NEW DELHI : In scathing remarks against the government over the ethnic violence in Manipur, the Supreme Court said today that there has been an absolute breakdown of constitutional machinery in the state for the past two months. Terming the investigation “tardy” and “lethargic”, Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, who is heading the bench, said there has been a delay in FIRs being registered and statements being recorded. The court has also demanded the personal presence of the Manipur Director General of Police during the next hearing on Monday.
The Supreme Court’s comments are likely to give further ammunition to the Opposition, which has been demanding the removal of Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh and the imposition of President’s Rule in the state. When the hearing began this afternoon, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed the court that 6,523 FIRs related to the violence have been registered, and 11 of these pertain to crimes against women and children. He said the data was part of a status report that he is submitting to the court.
The Manipur government’s status report on 6,523 FIRs points to an “absolute breakdown of the constitutional machinery” in the State since ethnic violence broke out at the beginning of May, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday. “This shows that from the beginning of May till the end of July, there was an absolute breakdown of constitutional machinery. There was no law in the State… a complete breakdown of law and order. If law and order cannot protect citizens, where are we left?” Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, heading a three-judge Bench, asked the Manipur government, represented by Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta.
The Supreme Court directed the Manipur Director General of Police to be personally present in the Court on August 7 at 2 p.m, adding that he should be in a position to answer the questions of the Court. Mr Mehta told the bench that seven people, including a juvenile, have been arrested in the case related to the horrific video of the women who were paraded naked and allegedly gang-raped. Justice Chandrachud asked whether the policemen accused of handing over the women to the mob have been interrogated, to which Mr Mehta said it may not be possible to get the information overnight. The CJI then sought details of another incident in which two women were gang-raped and murdered.
Prefacing his answer with a disclaimer that they had gone through over 6,000 FIRs in one night and there may be some errors in the data, Mr Mehta told the bench that a Zero FIR was registered on May 15 and it was converted into a regular FIR on June 16. When the CJI asked whether any arrests had been made, the Solicitor General said he did not have information on that.While going through the report submitted by Mr Mehta, the CJI pointed out that an FIR was dated July 26 for an incident that happened on May 4. “Except for one or two cases, there are no arrests in other cases? The investigation is so lethargic. There has been a delay in filing FIRs, no arrests. For the past two months, has the situation not been conducive for even recording the statements of the victims,” CJI Chandrachud asked.
“The state police is incapable of investigation. They have lost control. There is absolutely no law and order… There has been an absolute breakdown of constitutional machinery in Manipur for the past two months,” an angry Chief Justice said. The Solicitor General informed the court that 252 people had been arrested so far in connection with the 6,523 FIRs. He assured the CJI that there won’t be any lethargy on the part of the government and said that the centre was open to transferring all 11 FIRs to the CBI. “There are about 6,500 cases. We want to see the serious cases. You can’t transfer everything to the CBI. We have to put a mechanism in place,” the CJI said.
Noting that there have been 150 deaths in Manipur since the violence broke out on May 3, Justice Chandrachud said that the material provided to the court was inadequate. “State must carry out the exercise of break up of FIRs, how many FIRs concern murder, rape, arson, looting, outraging modesty, destruction of places of religious worship and grievous hurt,” he said The court then ordered the Director General of Police to be present during the next hearing on Monday and asked him to have the following information ready on each of the FIRs: date of occurrence of incident; date of registration of Zero FIR; date of registration of regular FIR; date on which witness statements were recorded; date on which statements under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) were recorded; and date on which arrests were made. Justice Chandrachud said the court may think of constituting a committee of former high court judges. “We are just thinking out loud so there are no surprises,” he said.
The court had also posed tough questions to the government during the hearing yesterday. “There is no gainsaying the fact that crimes against women are taking place in all parts. 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… Are you saying protect all daughters of India or don’t protect anyone,” the CJI had asked when a lawyer had brought up crimes against women in Bengal, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
(Bureau Report with Agency Inputs).