Manipur Violence Expert Committee Demands Improvements in Compensation Schemes for Victims

The Committee submitted three reports related to the reconstruction of lost documents, payment of compensation and appointment of experts

Today, the Supreme Court received three reports from the expert committee led by Justice Gita Mital, set up to oversee the humanitarian crisis in the Manipur Violence. The committee was set up by the Supreme Court on August 7, 2023, to look into relief measures, rehabilitation, compensation, relief camps, and restoration of homes and religious sites in the state. 

Victims are missing Aadhar Cards, hence unable to fully access benefits of aid 

The first report stated that many victims of the Manipur violence had lost important documents, including Aadhar cards since the violence began. CJI D.Y. Chandrachud seemed concerned, stating that “benefits are distributed through the Aadhar cards, so that is very crucial”. Aadhar Cards are often the identifying documents for welfare schemes linking ration, healthcare and other rehabilitation schemes. 

In the second report, the committee highlighted the need for “substantial improvements” in the existing compensation scheme which disqualifies recipients from receiving benefits if they have already been covered by other programs. They suggested that the scheme should conform with the framework of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) scheme. The 2018 NALSA Scheme compensates female victims of sexual violence and other crimes. 

The third report identified “local administrative experts” and recommended that they oversee compensation for victims of violence, comprehensive psychological assistance and mental health care, medical care, relief camps, and data reporting.   

Petitioners: Expert Committee needs “Procedural Directions” and administrative assistance

Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, submitted that the three-member committee lacked any “procedural directions” on its operation. At the moment there is no specific operational procedure of the Committee. Jaising requested that the members of the Committee themselves be permitted to set down rules of procedure. Without this, she argued, the committee would be forced to approach the Court “again and again” for permission to carry out day-to-day tasks. 

Jaising then argued that the committee had no clarity on their funding. She requested the Court to clarify whether the Union or Manipur state will fund the committee’s activities, to ensure that its members may function effectively without having to worry about financing. 

Next, she sought that the Supreme Court facilitate the setting up of a victim-friendly court office where persons affected by the violence may approach the Committee in a safe and approachable space. While the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court has already agreed to this request, Jaising asked the top Court to formalise this in an Order. To further ease access to the committee, Advocate Shobha Gupta suggested the creation of a web portal where victims and others may directly communicate with its members. 

Jaising also asked for an administrative assistant to help with day to day functions such as sending out emails and other communications. Further, she suggested the appointment of a dedicated press officer to update the general public on the activities of the expert committee. 

In response, the Supreme Court assigned Senior Advocate Vrinda Grover the task of drafting the rules for operational procedures, in consultation with the members of the committee and the Attorney General of Manipur. The Court also asked for these reports to be submitted to the Union for their review. Appearing for the Government, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta requested that the Court deliver its formal order on Friday. 

The court will review the suggestions and issue directives on August 25, 2023.