New Delhi: The Supreme Court on August 1 asked the Director General of Police (DGP) of Manipur to remain present before it on August 7, saying there was an “absolute breakdown of law and order and machinery of the State”.
Breakdown of law and order
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud asked the State government to prepare a statement setting out the date of occurrence, date of registration of zero FIR, date of registration of regular FIR, date on which witness statements have been recorded, date on which statements under section 164 CrPC have been recorded, and date of arrests made. The bench, also comprising Justice JB Pardiwala and Manoj Mishra, said, “The investigation is so lethargic. No arrests were made. Statements being recorded after such lapse of time. This gives the impression that there was no law and a breakdown of constitutional machinery. Maybe it is correct that arrest could not be made because police could not enter the locality… but even then there was a complete breakdown of law and order.” Supreme Court also asked the Solicitor General to take instructions on who will investigate.
The mechanism for a proper enquiry
“We are not in a situation where the State Police carry out the investigation. So we will need a mechanism,” said Supreme Court.
SC said, “We are clear about the fact that entrusting CBI with the investigation of 6,500 FIRs is impossible. At the same time, State Police can’t be entrusted.”
“The government shall prepare a statement setting out the date of occurrence, date of registration of zero FIR, date of registration of regular FIR, date on which witness statements have been recorded, date on which statements under section 164 CrPC have been recorded, and date of arrests made,” SC said.
Supreme Court recorded that the report, which has been filed on behalf of Manipur, states that 6496 FIRs have been registered as on July 25, 2023.
SC noted that “The status report stated that as per official reports, 150 deaths took place, 502 were injured, 5,101 cases of arson and 6,523 FIRs were registered. 252 persons were arrested in FIRs and 1,247 persons were arrested for preventive measures. The status report states that 7 arrests have been made in connection with 11 FIRs.”
Attorney General for India R Venkataramani, appearing for the government, said there are incidents occurring in the border areas which are deeply disturbing. We need to take calibrated approach. Solicitor General appearing for the Manipur government told Supreme Court that so far as 11 FIRs relating to violence against women and children can go to CBI.
Moreover, the Apex Court said that “There is a need to be a mechanism to bifurcate these 6500 FIRs because the CBI cannot be burdened with all 6500 otherwise it will result in the breakdown of the CBI mechanism also.”
“It needs to know in how many FIRs specific names of accused have been taken and if there are names in the FIRs, what steps have been taken to arrest them?” Court added.
Supreme Court asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that of the 6,000 FIRs, how many of them involve serious offences like bodily harm, destruction of property, religious places, home, murders, and rapes, their investigation will have to be taken in fast track means.
“That is how you will send confidence. Because it’s clear that for two months, the state police were not in charge. They may have made performative arrests but they were not in charge. Either they were incapable of doing it or uninterested,” the Court asked SG.
12,000 arrests as preventive measures
CJI Chandrachud said that what happens to them if the law and order machinery cannot protect the people?
Solicitor General said we have transferred the case to CBI. When Supreme Court asked how many arrest Manipur police has made, the Solicitor General said 250 arrests have been made and 12,000 arrests as preventive measures.
“Have any arrests been made of the police? Did the DGP care to find out in all these months? What has he done? It is his duty. Did they interrogate the police officers?” asked Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, Supreme Court observed that one thing is very clear there has been a long delay in the registration of FIRs. Referring to an incident of a woman being dragged out of a car and her son being lynched to death in Manipur, Supreme Court said the incident happened on May 4 and FIR was registered on July 7. CJI Chandrachud observes that there is no arrest at all except for 1-2 FIRs. The investigation is too lethargic, FIRs are registered after two months, and statements are not recorded.
Solicitor General for the Manipur government said all officers in all police stations have been directed to be sensitive to sexual violence reported by women and children. In the car wash incident where tribal women working were allegedly raped and murdered, the Manipur government says an investigation is underway, 37 witnesses have been examined, and 14 other employees of the car wash are in the process of examination. Seven accused were arrested including one juvenile. FIR has been transferred to CBI for early booking of culprits; Solicitor General told Supreme Court.
The apex court was hearing pleas of victims who were paraded naked and a batch of petitions relating to the ethnic violence which has been going on in the State since May. (With Inputs ANI)