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DC Edit | After SC rebuke, Centre must act fast in Manipur


Published on: August 2, 2023 | Updated on: August 2, 2023

Supreme Court of India (PTI)

The Supreme Court’s remarks, while hearing arguments in a suo motu case on the Manipur situation, that there has been an "absolute breakdown of the constitutional machinery and law and order", are a reminder to the Union government that it must perform its responsibility of taking the state back to democracy and the constitutional mode of governance.

It must be remembered that Article 356 of the Constitution recommends President’s Rule when a situation arises "in which the government of the state cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution". The Union and the state governments may have well adopted a head-in-the-sand approach towards the horrendous abuse of human rights and wilful breaking of law and order in Manipur but the apex court has chosen to tell the truth to the authorities with the hope that justice will take its course.

That the Supreme Court’s assessment has come after hearing the views of lawyers representing the state and Union governments emphasises the gravity of the situation. The court has sought details of the 6,000-odd first information reports filed in the state and directed the director-general of the state police be present in the court when it hears the case next "ready to answer the court’s questions".

Anyone who looks through the eyes of the Constitution at Manipur will find that it represents a nightmare. Gangs of criminals are going around villages and towns attacking people, killing some, raping some more and setting fire to offices, schools, vehicles and places of worship. They even loot government armouries and decamp with thousands of pieces. Only a small portion of the looted arms has returned to the government despite none other than the Union home minister making an appeal. Amidst it all, the mighty Indian State is conspicuous by its absence.

It is only after things came to such a pass that the court commented on the unknown whereabouts of the constitutional machinery there. If the state government completely abdicated its responsibilities following its inability to first anticipate trouble, the Union government did not find it a case fit for its intervention despite home minister Amit Shah personally visiting and collecting feedback.

The Union government must now take the comments of the apex court as the reflection of what all right-thinking Indians want it to do. There is no justification for either the BJP or the government it heads at the Centre to allow a chief minister to continue on whose watch law and order vanished and citizens were made to suffer so. The people have a right to be governed per the Constitution and political expediency cannot override it. The BJP can ignore the voice of conscience speaking through the judges’ lips at its own peril.