation conducted by the CBI is sure to inject that much needed dose of confidence in Government agencies, amongst the public here and all will end up winners. Though India’s standing in the international community may take a beating over the Th. Manorama’s incident, it will go a long way in restoring people’s faith in the justice delivery system or the Judiciary.

Just as they say, you can’t win them all, here too, while the credibility of the Congress led SPF Government and the State Police Force stand dangerously close to touching its nadir on the other hand, it will go a long way in infusing confidence among the general public in Government agencies. At this point, one also has to be wary of the pitfall of ‘trial by media.’ Remember the Aarushi murder case. Whatever the case, it all boils down to the philosophy of Justice For All.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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