New Delhi: Supreme Court (SC) on Monday stressed for the need of evolving modalities to deal with the larger issue of sexual violence against women in Manipur and sought details of FIRs registered in all such cases from the Centre and the state government.
It also asked the union government to provide details of the relief package provided for rehabilitation purposes to Manipur.
A bench comprising of CJI D.Y. Chandrachud and Justices J.B. Pardiwala and Manoj Mishra was hearing a petition filed by the two tribal women who were paraded naked and sexually assaulted in Manipur along with the clutch of pleas related to inter-ethnic clashes in the north-eastern state.
“We will deal that justice is done to these women (who have approached the court), but we also have to see the wider issue of violence against women in Manipur,” observed the bench.
The court said that it will ensure that in all cases action is taken where complaints have been lodged. It asked the Centre and the state government to inform it about the number of FIRs registered in relation cases involving violence against women.
The Supreme Court said that it will require bifurcation of around 6000 FIRs which were registered. It sought details like zero FIRs, action taken, position of legal aid, status of recording of statements of victims and witnesses, etc. from the Centre and the state.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for survivors of the crime who were paraded naked, alleged that the Manipur Police collaborated with the mob to allow perpetration of sexual violence on them.
“The police took the two women to the crowd and abandoned them and then what happened has happened,” he said.
Sibal opposed the transfer of the probe to CBI and demanded for the formation of a Special Investigation Team (SITs) to probe gender violence cases.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that the Central government would have no objection if the investigation is monitored by the apex court. “Let your lordships monitor the investigation,” he said.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for the intervenors, requested the court for formation of a High Powered Committee to make a ground report in relation to the sexual violence cases.
“An atmosphere is needed for the women to tell their stories. Let the report come back (to the court),” she added.
Advocate Vrinda Grover suggested appointment of local commissioners by the court to take effective steps in relation to the relief camps.
In response, Attorney General R Venkataramani requested the court to adjourn the hearing tomorrow to present the series of incidents in a more cogent manner. He opposed formation of an SIT, saying that the state government having no role in the investigation would be an “extreme view”.
“The extent of our intervention would also depend on what the government has done so far. If we are satisfied with what the government has done, we may not even intervene,” the court clarified.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves urged for the constitution of an SIT, headed by a retired official. He said that people of Manipur do not distinguish between the Centre and the state.
The court indicated that it may constitute a committee comprising of retired judges and subject experts to record statements of victims in the violence-hit state.
The court deferred hearing on an application seeking action on a similar incident that occurred in Bengal. “We’ll hear you later, let’s hear Manipur first. What suggestions do you have for Manipur? We cannot justify what happened in Manipur by saying that this and this happened elsewhere,” told CJI Chandrachud to advocate Bansuri Swaraj.
The CJI-led bench expressed surprise for the delay of over 18 days in registration of FIR. “What stood in the way of police registering the FIR immediately on the 4th of May?” it asked.
The bench said that it intends to “restore the faith” of the community in the constitutional process.
Supreme Court will continue tomorrow to peruse the reply of the Centre government detailing the actions taken in relation to the disturbing incident. The Central Government had earlier informed the top court that investigation in the incident has been transferred to CBI and requested it to order transfer of the entire case including trial to any state outside the State of Manipur.
On July 20, the Supreme Court took suo moto cognisance of the disturbing viral videos and asked the Centre and the state government to apprise it about the steps taken by July 28.
“The Central government with the consent of the state government has taken a decision to entrust the investigation to an independent agency i.e. CBI,” informed the affidavit filed by the Union Home Secretary, Ajay Kumar Bhalla to the court.
“Using women as instruments for perpetrating violence is simply unacceptable in a constitutional democracy,” had said a bench headed by CJI D.Y. Chandrachud on July 20, a day after the viral video surfaced on social media.
The bench told the Solicitor General of India that the top court will be constrained to “step in” if the state government does not take action. “We will give a little time to the government to act otherwise we will take action,” it had said.
It directed the Centre and Manipur governments to take immediate steps and apprise the Court of the action taken before July 28.