Army Deployment in Manipur Day #2: Supreme Court Orders Petitioners to Prepare SuggestionsArmy Deployment in Manipur
On May 3rd, 2023, a group of protestors organised a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ to protest against the inclusion of the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) community. This resulted in a violent clash between different groups. The Nagas and Kuki tribes opposed the inclusion claiming that the Meitei community forms the majority population and enjoys political representation in the region.
On May 6th, 2023, the Manipur Tribals Forum Delhi filed a Public Interest Litigation at the Supreme Court, asking for a Special Investigation Team to be constituted to investigate the Manipur Violence. They alleged that the Union and the State Governments have condoned the attacks ‘on account of a non-secular agenda’. The petitioners claimed that the violence has led to 30 casualties and 132 injuries as of May 6th, 2023. Additionally, the CRPF camps providing shelter to several tribal people were in ‘deplorable and pathetic conditions’.
On May 8th, 2023, the SC ordered that basic amenities and rehabilitation efforts should be made available for the displaced tribals in the relief camps. The Bench urged the Government to make arrangements for the safe return of displaced people to their villages.
On May 15th, 2023, the Manipur Tribals Forum filed an Interlocutory Application (IA) at the SC. They requested the support of the Army in 85 villages where ‘attacks were likely to happen’ and in 124 villages which were ‘razed to the ground’.
On May 17th, 2023, the SC ordered the State to file a status report regarding the security measures taken in Manipur. The State maintained that the situation in Manipur had improved.
On June 8th, 2023, Manipur Tribals’ Forum Delhi filed another IA stating that the assurances made by the Government were false. They pointed out that the situation in Manipur had worsened, and that there had been 70 more deaths since the Union’s assurances. They further highlighted that the conditions of the relief camps have not improved.
On June 20, 2023, the SC’s Vacation Bench refused to urgently hear a plea seeking army deployment for control of the law and order situation in Manipur. The SC believed its intervention would ‘aggravate’ the situation in the State.
Supreme Court: Court Cannot Function in a Partisan Manner
Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta submitted the status report today as previously ordered by the Supreme Court.
The Division Bench ordered Sr. Adv. Colin Gonsalves to assess the status report and propose suggestions on July 11th 2023. The Bench headed by CJI said— “Have a look at the status report. Come back if you have some concrete suggestions. Give us those concrete suggestions, we’ll give them to the learned Solicitor General and have the authorities consider those suggestions”. The ‘concrete suggestions’ include proposals to increase the number of camps, or other rehabilitation measures.
Sr. Adv. Gonsalves said that he was sceptical about the report. He insinuated that the contents of the report haven’t changed since May—“I’ve read what he said, and he said it right from the middle of May”. Responding to this CJI Chandrachud commented — “Your scepticism cannot lead us to take over a law and order functionary, nor can we ask the High Court to do so”. To which Sr. Adv. Gonsalves quickly agreed.
CJI Chandrachud suggested that the parties should avoid using the Supreme Court as a platform to further escalate the situation in Manipur. He said—“We request lawyers on both sides to ensure that this (proceedings) should not become a platform for further escalation of violence and other problems which already exist in the State (Manipur). Second, we have to be equally conscious of the fact that we are not running any security apparatus or law enforcement apparatus. Three, if we find there are any deficiencies we can certainly issue directions to the authorities. So that is the area where we require some assistance from both sides and let’s not do that in a partisan manner. This is a humanitarian situation.”
High Court Bar Association, Manipur: Counsel Highlights Supply Concerns Due to Blocked Highways
The Counsel representing the High Court Bar Association raised concerns about the transportation of essential supplies to Manipur. He pointed out that the Jiribam Highway, which is the primary route for supplies, is prone to landslides. Additionally, a part of the alternative route, National Highway 2, is currently captured and blocked. He suggested that the Manipur Government should take immediate action to clear the blocked highway to ensure the uninterrupted supply of essential goods to the region. He said—“If there is a landslide (on Jiribam Highway), no supplies will go through”. The Bench asked SG Mehta to take note of the suggestion.
The Bench ordered that the ‘constructive suggestions’ should be mailed to the Court Masters and the counsel assisting SG Mehta later in the evening. They directed that the proceedings will be taken up tomorrow (July 11th, 2023).