Supreme Court constituted an all-women three-member committee to examine probe being conducted by Manipur police and the Central Bureau of Investigation (‘CBI’) respecting the incidents of violence in Manipur, specifically to be looked into by the former Maharashtra DGP and NIA officer Dattatray Padsalgikar. The Bench comprising of Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, CJI, J.B. Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, JJ. further refused to transfer the trial of Manipur violence cases outside the State.
The Court expressed distress over State of Manipur being besieged by sectarian strife since first week of May and also mentioned the Manipur High Court’s Judgment that triggered violence in Manipur over inclusion of Meitei Community in Scheduled Tribe list in the case of Mutum Churamani Meetei v. State of Manipur, 2023 SCC OnLine Mani 156, which was challenged before the Supreme Court by invoking Article 136 of the Constitution mainly highlighting that ‘Manipur is burning after the impugned order’. On the contrary, the Union conveyed that the State government was taking appropriate steps to recall the High Court order dated 27-03-2023 by moving the competent forum, and also laid a list of actions taken regarding violence in Manipur. The Court recalled all that was directed by the Court, assured by Union and State governments and several other petitions apprehending the threat to safety.
The Court also pointed out when Supreme Court took suo motu cognizance after Manipur women video parade went viral indicating gross constitutional violations and infractions of human rights. The State later confirmed registration of 6523 FIRs, 150 deaths and 502 injured persons, 5101 cases of arson, 252 arrests, 12740 preventive arrests, 11 FIRs involving cases of violence against women and children. Regarding horrific visuals that depicted sexual violence against women, State was reportedly willing to refer all 11 FIRs to Central Bureau of Investigation (‘CBI’), while the Court expressed dissatisfaction with the tardy pace of investigation and inadequacy of material disclosed. Status report was accordingly filed by the State regarding nature of crimes and their respective numbers.
The Court expressed that “the importance of a speedy and fair justice system should need no reiteration but the magnitude of the offences that we are dealing with prompts this Court to reiterate their importance” and listed the procedure to be followed:
When a bodily or sexual offence is complained of;
Statements under Sections 161 and 164 CrPC to be recorded as soon as possible;
Importance of statements under Sections 161 and 164 CrPC coupled with the medical examination of the victim
Police to identify and arrest the accused person expeditiously;
Importance of identifying, arresting, prosecuting, and convicting the person responsible for offence;
Importance of speedy investigation for securing a just and proper outcome in a trial and to instill and maintain confidence in the administration of criminal justice.
It further said that “This Court must express its anguish of the manner in which women have been subjected to grave acts of sexual violence in the course of the sectarian strife in Manipur. Subjecting women to sexual crimes and violence is completely unacceptable and constitutes a grave violation of the constitutional values of dignity, personal liberty and autonomy all of which are protected as core fundamental rights under Part III of the Constitution. Mobs commonly resort to violence against women for multiple reasons, including the fact that they may escape punishment for their crimes if they are a member of a larger group. In time of sectarian violence, mobs use sexual violence to send a message of subordination to the community that the victims or survivors hail from. Such visceral violence against women during conflict is nothing but an atrocity. It is the bounden duty of the state – its foremost duty, even – to prevent people from committing such reprehensible violence and to protect those whom the violence targets.” Hinting towards the sectarian strife which led to large scale destruction of residential property and places of worship, the Court found itself duty bound to step in while performing its constitutional obligations and opined that it will be a step to guarantee non-repetition that victims of such crimes are entitled to.
The Court found it crucial for the matter to conduct an objective fact-finding to bring to account those who were responsible for breach of public duty regardless of their rank/position/post. It commented that “Every officer of the state or other employee of the state who is guilty not only of the dereliction of their constitutional and official duties but of colluding with perpetrators to become offenders themselves, must be held accountable without fail. This is the promise of justice that the Constitution demands from this Court and from all branches of the state.” The Court firstly targeted the need to cease violence, punishment of perpetrators of violence, restoration of confidence in justice system and secondly, the need to ensure restoration of rule of law and public confidence in the process of investigation and prosecution.
Therefore, the Court constituted a 3-members Committee:
Justice Gita Mittal, former Chief Justice of the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir;
Justice Shalini Phansalkar Joshi, former Judge of the High Court of Judicature at Bombay; and
Justice Asha Menon, former Judge of the High Court of Delhi.
The said committee was tasked to enquire into nature of violence, submit a report on steps required for meeting the needs of survivors, ensure of providing free and comprehensive medical aid and psychological care to victims of survivors, ensure dignified conditions in relief camps set up for displaced persons, ensure compensation and restitution of victims, issue directions for appointing nodal officers at relief camps, etc.
While aiming at fairness in investigation, the Court further assured the same to be monitored by itself and appointed Dattatray Padsalgikar, former Director General of Police, Maharashtra to supervise the investigation by CBI and State machinery. It further directed the Union Ministry of Home Affairs to place 5 officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police at the disposal of CBI drawn from States of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha and NCT of Delhi, one of them being a woman. The Court further asked Dattatray Padsalgikar to investigate into allegations of certain police officers colluding with perpetrators of violence during Manipur conflict.
The Court further directed Union Ministry of Home Affairs to avail one officer of the rank of Police Inspector on deputation drawn from the States of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and NCT of Delhi to ensure proper monitoring and supervision of investigation by police authorities, and nomination of at least 14 officers not below the rank of Superintendent of Police to be in charge of the respective SITs formed by Manipur State government which was to be monitored and supervised by Dattatray Padsalgikar and issued additional directions for the SIT, officers nominated and the governments of Union and State. Regarding transfer of trials outside the State, the Court assured of taking up the decision after submission of reports after directions through instant matter.
[Dinganglung Gangmei v. Mutum Churamani Meetei, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 965, decided on 7-08-2023]
Judgment authored by: Chief Justice of India, Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For Petitioners: Advocate Nizam Pasha, Advocate on Record Lzafeer Ahmad B. F., Advocate Cheryl D Souza, Advocate Suroor Mander, Advocate Sidharth Kaushik, Advocate Shivendra Pandey, Advocate Aayushi Mishra, Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves, Senior Advocate Hetvi Patel, Advocate Alana Golmei, Advocate Samuel Khobung, Advocate Nayab Gauhar, Advocate Kamei Kaoliangpou, Advocate Joicy, Advocate on Record Satya Mitra, Advocate Vrinda Grover, Advocate Devika Tulsiani, Advocate Mannat Tipnis, Advocate Soutik Banerjee, Advocate on Record Akriti Chaubey, Advocate Kunwar Aditya Singh, Senior Advocate Jaideep Gupta, Senior Advocate Sapam Biswajit Meitei, Advocate Ahanthem Henry, Advocate Ahanthem Rohen Singh, Advocate David Ahongsangbam, Advocate Vivek Kumar, Advocate Mohan Singh, Advocate on Record Rajkumari Banju, Senior Advocate Ranjit Kumar, Advocate Tomthi Koijamnnganbi, Advocate Niraj Bobby Paonam, Advocate Preetam Shah, Advocate on Record Vishal Prasad, Senior Advocate Anand Grover, Advocate Astha Sharma, Advocate on Record Anju Thomas, Advocate Paras Nath, Advocate Robin Bhatt, Advocate Ripul Swati Kumari, Advocate Muskan Surana;
For Respondents: Attorney General R. Venkataramani, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, Advocate Kanu Agrawal, Advocate Shuvodeep Roy, Advocate Pratyush Shrivastava, Advocate on Record Dr. N. Visakamurthy, Additional Advocate General Hijam Lenin Singh, Advocate on Record Pukhrambam Ramesh Kumar, Advocate Karun Sharma, Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, Advocate on Record Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi, Advocate Paras Nath Singh, Advocate Ibad Mushtaq, Advocate Akanksha Rai, Advocate Rohin Bhatt, Advocate Shobha Gupta, Advocate on Record Aditya Ranjan, Advocate Bijoylashmi Das, Advocate Ankita Gupta, Advocate Garvita Jain, Advocate Tarjana Rai, Advocate Jessy Kurian, Senior Advocate Sanjay R Hegde, Advocate Ahantham Henry, Advocate Ahantham Rohen Singh, Advocate David Ahongsangbam, Advocate Vivek Kumar, Advocate Mohan Singh, Advocate on Record Kumar Mihir, Advocate Bansuri Swaraj, Advocate on Record Siddhesh Shirish Kotwal, Advocate Ana Upadhyay, Advocate Manya Hasija, Advocate Mahamaya Chatterjee, Advocate Tejasvi Gupta, Advocate Pawan Upadhyay, Advocate on Record Meenakshi Chauhan, Advocate Elangbam Premjit Singh, Advocate on Record Neeraj Kumar Gupta, Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, Advocate on Record Anindita Mitra, Advocate Satyajit Sarna, Advocate Remya, Special Public Prosecutor K. Raghabvacharyulu, Advocate on Record Ranjeet Singh.