On Tuesday, the Supreme Court, with Chief Justice of India (CJI) Chandrachud leading the bench, expressed grave concern over the ‘long delay in registration of FIRs’ related to the Manipur violence case. The court questioned the authorities’ actions, stating that an “absolute breakdown of machinery” seemed evident if FIRs were not filed and action was not taken for weeks following the incidents.
CJI DY Chandrachud: How many of these 6500 involve serious offences- bodily harm, destruction of property, religious places, home, murders, rapes- their investigation will have to be taken in fast track means. That's how you'll send confidence.
— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) August 1, 2023
CJI Chandrachud highlighted that, except in a few instances, there were no arrests made, and the overall investigation appeared to be lethargic. Delayed registration of FIRs and the inability of the police to make arrests indicated that the situation was dire for two months, rendering it unsuitable for the regular functioning of the law enforcement system. The Chief Justice quoted by LiveLaw remarked, “There was no law, you couldn’t even register an FIR, police couldn’t arrest.”
The government’s Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta, informed the court that 6532 FIRs have been registered concerning the Manipur violence. However, the Supreme Court questioned the effectiveness of the state police during those two months, suggesting that they may have been unable or unwilling to act. Justice Chandrachud commented that the updates shared with the court indicated “no law from the beginning of May till the end of July” in the northeastern state.
Mehta assured the court that the case had been handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) at the earliest possible moment. However, the Chief Justice raised concerns about the division of the large number of FIRs, urging the need for a mechanism to handle them. He emphasized that burdening the CBI with all 6500 FIRs might overwhelm the investigative agency.
The case pertains to a viral video from Manipur showing tribal women being sexually assaulted and paraded naked during the violence. The Supreme Court stopped the CBI from recording the victims’ statements after an advocate representing the Kuki side alerted the court that the probe agency was preparing to record the statements at noon on the same day.
The ethnic violence in Manipur began on May 3, following a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ organized in the hill districts to protest against the majority Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe status. The violence has resulted in at least 150 deaths and several hundred injuries, leading to widespread concern and scrutiny from the judiciary to address the issues effectively.