Manipur: SC slams cops for giving victims to mob

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday described as “horrendous” the video of two women being paraded naked in Manipur and sought information about the steps taken so far over the FIRs lodged, saying it does not want the state police to probe the matter now as they had virtually handed over the women to the rioting mob.

The apex court said it may constitute an SIT or a committee comprising former judges to monitor the situation in the strife-torn northeastern state, subject to hearing the law officers representing the Centre and Manipur on Tuesday.

Describing the Manipur violence perpetrated against women as of “unprecedented magnitude”, the Supreme Court said it refused to consider a plea on similar alleged incidents in the Opposition-ruled states such as West Bengal, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Kerala.

While hearing a batch of pleas related to the ethnic violence in Manipur, the top court was told by lawyer Bansuri Swaraj that incidents of violence against women in West Bengal also need to be considered and the mechanism sought to be evolved should be made applicable in other states as well.

However, the Supreme Court said: “There is a situation of communal and sectarian strife… in Manipur. So what we say is that there is no gainsaying that there are crimes against women taking place in West Bengal as well,” the three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said.

Ms Swaraj said she has filed an intervention application in the case and referred to incidents of crime against women in West Bengal, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Kerala.”We will hear you on that later… We are dealing with Manipur right now,” the CJI said.

“What happened in Manipur cannot be condoned. But bone-chilling facts are coming to light in West Bengal, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Kerala after the incident (of two women paraded naked) took place in Manipur. Kindly set up the mechanism not for Manipur only,” Ms Swaraj urged.

The three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justices J.B. Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, which listed a clutch of pleas on the Manipur violence for hearing on Tuesday, said though the incident of stripping and parading these women came to light on May 4, why did the Manipur police tale 14 days to register an FIR on May 18.

“What was the police doing? Why was an FIR in video case transferred to the magisterial court on June 24, that is after one month and three days,” asked the bench “This is horrendous. There are media reports that these women were handed over to the mob by the police. We also do not want the police to handle it,” the bench said.

When attorney-general R. Venkataramani sought time for responding to the queries, the bench said it was running out of time and there was “a great need” for giving a healing touch to the state, for those who lost everything, including their loved ones and their homes.

The bench asked the state government to provide the details about the number of “zero FIRs” registered in the state torn by ethnic violence and the arrests made so far.

A “zero FIR” can be filed in any police station regardless of whether the offence was committed within its jurisdiction.

“We would also want to know the package for rehabilitation being provided to the state for affected people,” it said.

Earlier in the day, solicitor-general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre and the state government, told the bench the Union of India had no objection if the apex court decides to monitor the investigation in the cases of violence.

The top court called for evolving a broad mechanism to deal with violence against women and asked how many FIRs have been registered in such incidents in the state since May.

At the outset, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the two women who were seen in the May 4 video being paraded naked, said they have filed a petition in the apex court.

The Supreme Court had on July 20 said that it was “deeply disturbed” by the video and that using women as instruments for perpetrating violence was “simply unacceptable in a constitutional democracy”.
Taking cognisance of the video, a bench headed by the Chief Justice had directed the Centre and the Manipur government to initiate immediate remedial, rehabilitative and preventive steps and apprise it of the action taken.

On July 27, the Centre informed the court it has transferred the probe into the case involving the two women to the CBI and asserted the government has “zero tolerance towards crimes against women”.

The Union home ministry, in an affidavit filed through home secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla, also urged the top court to transfer the trial of the case outside Manipur for its conclusion in a time-bound manner. Seven people have been arrested in the case so far.

Scores of people have been killed and several hundred injured since ethnic violence broke out in the state on May 3 when a “Tribal Solidarity March” was organised in the hill districts to protest against the majority Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe status.

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