Supreme Court’s 6 Questions To Centre On Manipur Crisis

'Protect All Daughters Or No One?' Supreme Court's Tough Manipur Questions

Manipur sexual assault: Chief Justice said we are dealing with something of unprecedented nature. (file)

New Delhi:

Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud today said we cannot justify what happened in Manipur “by saying that this and this happened elsewhere”. Responding to a lawyer who spoke about crimes against women in Bengal, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh, while hearing the case of two women being paraded naked in strife-torn Manipur, the Chief Justice said we are dealing with something which is of unprecedented nature — violence in a situation of communal and sectarian strife.

“There is no gainsaying the fact that crimes against women are taking place in all parts. The only answer is this. You cannot excuse what is taking place in one part of the country like Manipur on the ground that similar crimes are happening in other parts too. Question is how do we deal with Manipur. Mention that…Are you saying protect all daughters of India or don’t protect anyone?” the CJI asked.

On a request from the women’s lawyer who argued the survivors should have confidence in the investigation, the government said it has no objection if the Supreme Court monitors the investigation in the case,

“The government doesn’t have the data now to tell you how many such cases have been registered. That shows the state of affairs,” Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, representing the women, said while requesting a Supreme Court-monitored probe.

The court asked the Centre how many, out of around 6,000 FIRs, are for crimes against women. The Centre said it doesn’t have the break-up of such cases for now. The court then directed the Centre and the Manipur government to be back tomorrow with information on six points:

  1. Break-up of cases
  2. How many zero FIRs
  3. How many transferred to jurisdiction Police Station
  4. How many arrested so far
  5. Status of legal aid to the arrested accused
  6. How many Section 164 statements recorded so far

The Supreme Court termed offences against women ‘horrendous’, and said it does not want the case to be handled by Manipur police. “Time running out for us, there is great need to have healing touch in the state,” it said.

“This is not just one case like Nirbhaya. That is one isolated incident. Here it’s a systemic violence perpetrated,” the Supreme Court added.

Police were collaborating with the culprits who perpetrated the violence, Mr Sibal alleged earlier during arguments, adding that the women sought protection from the police, but they took them to the crowd instead.

“Incident on May 4. Zero FIR was registered on May 18. Transferred to the concerned police station in June. The video went viral on July 19 and only after this court took cognisance, things progressed in the case. The survivors should have the confidence in the investigation,” he said. The Supreme Court also pulled up the Centre, asking what they were doing for 14 days.

The top court was hearing the centre’s request to transfer the case of two women being paraded naked in strife-torn Manipur to a different state.

Kapil Sibal objected to Centre’s move of transferring the case to CBI. The women had also objected to the government’s request to transfer the case to Assam.

However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that the Centre had never sought the transfer of the case to Assam. Mr Mehta clarified that the Centre had sought transfer to anywhere the court thinks fit.

“The survivors are traumatised and terrorised. We are not sure whether the survivors will tell the truth to a CBI team. They should have the confidence to tell the truth,” Senior Advocate Indira Jaising said, asking for the constitution of a high-powered committee of women members from civil society, so these survivors can come forward and tell them the truth.

“Merely entrusting to CBI or SIT would not be enough. We will have to picture a situation where a 19-year-old woman who has lost her family is in a relief camp. We cannot have her going to magistrate. We have to ensure that the process of justice goes to her doorstep. We will constitute a committee of women judges and members of civil society, who will in turn get the assistance of members of civil societies,” the court said.

Attorney-General R Venkataramani then said there were “too many complications”, both political and non-political, and proposed a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe.

Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud, observed the video pertaining to these three women is not the only incident. “What happened to these three women is not an isolated incident,” he said, and called for a broader mechanism to take care of violence against women in the northeastern state.

“This is apparent from the Home Secretary’s affidavit. As much as we want to give justice to the two women, we want to put in a mechanism where justice is available to all other women. We have to put in a mechanism to ensure complaints are filed, FIRs are lodged,” he said.

He then asked the AG how many FIRs have been registered so far pertaining to violence against women.

The two women filed petitions in the Supreme Court against the centre and the Manipur government. The petitions request that the Supreme Court take suo motu action on the case and order a fair and impartial inquiry.

The victims have also requested that their identities be protected. The two women have been referred to as “X” and “Y” in the court documents. They have sought a probe led by an independent SIT headed by an IG-rank police officer, and the transfer of the trial outside the state. Stating that they have no faith in the state police, they have also sought security for themselves and a direction for the recording of their statement under Section 164 of the CrPC by the nearest area magistrate. This comes at a time when the centre has already transferred the case to the CBI.

The Supreme Court on July 20, taking suo motu cognisance of the horrific video, observed that it was “deeply disturbed”, saying that using women as instruments for perpetrating violence is “simply unacceptable in a constitutional democracy”.

A bench headed by the chief justice of India had directed the Centre and the Manipur government to take immediate remedial, rehabilitative, and preventive steps and apprise it of the action taken.

On July 27, the Centre informed the top court that it has transferred the case to the CBI, saying the government has “zero tolerance towards any crimes against women”.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in an affidavit filed through its Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla, also urged the top court to transfer the trial outside Manipur in the case for the conclusion of the trial in a time-bound manner. Seven people have been arrested in the case so far.

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