Supreme Court Rebukes Manipur Police Over Flawed Investigation
The Supreme Court directed the Manipur government to give a detailed breakdown of 6,523 FIRs filed in the violence.
A three-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud along with Justices J.B. Pardiwala and Manoj Misra directed the Manipur Government to provide details of 6,523 First Information Reports (FIRs) registered by the local police in the backdrop of the ongoing conflict in the State.
According to a fresh status report submitted by the Manipur Government, the total FIRs have been registered in the State as of July 25th 2023 and 252 people have been arrested. An additional 12,740 arrests have also been made as a preventive measure. The report has further highlighted details of 5,101 cases of arson. Lastly, according to the report, the official death toll stands at 150.
11 Out of 6,523 FIRs Involve Violence Against Women and Children
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta presented the status report to the Court. He focused on 11 offences that were specifically committed against women and children. The Bench appeared unconvinced and held that this number is ‘subject to verification’.
One of these offences, pertaining to the sexual violence committed against two women by a mob, was transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on July 29th, 2023. Mehta informed the Bench that the Manipur Government is willing to transfer all remaining offences to the CBI. Further, he stated that seven people linked to these offences were arrested by the Manipur Government. One of the arrested persons is a juvenile.
Advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for the petitioners, pointed out that the status report revealed the names and details of all female complainants. She remarked that ‘it is illegal!’ to do so. CJI Chandrachud cautioned Mehta and all lawyers to avoid circulating a copy of the status report to ensure that the names of the female complainants remained private.
Status Report is Inadequate, says Supreme Court
The Bench reviewed the updates given by Mehta and stated that the material in the status report was not adequate, as it did not have a ‘desegregation of the 6,523 FIRs into the nature of the offences to which they pertain’. Justice Pardiwala suggested that the FIRs be bifurcated based on the nature of offences to get a clear picture of all the ‘serious offences’. This should include details of offences committed against women and children. Mehta replied that the Manipur Government needs extra time to consolidate these details.
The Bench directed the Manipur Government to classify the FIRs into specific categories, ‘The State (Manipur) must carry out the exercise of desegregation and inform the Court on how many of the FIRs pertain to cases involving murder and/or rape; arson and looting; destruction of house property; outraging the modesty; destruction of places of religious worship and grievous hurt.’ They directed the Manipur Government to provide these details to the Court on August 7th, 2023 in a tabular format.
The Supreme Court stated that the table must contain other details such as the date on which the Zero FIR was registered. A Zero FIR is when a victim is not bound by jurisdiction to register an offence. Additionally, the table must contain the date on which a regular FIR was registered, the date of arrests, and the day on which witness statements were recorded.
The Bench stated that these details would help them ‘make a decision on the further course of action’.
Investigation is ‘Tardy’ and ‘Lethargic’, Supreme Court
CJI Chandrachud came down on the local police for a ‘lethargic’ and ‘tardy’ investigation process. He stated that there was a considerable delay between when the offence occurred and when the FIR was registered. He observed that the ‘state police has obviously lost control of the situation’ with ‘no law and order left’.
Attempting to defend the police, Mehta stated that the lapse may have occurred due to the dire situation of the state. CJI Chandrachud responded that there is a ‘complete breakdown of the machinery of the State’. To this, Mehta argued that the situation is now ‘coming back to normal’.
The Bench directed the Director General of Police, Manipur, to appear before the Supreme Court on Monday, August 7th, 2023, to respond to some specific queries regarding the investigation process.