The Supreme Court on Tuesday came down heavily on Centre and the Manipur governments, saying that the state police is “incapable of investigation” and “there is no law and order left” in the northeastern state.
“The investigation is so lethargic. There has been a breakdown of constitutional machinery to the extent that FIR could not be registered. Maybe it is correct that the police could not arrest as it could not enter the locality. There was a complete breakdown of law and order machinery of the state,” remarked a bench headed by CJI D.Y. Chandrachud questioning the delay in registration of FIRs and recording of statements of victims by the Manipur Police.
The top court summoned Manipur’s Director General of Police on August 7, the next date of hearing.
The Supreme Court raised questions over non-interrogation of the police officials who allegedly handed over the victims in the viral video to the mob, as per their statements recorded under section 161 CrPC (Criminal Procedure Code). “If law and order machinery cannot protect them then what happens to the people?” it asked.
In response, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that normalcy is returning and the CBI has commenced investigation in the FIRs registered by it. He said that other cases can also be transferred to the CBI.
At this, the SC said: “Can the CBI investigate over 6,000 FIRs? From May 4 to July 27, police was not in charge. Either they were incapable or unwilling to act. Some mechanism has to be put in place by us to sort out the 6,500 FIRs. We cannot dump all these FIRs on the CBI.”
The status report filed by the Manipur government indicated that only 252 arrests have been made in the 6,253 FIRs registered so far.
The apex court directed the state police to identify the FIRs involving serious offences like murder, rape, arson, looting, outraging modesty of women, destruction of places of religious worship and grievous hurt.
Also, it asked case-wise details of the date of occurrence of incident, date of registration of Zero FIR, date of registration of regular FIR, date on which witness statements were recorded, date on which statements under section 164 CrPC were recorded and date on which arrests were made.
It also asked the Union government to provide information relating to the compensation to be provided for rehabilitation purposes.
Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court asked the CBI to abstain from recording statements of the survivors who were paraded naked and sexually assaulted in Manipur when the top court was scheduled to hear the batch of matter today at 2 p.m.. However, at the end of the hearing, it permitted the CBI to continue recording statements of the victim.
A bench comprising of CJI Chandrachud and Justices J.B. Pardiwala and Manoj Mishra was hearing the petition filed by the two tribal women in relation to the disturbing incident along with the clutch of pleas related to inter-ethnic clashes in the north-eastern state.
On Monday, the Supreme Court has indicated that it may constitute a committee comprising of retired judges and subject experts to record statements of victims in the violence-hit state.
It has sought bifurcation of around 6000 FIRs which were registered in the violence-hit state. It had called for details like zero FIRs, action taken, position of legal aid, status of recording of statements of victims and witnesses, etc. from the Centre and the state.
The CJI-led bench has expressed surprise for the delay of over 18 days in registration of FIR. “What stood in the way of police registering the FIR immediately on the 4th of May?” it had asked SG Mehta.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for survivors of the crime who were paraded naked, has opposed the transfer of the probe to CBI and demanded for the formation of a SIT (Special Investigation Team) to probe gender violence cases.
“The extent of our intervention would also depend on what the government has done so far. If we are satisfied with what the government has done, we may not even intervene,” the court has clarified.
Attorney General R Venkataramani has opposed formation of an SIT, saying that the state government having no role in the investigation would be an “extreme view”.