1 Aug 2023 9:58 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Tuesday slammed the investigation carried out by the Manipur police in relation to the ethnic violence as "lethargic" and went to the extent of saying that there is "absolute breakdown of law and order and machinery of the State".The Court was aghast to note that FIRs were not registered for nearly three months after the occurrences and only few arrests have been made so...
The Supreme Court on Tuesday slammed the investigation carried out by the Manipur police in relation to the ethnic violence as "lethargic" and went to the extent of saying that there is "absolute breakdown of law and order and machinery of the State".
The Court was aghast to note that FIRs were not registered for nearly three months after the occurrences and only few arrests have been made so far in the 6000 FIRs registered over the violence. The Court directed the Manipur Director General of Police to be personally present before the Court on Monday (August 7) at 2 PM.
"Based on the preliminary data, it does prima facie appear that the investigation has been tardy. There has been a considerable lapse between the occurrence and the registration of FIRs, recording of witness statements and even the arrests are few and far between. In order to enable the court to appreciate the entire dimensions of the nature of investigation that is required, we direct the DGP of Manipur to be personally present in the Court at Friday 2 PM and be in a position of answer the queries of the Court", the Court observed in the order.
A bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra was hearing a bunch of petitions related to Manipur violence, including the petitions filed by victims of sexual violence. Yesterday, the bench had posed several queries to the State, after highlighting the systemic nature of violence.
Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, appearing for the State, informed the bench today that 6532 FIRs have been filed and 11 out of them are relating to crimes against women.
CJI asked how many of them are 'zero' FIRs. CJI also asked about the dates on which the 'zero' FIRs were converted as regular FIR. SG said that he is not in a position to give an immediate response as the chart relating to 6532 FIRs was prepared by the officers overnight and he was briefed during the day.
CJI also asked about the date of arrests in the case relating to the sexual violence video. SG could not give a specific answer but said "it appears to be, subject to correction, after the video surfaced".
Long delay in filing FIRs; Complete breakdown of law & order, State Police lost control
"One thing is very clear. There is such a long delay in filing FIRs", CJI said after going through the note submitted by the SG. "FIR was registered on 7th of July in respect of an incident of 4th of May. It was a serious incident", CJI said referring to an incident of a woman being dragged out of a car and her son being lynched to death.
"It appears that except for one or two cases, there are no arrests at all", CJI noted.
"Investigation is so lethargic. FIRs registered after two months. Arrests not made. Statements recorded after a long lapse of time", CJI added. SG said that the situation at the ground was bad and the moment the Centre came to know, action was taken.
"This gives us the impression that from the beginning of May till the end of July there was no law. There was absolute breakdown of machinery that you could not even register FIR. Does it not point to the fact that there is a complete breakdown of law and order and machinery of the State?",CJI asked.
"State police is incapable of investigation. They have lost control. There is absolutely no law and order", CJI. "In 6000 FIRs, you have made 7 arrests!", CJI exclaimed. SG clarified that the 7 arrests were made in respect of the viral video incident and altogether 250 arrests have been made and 12000 arrests as preventive measures.
"Your lordships words may have consequences, it could be used or misused in ways that were not intended", SG said.
The CJI also asked if the policemen who handed over the women to the mob were questioned. "There are statements of the women saying that the police men handed over them to the mob. Have those policemen been interrogated? Has the DGP enquired?What is the DGP doing? It is his duty", CJI thundered.
"It's clear that for the two months, the state police was not in charge. They may have made performative arrests but they were not in charge. Either they were incapable of doing it or uninterested", CJI said.
Bifurcate the FIRs
The bench also said that it is impossible to transfer all the FIRs to the CBI as it will cause a breakdown of the central agency. SG said that at present, the present proposal is to transfer the 11 cases of sexual violence to the CBI.
"So there needs to be a mechanism to bifurcate these 6500 FIRs. Because the CBI cannot be burdened with all 6500 otherwise it'll result in breakdown of CBI mechanism also", CJI said.
Regarding the bench's query on the bifurcation of the FIRs based on the nature of offences, SG requested time till Friday to undertake the exercise. The bench directed the State to inform how many of the FIRs related to murder and rape; arson; destruction of house property; outraging of modesty; destruction of religious places; and grievous hurt.
The bench called for a statement setting out-
1. Date of occurrence
2. Date of registration of zero FIR
3. Date of registration of regular FIR
4. Date on which witness statements have been recorded
5. Date on which 164 statements have been recorded
6. Date of arrests made
Court reveals its plan to constitute a SIT, committee
CJI indicated that the Court may think of constituting a committee of former judges of the High Court who will make an overall assessment of situation, rehabilitation, restoration of homes and will ensure that the pre-investigation process relating to recording of statements go in the proper way.
CJI also sought views from the parties on entity with which the investigation of the cases must be entrusted. He said that it is impractical to transfer all the cases "lock, stock and barrel" to the CBI. Also, the State police is not in a position to carry out the investigation. Therefore, an independent body needs to be constituted.
CJI Chandrachud also made it clear that an even-handed approach will be followed, regardless of the identity of the victims. "I repeat, our approach is irrespective of whoever has committed the offence. Offence is an offence regardless of who is victim/perpetrator".
Concerns raised about unclaimed bodies
During the hearing, the petitioners raised concerns about bodies of victims lying in morgues as the relatives are unable to retrieve them amidst the communal tension.
"Most of the unclaimed bodies are those of the infiltrators who came with certain agenda...", SG said. Advocate Nizam Pasha objected to this submission. Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves said that several bodies of tribal victims are lying unclaimed as families have not been informed.
"See that the bodies are identified Mr SG and if families can be put in touch...and give us information on compensation etc", CJI told SG.
Case Title : Dinganglung Gangmei vs Mutum Churamani Meetei and others SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CIVIL) Diary No.19206/2023 and connected cases.
Click here to read the order