6 Sep 2023 10:08 AM GMT
Senior Advocate Meenakshi Arora, who is representing the judges' committee constituted by the Supreme Court in relation to Manipur violence cases, took objection to certain adverse statements made against her in the affidavit filed by the Chief Secretary of the Manipur Government.Saying that the affidavit was a "direct attack" on her, Arora said that she will recuse from appearing for...
Senior Advocate Meenakshi Arora, who is representing the judges' committee constituted by the Supreme Court in relation to Manipur violence cases, took objection to certain adverse statements made against her in the affidavit filed by the Chief Secretary of the Manipur Government.
Saying that the affidavit was a "direct attack" on her, Arora said that she will recuse from appearing for the committee headed by former High Court Chief Justice Gita Mittal.
"We have gone through this affidavit. It seems like a direct attack towards the counsel for committee...I have not made any statements on my own again, only on the instructions on committee. Regardless, since it's a direct attack on me, I will recuse myself", Arora told a bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra. She left the hearing after making the statement.
Senior Advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, representing Meitei Christian Churches Council, also took objection to a paragraph in the affidavit which he termed as "whataboutery" as it questioned the petitioner for only taking up the cause of destruction of churches. Further, he expressed concerns at the adverse comment against the committee's lawyer.
"If counsels are not protected by your lordships while appearing, they will feel hesitant in making submissions. The tenor of this is disturbing. It says it is not adversarial but it is actually adversarial", he said.
At this juncture, CJI DY Chandrachud told the Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for the State of Manipur, to avoid references to lawyers who are appearing in the case.
"Mr SG, next time let's keep the counsels out of it."
It may be noted that in the last hearing, Arora, on behalf of the Committee had raised two issues before the court, stating that there had been a chickenpox outbreak in relief camps and that essential rations such as food supplies were not being made available to those in Moreh owing to a blockade.
In its affidavit, the Chief Secretary of the State of Manipur refuted both these claims and stated that the same were untrue. SG Mehta, appearing for the State, produced the affidavit before the bench and said that there was only one case of chicken pox and since the beginning, food supply and supply of essentials had been taken care of and that food supplies were even being airlifted much before the last hearing of the matter.
Senior Adv Gopal Sankarnarayan, also present before the bench, stated–
"The observations on counsel shall be deleted."
However, SG refused and said–
"I have not made observations, I have stated facts. I will not delete it."
In this context, the CJI stated–
"We will state that the reference made to counsel in affidavit shall not be construed as any comment on the conduct of the counsel before this Court. We reiterate the principle that counsels appearing before the court do so as officers of the court and are only responsible to this court."
As the arguments were closing, SG Mehta said–
"If she (Sr Adv Meenakshi Arora) has recused, for this reason or any other reason, your lordships may have someone else."
But Sankaranarayan objected to the same and said–
"I don't think she has recused. Your lordships observation came. I don't think she has recused."
Directions Passed by Court
The bench directed that the affidavit by the Chief Secretary could be produced before the Judges' Committee. The CJI orally remarked, "the best thing would be for them to verify."
Refuting the affidavit, Advocate Vrinda Grover asserted that as per reports from the ground, there had been some difficulty in securing essential supplies. To this, the SG stated that the local administration should be approached first in such situations. Passing the directions, the court stated–
"The Chief Secretary has furnished steps taken to distribute rations in nine camps. If any further grievance subsists in regard to specific instances, this should be brought to notice of district administration. Any such grievance should be dealt with expeditiously. This would not preclude anyone from approaching this court."
The court also directed for a Status report concerning recovery of weapons to be furnished to it. Here, the CJI added–
"Keeping in mind the sensitivity of the issue, the status report shall be made available only to this court."
On the aspect of appointing experts, the court direct the Home Secretary to interact directly with the Chair of the Judges' Committee to finalise the names of experts to carry out the remit of the committee on ground. A three-day time period was provided for the same.
Senior Advocate Indira Jaising urged for the bench to pass an order to put money in funds directly for the committee. She stated that as of now, the order of the court read as if the committee was expected to incur its own cost and get reimbursed by the government later.
"The committee has no such grievance and will have no such grievance."
The CJI stated that, "sometimes judges themselves are a little averse to saying that they need funds" and said that the matter would be looked into.
Concluding the hearings, CJI also said–
"Status report shall be filed on the victim compensation scheme and steps taken to bring it at par with NALSA scheme. List after two weeks. Mr SG, you have to do something about the dead bodies. They can't be kept like that. Come back to us next time and tell us what is to be done to resolve this."
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