The Supreme Court today allowed the CBI's plea to expand the size of its SIT probing the alleged extra-judicial killings and fake encounters by the Army, Assam Rifles and police in Manipur by adding five more officers, including two who are probing the Vyapam scam cases.
The SIT told a bench of justices Madan B Lokur and U U Lalit that at present, the team consists of five officers but they needed five more as the probe into these cases was required to be done expeditiously.
The bench, after perusing the five names given by the CBI in its application, said that two out of these five officers were associated with the probe into the Vyapam scam of Madhya Pradesh.
"Two of them are doing Vyapam cases?" the bench asked Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Maninder Singh, who was appearing for the CBI.
Vyapam scam relates to alleged irregularities in the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board, which holds exams for positions like medical officers, constables, teachers and auditors for government departments.
Singh said there were around 170 cases in Vyapam scam, and in 100 of these cases, final reports were made. Investigations in the rest of the cases were in the final stage.
He said these two officers were doing their "final job" in Vyapam matters and once they complete their investigation there, they could join the SIT for Manipur cases.
"We do not want that it affects the other thing (probe in Vyapam cases)," the bench observed.
Singh, however, told the court that the core team of five officers in the SIT would not be changed without permission of the apex court.
When the ASG requested the court to permit the CBI to make further additions to the SIT, the bench said, "You move application for this".
During the hearing, the CBI's DIG Sharad Aggarwal, who is in-charge of the SIT, told the bench that so far, they have registered 42 cases in Manipur matters and probe was going on.
"How long will it take for you (SIT) to complete the investigation and file charge sheets?," the bench asked.
Aggarwal said that it would take around six months as a forensic team was required to visit Manipur for probe into these cases.
He said that the SIT team has reached Manipur and probe into four cases was going on and a number of witnesses have also been examined.
"Out of five officials (in the SIT), four officials are in Imphal and doing ground investigation," he told the bench which asked him as to whether the SIT has interrogated anyone during the ongoing probe.
When the official said that they would collect material and would then call persons for interrogation, the bench asked, "Why you have not mentioned this in the status report? What kind of status report is this?"
The bench, while expressing displeasure over the progress made by the SIT in probing these cases, wondered how FIRs were registered against the persons who were allegedly killed in fake encounters in Manipur.
When the SIT said that they have re-registered the cases lodged by the Manipur Police earlier, the bench asked why counter FIRs were not lodged by the probe team.
The apex court said that out of over 1,500 cases, it had asked the SIT to first probe around 50 cases since there were some findings by the commission of inquiry, another commission headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice Santosh Hegde, the National Human Rights Commissions and Gauhati High Court in these matters.
"We had selected 50 odd cases. Why? Because we found that there were some force in what these authorities have said (about excessive use of force). All you have to do is to dig into it and lodge counter FIRs," the bench said.
When the ASG said that the SIT was "duty bound" to correct itself as per the directions by the apex court, the bench said, "You have to proceed in accordance with our judgement".
The high voltage hearing also witnessed heated exchange of words between the bench and the law officer.
"You are raising your voice. We are not going to take this. We are making it very clear that you have to follow the Supreme Court's judgement and you be clear about it," Justice Lokur told the ASG.
Singh, however, told the bench that some "confidence" was needed to be shown in the SIT as the probe was going on.
The apex court is hearing a PIL seeking probe into as many as 1,528 cases of alleged extra-judicial killings in Manipur.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)