'Protect Lives Of Citizens Of Manipur' : Supreme Court Seeks State Action On Certain Suggestions Made By Petitioners

Padmakshi Sharma

11 July 2023 10:37 AM GMT

  • Protect Lives Of Citizens Of Manipur : Supreme Court Seeks State Action On Certain Suggestions Made By Petitioners

    In the batch of pleas concerning Manipur violence, the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Manipur Government to act upon certain suggestions made by petitioners to mitigate the situation. Yesterday, stating that the Court cannot take over the control of law and order from the elected government, the bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud had called for "constructive...

    In the batch of pleas concerning Manipur violence, the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Manipur Government to act upon certain suggestions made by petitioners to mitigate the situation. Yesterday, stating that the Court cannot take over the control of law and order from the elected government, the bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud had called for "constructive suggestions" from the petitioners which could be considered by the government, while leaving out the aspect of security measures for the executive to handle.

    Today, before a bench comprising CJI DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Narasimha and Justice Manoj MisraAdvocate Nizam Pasha, presented the following 13 suggestions on behalf of the Zomi Students Federation of India

    1. Several bodies are reported to be lying unidentified and unclaimed in several mortuaries in hospitals across Imphal including The Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences Morgue, Imphal. Families of persons who are missing and feared dead are unable to reach these mortuaries. The State may designate an officer who can be contacted and who will facilitate visits by such families to mortuaries under escort/protection and enable the process of identification and handover of dead bodies for last rites. 

    2. There is an acute shortage of doctors in the district hospitals in the hill districts. The doctors deputed by the health ministry and those promised by the Hon’ble Home Minister may be sent to the district hospitals in the hill districts to address this shortage.

    3. There is shortage of essential medicines, Dialysis Machines, CT Scan Machines in the district hospitals in the hill districts which must be addressed.

    4. Arrangement has been made for students of Churachandpur Medical College to attend classes in Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences, Imphal (JNIMS). Similar arrangement may be made for medical students of JNIMS, Regional Institute of Medical Sciences, Imphal (RIMS) and other medical colleges in Imphal to attend classes in other institutions of similar standing outside the state.

    5. Manipur University has decided to conduct examinations in all its affiliated colleges. These examinations need to be deferred since schools and colleges in the hill districts have been converted into relief camps and a large number of students and university staff have been forced to flee their homes.

    6. Helicopter Services have been provided between Churachandpur, Kangpokpi and Tengnoupal and Imphal. Such services are in fact required between Churachandpur, Kangpokpi and Tengnoupal and Aizawl, Guwahati and Dimapur as tribals from the hill districts are still afraid to come to Imphal even to use the airport.

    7. Jio and Vodafone Cellular Services have not been functioning in the State for the last several weeks and need to be restored.

    8. The State Government has issued a circular on 26th June 2023 asking all government employees to immediately report to work and threatening disciplinary action against employees who fail to do so. This circular may be withdrawn as a large number of persons have either fled the State or are living in relief camps.

    9. There are 105 relief camps in Churachandpur, 56 in Kangpokpi, 10 in Chandel and 15 in Tengnoupal being run by community self-help groups. There is acute shortage of drinking water, food, sanitation, shelter and bedding at these for the displaced persons staying at these relief camps. The Petitioner be allowed to submit a list of items urgently required at these camps and the Respondents State/Central Government be directed to supply these items at the earliest.

    10. Direction be issued by this Hon’ble Court that appropriate restraint be exercised by persons holding official positions from making inciting or provocative remarks directed at any particular community that may exacerbate the conflict as per the directions issued by this Hon’ble Court in the case of Kaushal Kishor v. State of U.P., (2023) 4 SCC 1.

    11. The Hon’ble Home Minister, after discussions with representatives of all communities had indicated that an inter-agency unified command would be set up under the chairmanship of the security adviser Shri Kuldeep Singh. However, as per the updated status report, the meetings of the unified command center are being chaired by the Chief Minister which is contrary to the stated position of the Central Government. This needs to be corrected to generate confidence in the neutrality of measures being undertaken.

    12. A status report be called for on the number of arms looted from the police armories, the number of such arms recovered and the measures being undertaken for recovery of the remaining arms.

    13. To make the task of this Hon’ble Court easier, a committee having representatives of both the affected communities and chaired by a retired judge of this Hon’ble Court be appointed to oversee rescue, relief and rehabilitation measures and to address grievances concerning the same. This will ensure neutrality and build confidence in the impartiality of the relief and rehabilitation measures. At present the teams comprising ministers and MLAs appointed by the Government to oversee relief and rehabilitation measures comprise of 35 MLAs (from a legislative assembly comprising 60 MLAs) across seven teams in-charge of seven (7) districts pointedly do not include even a single MLA from the Zo-Kuki tribes which damages public confidence in the neutrality of the measures being undertaken.

    Manipur Govt accepts certain suggestions

    As regards suggestions numbers 5, 6 and 7, Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta said that necessary consultations will be held at the level of state administration and such action as is warranted will be taken.

    With respect to suggestion number 13, the Court observed : "These committees do not include any MLA from Zo-Kuki tribes and it is desirable that such representation may be granted for building public confidence. This may be duly borne in mind by administration".   

    With respect to the remaining suggestions, the Court said that positive action be taken on or before Friday.

    Suggestions of Manipur Tribal Forum

    Senior Advocate Dr.Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the Manipur Tribal Forum, alleged that certain organisations of Meitei group are behind the violence and action should be taken against them. He alleged that certain leaders of that community made provocative statements and calls for "genocide of Kukis" were made in the national television in an interview.

    However, the bench said that these cannot be regarded as "constructive suggestions" and did not appreciate the "tone and the tenor" of the submissions. Observing that such allegations are matters to be investigated, the bench said that it cannot pass directions to the Indian Army to take action against certain groups.

    Accepting another suggestion, the bench ordered that the State should take a considered view for the disbursal of compensation to the victims of the violence and for the reconstruction of the places of religious worship which were destroyed.

    The bench declined to pass specific directions to the army and paramilitary forces to provide increased security to certain areas, which Gonsalves alleged that will come under "future attacks". The bench said that it would not be appropriate for the Court to pass judicial orders on where the forces should be deployed. However, the bench added, "At the same time, we would impress upon the Union of India and the State of Manipur to ensure arrangements to protect the lives of citizens of Manipur".

    The Court called for an action taken report from the State on the directions within a week.

    During the hearing, the Court cautiously stayed away from considering allegations made by lawyers representing different communities against each other. Yesterday, the bench had cautioned that the proceedings before the Court should not be used as to escalate violence and appealed to the lawyers to maintain restraint in their arguments.

    Towards the end of today's hearing, Gonsalves urged the bench to pass directions against hate speeches allegedly uttered by persons in power.

    "The learned Solicitor must curb the extreme hate speech. He can stop this because he knows these gentlemen", Gonsalves said. Following this, CJI added one more sentence in the order as - "We request all parties to maintain a sense of equilibrium and not participate in any sort of hate speech".

    The bench clarified that these suggestions are not exhaustive precluding the government from taking other measures.

    The bench was considering two petitions - one, a petition filed by the Manipur Tribal Forum Delhi seeking the protection of the Kuki tribe by the Indian Army and; two, a petition filed by Chairman of the Hill Areas Committee (HAC) of the Manipur Legislative Assembly, Dinganglung Gangmei, challenging the direction of the Manipur High Court to consider the inclusion of Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribe list. It may be noted that the issue related to ST status for Meitei triggered the riots in the state.

    Additionally, the court also decided to take up a plea challenging the Manipur High Court order which allowed the restoration of internet in the State in a limited manner. On July 7, the Manipur High Court had ordered the State government to lift the internet ban on Internet Lease Line (ILL) and Fibre To The Home (FTTH) connections in the State after ensuring that all the stakeholders have complied with the safeguards suggested by an Expert Committee.

    Case Title: Dinganglung Gangmei v. Mutum Churamani Meetei And Ors Diary No. 19206-2023 and connected matters 

    Click Here To Read/Download Order

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