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Supreme Court pulls up Centre, state govt over delay in lodging FIR in Manipur incident

What happened to these women is not an isolated incident as there has to be a broader mechanism to take care of violence against women in the state, the bench said.
Last Updated : 31 July 2023, 16:51 IST

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The Supreme Court on Monday questioned the Centre and Manipur government why it took the police 14 days to register an FIR in connection with women being paraded naked and sexually assaulted in strife-torn state.

A bench led by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud, however, said this incident is not like the 2012 Nirbhaya case of Delhi but “here we are dealing with systemic acts of violence which are being perpetrated in the course of communal or sectarian strife”.

The court also observed merely entrusting to CBI or SIT would not be enough as it will have to picture a situation where a 19-year-old woman who has lost her family is in a relief camp.

What happened to these women is not an isolated incident as there has to be a broader mechanism to take care of violence against women in the state, the bench said.

The bench also said that the court would not want the victims going to the magistrate and rather need to ensure that the process of justice goes to their doorstep. It also mooted constituting a committee of women judges and members of civil society, who will in turn get the assistance of members of civil societies.

Opposing the decision to entrust probe to the CBI and a plea to transfer the case to Assam, senior advocate Kapil Sibal for the victim women alleged the police were collaborating with those who perpetrated the violence as they left the two to the crowd which took them to the field.

Senior advocate Indira Jaising for an intervenor sought setting up of a high-powered committee of women members from civil society, so these survivors can come forward and speak the truth to them.

Attorney General R Venkataramani, for the Centre, submitted before the bench also comprising Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra that he is not against court order for an SIT probe.

He asked the court to allow him to gather all information and find out what is the best way out.

The state government should also have a role and not just that only civil society will have a role, with regard to proposal to form SIT to probe the May 4 incident.

"Why was there a delay in registering the FIR immediately after the alleged incident took place on May 4? Is it correct that the FIR was registered on May 18," the bench asked.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Manipur government, said it is true that the FIR was registered on May 18 and it was registered as a zero FIR and there were several such FIRs and there were a total 6,000 FIRs in the state.

The bench, however, asked, what the police were doing between May 4 to 18.

"An incident came to light that women are being paraded naked- at least 2 were raped, what were the police doing," the bench asked.

"There cannot be any justification for not registering zero FIR where the assailants are unknown and the perpetrators are unknown and what stood in the way of police in immediately registering an FIR after May 4. What is the reason for waiting for 14 days to register an FIR," the bench asked.

Mehta, for his part, said, police made the arrest in 24 hours after the video went viral and so far, seven people have been arrested.

The Chief Justice said, “why do we have to wait for an arrest to be made….police station unaware of the fact that such an incident has taken place?”.

The bench asked when the zero FIR was registered on May 18, and why it was transferred to a magistrate on June 21, one month and three days and there were 20 such FIRs, what action has the police taken with respect to 20 FIRs.

The bench also asked when there are 6000 FIRs, what is bifurcation of these FIRs – how many of these involve crimes against women, how many involve serious offences such as murder, rioting, arson, out of these how many were recorded as zero FIRs etc, and sought breakdown of the cases lodged.

The court asked the Centre and the Manipur government come back on Tuesday with information break-up of cases; the number of zero FIRs; how many forwarded to jurisdiction police station; action taken so far in these FIRs; and status of legal aid provided to victims of assault.

"Is this the only stand-alone incident where there is perpetration of violence on women, or how many such FIRs are there," the bench asked.

The court also wondered when the media has widely reported on the Manipur situation and it was surprised that the state government is not in possession of facts.

The Chief Justice said there are statements by the victims that they were handed over to the mob by police and this is not a situation like 'Nirbhaya', which was also a horrendous incident and it shook our consciousness and it was an isolated instance.

“Here we are dealing with systemic acts of violence which are being perpetrated in the course of communal or sectarian strife," the bench said.

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Published 31 July 2023, 11:11 IST

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