The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that there has been an absolute breakdown of the law and order machinery in Manipur, Live Law reported.
A bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra said that there has been a long delay in the filing of first information reports in cases of violence and that investigation in them has been lethargic.
“This gives us the impression that from the beginning of May till the end of July there was no law,” Justice Chandrachud said, according to Live Law. “There was an absolute breakdown of machinery that you could not even register FIRs ”
The observation by the court came after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing on behalf of the Manipur government, told the court that 6,532 FIRs have been filed in the state till July 25. Of them, 11 cases pertained to violence against women and children, he said.
The solicitor general also added that 250 arrests have been made and 12,000 have been held as preventive measures.
The Supreme Court was hearing a bunch of petitions including a plea filed by the two Kuki women who were paraded naked by a mob in the Kangpokpi district in May. A video of the incident was widely shared on social media on July 19.
Three women, including the two who were seen in the video, were sexually assaulted in B Phainom village of Kangpokpi on May 4, a day after clashes erupted between Meitei and Kuki communities. One of the women was brutally gang-raped, according to a police complaint.
The zero FIR in the case was registered on May 18. However, it was only after the video was shared on social media that arrests in the case were made.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Justice Chandrachud sought to know if any investigation was done on claims that the two women paraded naked were handed to the mob by the Manipur Police.
“Have those policemen been interrogated?” he asked, according to Live Law. “Has the DGP [Director General of Police] enquired? What is the DGP doing? It is his duty”
He added: “It is clear that for the two months, the state police was not in charge. They may have made performative arrests but they were not in charge. Either they were incapable of doing it or were uninterested.”
The bench then ordered the Manipur’s director general of police to appear before the court on the next date of hearing on August 7. It also added that it was considering forming a judicial committee comprising retired judges to examine the allegations, reported Bar and Bench.
Most unclaimed bodies of infiltrators, claims solicitor general
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on Tuesday claimed before the Supreme Court that most unclaimed bodies of those who died in the Manipur violence were those of “infiltrators who came with certain agenda”, according to Live Law.
Shortly afterwards, Samuel Ngaihte, the relative of a state bureaucrat, termed Mehta’s statement as a blatant lie. “My aunt, a Kuki-Zo who was an Under Secretary, Government of Manipur and her son was bludgeoned to death in Imphal valley on 4 May 2023 and we still cannot access their bodies,” he said on Twitter.
In June, a report by The Indian Express had cited several reasons for bodies lying unclaimed in morgues – from families being unable to travel to hospitals because of the conflict to people waiting for instructions from community leaders before claiming the bodies of their relatives.
Manipur has been witnessing ethnic clashes between the Kuki and the majority Meitei communities since May 3. At least 181 people, including 113 Kukis and 62 Meiteis, have been killed and nearly 60,000 have been forced to flee their homes.
Opposition parties have held the Bharatiya Janata Party governments in Manipur and at the Centre responsible for failing to contain the violence. Their criticism was bolstered after a video showing two Kuki women being paraded naked was widely shared on social media on July 19.
The parties have also been demanding a statement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the violence in Manipur in Parliament, followed by a longer discussion. However, the Modi-led government has agreed to a short-duration discussion.