The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has urged the Supreme Court to allow its officers investigating the alleged extra-judicial killings in Manipur as part of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to do other work as agency’s probe in the encounters is almost wrapped up.

The agency has informed the apex court that out of 39 cases registered to investigate alleged fake encounters in Manipur, charge sheets have been filed in 17 cases; 15 cases have been closed while prosecution sanction against army officers or Assam Rifles personnel is awaited in the rest of the cases.

An officer, who didn’t want to be named, said the defence ministry has denied prosecution sanction in certain cases citing AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) in Manipur, which gives sweeping powers to the security forces in a ‘disturbed area’.

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The Supreme Court, which was hearing a plea seeking a probe into 1,528 cases of alleged extra-judicial killings in Manipur, had on July 14, 2017, ordered constitution of an SIT, which it said will exclusively probe the encounters. The CBI initially formed a five-member SIT, in which two officers of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) – including senior superintendent of police Mahesh Bhardwaj – were later included as members. The SC released Bhardwaj from SIT last month.

In its application filed in the apex court on January 7 this year, reviewed by HT, CBI said the “SIT has investigated these cases with all sincerity, seriousness and full devotion to unearth the truth”.

The anti-corruption probe agency added “these cases have been investigated with full objectivity and comprehensively to investigate all allegations of use of excessive force or retaliatory force by uniformed personnel resulting in the death of any person”.

Requesting the SC to allow its officers to do other work in the agency, it said, “In view of the prevailing Covid-19 situation and ever-increasing workload of CBI, the already over-stretched resources of CBI are to be used optimally”.

Expressing its helplessness in taking all the cases to conclusion, CBI said these cases are “years/decades old and are of special nature to the extent that these cannot be investigated only on the basis of documents.”

“Circumstantial evidence, oral testimony of the eyewitness (if any) and other relevant witnesses, opinion of medico-legal experts, forensic experts and other scientific evidence are very important for proper investigation of such kind of cases,” CBI said.

It said Covid-19 induced lockdowns and restrictions also affected its work but it is trying to complete the investigation at the earliest.

The agency further said that SIT’s superintendent of police LS Padmakumar and deputy SP VPS Mann were superannuated in May 2019 and June 2020 respectively while inspector Amar Saxena has passed away.

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