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'Time Is Running Out': Supreme Court On Manipur Violence, Slams Police For Delay In Action

Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud observed that the sexual assault viral video was not the lone instance and asked the Centre how many FIRs had been registered in such incidents in the northeastern state.

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The Supreme Court on Monday said that time was running out for the healing of Manipur. The top court bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud called for a broad mechanism to deal with violence against women in Manipur as it was hearing a batch of petitions concerning the ongoing ethnic clashes. The apex court termed the sexual assault against women in Manipur 'horrendous' and lambasted the state police saying it does not want the case to be handled by them.

"Time running out for us, there is a great need to have a healing touch in the state," CJI Chandrchud said, seeking answers from the Centre to a series of questions.

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The top court bench, also comprising Justice J B Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra, was hearing collectively the petitions filed by the victims' side as well as the Centre’s plea seeking to transfer the issue of the May 4 sexual assault video outside the northeastern state to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

CJI Chandrachud said that merely entrusting the case to CBI and SIT would not be enough. "We have to ensure that the process of justice goes to her doorstep."

SC Slams Centre, State Police Over Inaction

The CJI asked the Centre how many zero FIRs had been registered in such incidents in the northeastern state. "The incident came to light on May 4... Why did it take the police 14 days to register an FIR," CJI questioned, adding that it also wants to know how many people had been arrested in the case.

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Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told the CJI Chandrachud’s bench that the government has no objection if the apex court monitors the investigation into the Manipur violence. "The government has nothing to hide. This court can monitor the situation," he said.

Questioning the delay in registering the FIR, CJI Chandrachud asked, "What was the police doing? Why was FIR in the video case transferred to the magisterial court on June 24?"

"Women shown in Manipur video were handed over to rioting crowd by police, this is horrendous," he added.

The top court has asked the Centre and Manipur government to come back tomorrow with answers to the following questions:

1. How many zero FIRs have been registered?
2. What is the break up of the cases?
3. How many cases were transferred to jurisdiction police station?
4. How many have been arrested so far?
5. What is the status of legal aid and package for rehabilitation being provided to state for affected people?
6. Why was the FIR in the video case transferred to magisterial court on June 24? How many Section 164 statements have been recorded?

'Not The Only Incident'

Earlier, the CJI remarked that the women in the viral video weren't the only ones in the state who had been sexually assaulted. "These are not the only two women who have been sexually assaulted. There is enough indication that there has been sexual assault of several women," CJI Chandrachud said

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"It should not be that only when another video comes to light that we direct registering of the FIR. We have to make sure justice is done to these three women."

Meanwhile, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the two women who were seen in the May 4 video being paraded naked in Manipur, said they have filed a fresh petition in the matter.

MHA Submits Report On Video

On July 20, the Supreme Court took cognizance of the viral video that stirred the nation demanding the government take necessary action. CJI DY Chandrachud said he was "deeply disturbed" by the video. "We will give a little time for the government to take action otherwise we will step in." He further said that using women as an instrument in an area of communal strife is "the grossest of constitutional abuse," he said. 

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The top court had also asked the Centre and the Manipur government to apprise it of the action taken to book the perpetrators.

On July 28, the Ministry of Home Affairs submitted an affidavit to the apex court. In the affidavit Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla stated that the home ministry was "continuously monitoring" the developments of the case of the video of women being paraded naked.

The MHA told the Supreme Court that it could not reach the sexual assault victims physically or telephonically because of resistance from civil society organisations in Churanchandpur. To "prevent repetition" of such incidents, it asked for similar cases to be reported to the Manipur Director General Of India.

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The Centre had informed the top court that it has transferred the probe to CBI as the government has "zero tolerance towards any crimes against women".

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