The Supreme Court on Friday slammed the CBI's SIT for taking "unduly long time" in probing the cases of alleged extra-judicial killings and fake encounters by the Army, Assam Rifles and the police in Manipur and summoned its Director to personally appear before it on July 30.
"Tell your people to quit if they cannot do this job. If they cannot do it, tell them to quit," the court told Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Maninder Singh, appearing for the SIT (Special Investigating Team).
Terming the SIT probe as "snakes and ladders", a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Uday U Lalit expressed dissatisfaction over the progress made so far and said it would like to know from the CBI Director what steps must be taken to ensure that the investigation into the cases are completed early and final reports filed "as expeditiously as possible".
The bench was irked when it got to know that final reports in four cases which were to be filed today had not yet been filed and questioned the "lengthy process" of granting approval by the CBI's competent authority.
The ASG told the court that final reports in four cases were not filed yet and approval was granted by the competent authority in two of the four cases on July 24 and July 26.
"The remaining two cases are still pending for approval," the ASG said.
SIT in-charge Sharad Aggarwal told the bench that field investigation was completed in three more cases and the reports were at different stages of scrutiny and approval.
"In our opinion, the investigations are taking an unduly long time and we are not satisfied with the progress made by the CBI so far," the bench said.
"In view of the above, we would like to know from the Director of the CBI what steps must be taken to ensure that the investigations are completed early and final reports are filed as expeditiously as possible. We would like a time-line to be laid down by the Director of the CBI," the bench said and called for the "personal appearance" of CBI Director on Monday.
The court, which is hearing a PIL seeking a probe into as many as 1,528 cases of extra-judicial killings in Manipur, had on July 14 last year constituted the SIT and ordered lodging of FIRs and probe into the cases of alleged extra-judicial killings in Manipur.
During the hearing, the Justice Lokur told the ASG that if this was the attitude of CBI's SIT, the apex court would pass direction in the matter.
"We can give directions and there is no need for your consent. We want it to be done expeditiously," the bench told the ASG.
The ASG said SIT was probing these cases expeditiously and by August end, seven final reports would be filed.
Justice Lalit asked Aggarwal about the process of scrutiny and grant of approval on final reports by the CBI's competent authority.
When Aggarwal explained to the court about the process and movement of final report before grant of approval in CBI, the bench asked "why are there so many layers?".
The SIT's in-charge said this was being done as per the CBI manual.
The bench observed that it would direct that all the concerned officials of CBI, who are involved in the process of scrutiny and grant of approval on final report, to sit together and finish the job in a single day.
"The underline is that you must expedite the process. It is like snakes and ladders where you go up and then come down every time," the bench said.
The court also gave seven days to the SIT to file seven final reports in these cases. "You sit for next seven days. We do not want to hear any excuses," the bench said.
When the ASG requested the court to grant some more time for this, the bench said, "We want to discuss it with the CBI Director on Monday (July 30)."
During the hearing, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioner, said the apex court should not indulge in this exercise and micro-manage things as they might lose sight of the main issue in the matter.
He said there was an order to lodge 41 FIRs in these cases and since the SIT was not conducting probe properly, the bench should constitute a new SIT comprising of top officers of the country.
"It is a wishful non-compliance on their (SIT) part. The court should appoint a new SIT of top officers of the entire country. It is actually a strategy which has been decided at the highest level. Please take off the CBI's SIT from the case," Gonsalves said.
On July 5, the apex court had directed the SIT to file final reports in four cases by July 27 saying violation of human rights cannot be tolerated.