SC to monitor cases of crime against women in Manipur | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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SC to monitor cases of crime against women in Manipur

By, New Delhi
Aug 08, 2023 05:53 AM IST

The court put Datta Padsalgikar, former deputy national security adviser and ex-Maharashtra DGP, in charge of overseeing the CBI investigation.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday decided to monitor all cases of violence against women during the ethnic clashes in Manipur, and ordered the setting up of a high-powered committee, comprising three retired women high court judges, that will visit the strife-torn state and report back on the efficacy of rescue, relief and rehabilitation measures.

Members of tribal community hold placards and gestures during protest over violence against women and for peace in the ongoing ethnic violence in Manipur, in New Delhi on August 3. (AFP)
Members of tribal community hold placards and gestures during protest over violence against women and for peace in the ongoing ethnic violence in Manipur, in New Delhi on August 3. (AFP)

Deciding to keep an eye on the steps taken by the Centre and the Manipur government to quell the sectarian clashes that have claimed at least 150 lives since May 3, a bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud said that the court-mandated layers of scrutiny will usher in “objectivity in investigation”, “a sense of faith” and “rule of law”.

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The court put Datta Padsalgikar, former deputy national security adviser and ex-director general of police (DGP) of Maharashtra, in charge of overseeing the investigation to be carried out by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into at least 12 cases of crimes against women that the Centre conceded will be probed by the federal agency.

One of these cases related to a horrific 30-second video clip of two Kuki women being stripped and paraded naked by a mob that prompted the apex court to take suo motu (on its own) cognisance, and the subsequent hand over of the case to CBI by the Centre on July 28.

While at least five officers of the rank of deputy superintendent of police (Dy SP) from outside Manipur will be associated with the CBI teams probing the cases of violence against women, an officer of the level of joint director of CBI will further keep tabs on these investigations.

“We want an additional oversight layer which will report back to us,” said the bench, also comprising justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra , as it named Padsalgikar the man in charge of monitoring the progress of investigations in these cases and submitting a periodical report.

However, at this stage, the top court said that it will not order the transfer of the trial in the May 4 viral video case, where three women were stripped and at least one of them was gang-raped and her brother and father killed, outside Manipur — as was requested by the Centre and the state.

“It may be premature for us to direct today for the shifting of the trials because we are still at the stage of investigations...We are not rejecting that request. But today we are not deciding it,” it told attorney general R Venkataramani and solicitor general Tushar Mehta, who represented the Centre and the N Biren Singh government respectively.

The court further set up an all-women committee of three former high court judges, namely justices Gita Mittal (former chief justice of the Jammu & Kashmir high court), Shalini P Joshi (former Bombay high court judge) and Asha Menon (former Delhi high court judge), which shall visit Manipur to take stock of “diverse aspects of humanitarian nature”.

“The broad outline is to use whatever in our power is to restore faith in rule of law. We will appoint a committee of three former high court judges. This committee of three judges will look at the investigation, relief, remedial measures, compensation and rehabilitation, restoration of homes and places of worship etc. It is going to be a broad-based committee. It will look at the relief camps too,” said the court.

“Both the judicial committee and Padsalgikar shall submit separate reports before the top court,” said the bench, adding it will release a detailed order later.

With respect to the 6,500 other First Information Reports (FIRs) registered in connection with the violence in the northeastern state, the court took on record the Manipur government’s statement that 42 special investigation teams (SITs), consisting of local police officers, will be formed across six districts.

Here, the court said that it will order the inclusion of an inspector-level officer in each of these SITs, and six officers, not below the rank of deputy inspector general (DIG), will supervise the investigation in each of the six districts. All these officers will be drawn from outside Manipur, said the bench.

Clashes between the Kukis and Meiteis first erupted on May 3 during a protest against a court-ordered tweak to the state’s reservation matrix, granting scheduled tribe (ST) status to the latter. Violence quickly engulfed the state where ethnic fault lines run deep, displacing tens of thousands of people who fled burning homes and neighbourhoods into jungles, often across state borders. At least 150 people have lost their lives in the violence so far.

On June 4, the Union government formed a three-member judicial inquiry panel to probe the ethnic violence in Manipur on the recommendation of the state government. A bunch of petitions relating to the violence in the northeastern state also queued before the top court, which has been monitoring rescue, relief and rehabilitation measures since the third week of May.

On July 20, the court took a suo motu cognisance of the horrific video of the assault on Kuki women on May 4, terming it “deeply disturbing” and “grossest violation of constitutional rights”, as it threatened to step in if the Centre and the state failed to act.

On the last date of hearing on August 1, an anguished Supreme Court lashed out at the “lethargic” and “tardy” probe into the loss of human lives, dignity and properties during the violence in Manipur, lamenting that the state had seen an “absolute breakdown of constitutional machinery for two months”, and summoning the state’s director general of police (DGP) on August 7 to furnish an explanation. The bench asked the DGP to adduce all records relating to the date of incidents, timing of registrations of FIRs, arrests made, and the recordings of the victims’ statements.

The DGP as well as the chief secretary of the state were present in the court on Monday, as the A-G and the S-G apprised the bench of the decision to form SITs and other steps taken to take control of the chaotic state of affairs.

The court is expected to release its detailed order in the matter on Tuesday.

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