Manipur violence: SC sets up panel of 3 former women HC judges to look into relief & rehabilitation

New Delhi: 42 SITs to be supervised by six DIG rank officers who will come in from outside the state

BY | Monday, 7 August, 2023

As Manipur sank deeper into ethnic violence, the Supreme Court on Monday ordered setting up of a committee of three former women high court judges to oversee relief and rehabilitation of victims and compensation to them besides asking former Maharashtra police chief Dattatray Padsalgikar to monitor the probe in criminal cases.

Observing that its effort is to restore people’s faith in the rule of law in the strife-torn state, the top court also decided to monitor the overall situation there.

The court said the three-member panel will be submitting reports to it directly.

A bench chaired by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud said the committee will be headed by former Jammu and Kashmir High Court Chief Justice Gita Mittal and include Justices (retd) Shalini P Joshi, a former judge of the Bombay High Court, and Asha Menon, an ex-judge of the Delhi High Court.

Cognizant of reports about the border state descending deeper into chaos, with more and more people getting killed and arson and mayhem prevailing, the bench, also comprising Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, which had termed as “deeply disturbing” the video of women being paraded naked, said it will appoint a committee of three former high court judges to oversee relief and rehabilitation of those affected.

“We will appoint a committee of three former high court judges,” the bench said, adding the panel will be looking at issues including relief, remedial measures, rehabilitation, compensation and also restoration of homes and places of worship.

The bench said the committee of judges will visit the relief camps and assess the conditions there.

On the investigation of cases, the court said 11 FIRs will be transferred to the CBI.

“We are not going to supplant the CBI because you (the state government) have the investigating agency which will be looking after the investigation,” the bench said.

The top court said to ensure there is a sense of faith, it will direct that at least five officers, not below the rank of deputy superintendents of police, be brought into the CBI on deputation from various states to oversee the probe.

It said these officers will be functioning within the administrative set up of the CBI and may be supervised by an officer of the rank of joint director in the central agency.

“We are going to add one more layer of scrutiny for us. We have already identified the officer,” the bench said, adding former Maharashtra DGP Dattatray Padsalgikar will monitor the overall investigation and keep apprising it of the developments.

It said as per report placed before it by Attorney General R Venkataramani and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre and the state government, about 42 state SITs will be looking at the cases which will not be transferred to the CBI.

The bench said for each of these SITs at least one inspector from another state be brought on deputation to the Manipur Police.

It said these 42 SITs should be supervised by six DIG rank officers who will come in from outside the state of Manipur.

The bench said a detailed order will be uploaded on the apex court website later in the evening.

During the hearing, Manipur Chief Secretary Vineet Joshi and state DGP Rajiv Singh appeared before the bench.

The top law officers submitted a report, which the apex court had sought on August 1, on issues including the segregation of cases.

“The government is handling the situation at a very mature level,” the attorney general told the bench.

The government law officers said the state government proposed to set up Special Investigation Teams (SITs), headed by the superintendent of police at the district level, to probe sensitive cases. The CBI has been asked to investigate 11 cases.

A battery of lawyers, including senior advocate Indira Jaising, Sanjay Hegde, C U Singh, Gopal Sankaranarayanan and lawyers Prashant Bhushan, Vrinda Grover, Nizam Pasha, Vishal Tiwari, gave suggestions to the bench on setting up of SITs for investigating cases of ethnic violence.

The directions by the top court came days after it said on August 1 that there was a complete breakdown of law and order and constitutional machinery in Manipur.

It had rapped the state police for a “tardy” and “lethargic” probe of incidents of ethnic violence, especially those targeting women, had summoned the DGP to answer its queries on August 7.

The Centre had urged the bench that instead of the two FIRs related to a video showing women being paraded naked by a mob, 11 out of 6,523 FIRs linked to violence against women and children may be transferred to the CBI and tried out of Manipur.

The bench is hearing around 10 petitions related to the spiralling violence, including those seeking court-monitored probe into cases, besides measures for relief and rehabilitation.

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