Supreme Court's Committee for Relief and Rehabilitation efforts in Manipur

Supreme Court's Committee for Relief and Rehabilitation efforts in Manipur

The Manipur violence incident has sparked outrage across the nation, bringing attention to the need for justice and healing. On May 4th, two women were subjected to a horrific incident in Kangpokpi district, with the video of the incident going viral on July 19th. In response, the Supreme Court conducted a hearing on August 7th to address the situation and pave the way for relief and rehabilitation efforts. 

Supreme Court's Committee for Relief and Rehabilitation efforts in Manipur
Photo source: files photo (bharatrising )

Supreme Court's Committee for Relief and Rehabilitation

In a significant move, the Supreme Court formed a committee comprising three female judges from the Jammu and Kashmir High Court to oversee relief and rehabilitation efforts in Manipur. Chief Justice Geeta Mittal heads the committee, with retired justices Shalini P. Joshi and Aasha Menon as its members. The Court emphasized the importance of rebuilding trust among the people of Manipur in the justice system. Additionally, Manipur's Director General of Police, Rajiv Singh, shared the administrative steps taken by the state to address the situation.

Supreme Court's Committee for Relief and Rehabilitation efforts in Manipur
Photo source: files photo (bharatrising)

CBI Supervision for Thorough Investigation

To ensure a comprehensive investigation, the Supreme Court directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to oversee the probe into the Manipur violence. This will be under the supervision of former Maharashtra DGP, Dattatraya Padsalgikar. The move aims to bring transparency and credibility to the investigation process.

Committee's Role and Challenges

The committee's main responsibility is to assess the relief and rehabilitation efforts required in Manipur. The violence has not only caused physical harm but has also deeply affected the psychological well-being of the victims and the community at large. Rebuilding lives and restoring faith in the legal system is essential.

Understanding the Context

The violence that erupted in Manipur highlights the need to address underlying issues. The Supreme Court acknowledged the delicate situation in the state and stressed the importance of mature handling by the government to regain public trust. The court also pointed out that the delay in filing FIRs raised concerns about the functioning of the law and order machinery.

Ensuring Fair Investigation

The Bench, consisting of Chief Justice Chandrachud, Justice Jebi Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Mishra, is overseeing the hearings related to the Manipur violence. The Central government disclosed that out of 6,523 First Information Reports (FIRs) filed, 11 are related to violence against women and children. These cases will now be investigated by the CBI. The Supreme Court is also overseeing hearings on 10 petitions related to the Manipur violence.

Special Investigation Team's Role

A Special Investigation Team (SIT) of 42 members has been constituted to ensure a thorough investigation into the Manipur violence. The team's work will be supervised by a senior officer of the rank of Deputy Inspector General (DIG). The SIT will focus on gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and bringing perpetrators to justice.

Supreme Court's Committee for Relief and Rehabilitation efforts in Manipur
Photo source:file photo (bharatrising)

Legal Perspectives and Solutions

Lawyers and advocates have played a crucial role in representing the affected parties. Different legal viewpoints have emerged, suggesting potential solutions to address the complex situation in Manipur. Senior advocate Vrinda Grover highlighted the importance of respecting the privacy of the victims and refraining from sharing their names, emphasizing the need for sensitivity.

Path to Healing

The path to healing for Manipur requires not only legal action but also community support and awareness. The incident has exposed deep-rooted issues that need to be addressed collectively. The Supreme Court's involvement aims to ensure justice is served, and the victims are provided with the necessary relief and rehabilitation.

Before the recent hearing on August 1st, four points came to the forefront

1. Center's Perspective: 

Embracing Supreme Court Oversight on Investigations Solicitor General Tushar Mehta stated on July 31st that if the Supreme Court takes up the case, there's no opposition. An interesting point arose when a petitioner mentioned the Kuki community in their plea. The Center's response was clear: any community mentioned in this manner is not appropriate. Fanning communal tensions must be avoided at all costs.

2. Victims' Appeal:

Hesitation towards CBI Probe, In the midst of this, senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, representing the victimized women, raised his voice. He expressed the view that several such incidents have occurred, and thus, they are not in favor of a CBI investigation. Instead, they advocate for an independent agency to take charge of the inquiry. The concern arises about how legal officers or the Attorney General can impartially supervise the investigation.

3. Kuki Community's Demand: 

Advocating for SIT Inquiry, Inclusion of Retired DGP Colin Gonjalevwd, a senior lawyer representing the Kuki community, made a stand against a CBI investigation. He proposed that a Special Investigation Team (SIT) with the participation of a retired DGP should handle this case. It's important to note that no active army officers from Manipur should be involved in the process.

4. Plea from the Victims of Violence: 

Calling for a High-Power Committee Indira Jai Singh, a senior lawyer, highlighted a crucial perspective on July 31st. She noted that the rape victims are not yet ready to discuss this matter openly. They are still grappling with their pain and trauma. Rebuilding trust is the top priority. The pressing question remains: if the CBI initiates the investigation, can we be sure that these women will come forward?

Creating an Accessible View on Manipur's Recent Unrest

Manipur, a state with approximately 3.8 million people, hosts three main communities - Meitei, Naga, and Kuki. The Meitei community predominantly practices Hinduism, while the Naga-Kuki communities follow Christianity. They are categorized as Scheduled Tribes (ST), constituting nearly half of the population. The Meitei community primarily resides in the Imphal Valley, comprising around 10% of the state's territory. Meanwhile, the Naga-Kuki communities are spread across approximately 90% of the state, making up about 34% of the population.

What Sparked the Conflict:

The Meitei community's call for tribal status stirred a legal battle. They filed a petition in the Manipur High Court seeking recognition as a Scheduled Tribe. Their argument was rooted in the fact that Manipur's integration with India in 1949 changed their status. Prior to this, they were recognized as a tribe. The High Court recommended the inclusion of Meiteis in the Scheduled Tribe category.

Understanding Meitei's Perspective:

The Meitei community believes that their forefathers invited the Kuki community from Myanmar to aid them in a historical battle. Over time, the Kukis settled in Manipur. They began to clear forests for livelihood and ventured into opium cultivation. Unfortunately, this shift turned Manipur into a hotspot for drug trafficking. These historical events are now surfacing, as armed groups formed by these communities also engaged in clashes against the Naga community.

Countering Arguments from Naga-Kuki Communities:

The Naga and Kuki communities express their opposition to granting Scheduled Tribe status to the Meitei community. They voice concerns that if Meiteis receive ST status, it would affect their share of rights since 40 out of 60 legislative assembly seats are already occupied by the Meitei community.

The Political Landscape:

Out of Manipur's 60 legislative assembly seats, 40 belong to the Meitei community, while the remaining 20 are held by the Naga-Kuki communities. Remarkably, only two out of the twelve Chief Ministers in Manipur's history have hailed from tribal communities.

Over 160 Lives Lost in Manipur Violence:

The violence in Manipur has taken a severe toll, with more than 160 lives lost. Notable spikes in violence occurred between May 3rd and 5th, May 27th and 29th, and June 13th. However, a period of relative calm was observed between July 16th and 27th.

Shift in Kuki Party's Support:

On Sunday, the Kuki People's Alliance announced the withdrawal of support from the Biren government in Manipur. They claim that the state government failed to safeguard Kuki interests. This alliance holds two seats in the legislative assembly, while the BJP accounts for 37 out of the 60 seats.

Prospects of Interaction with Amit Shah:

Representatives from the Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF) are slated to meet Home Minister Amit Shah on August 8th. They present five demands, including the establishment of a separate administration and a community cemetery in Churachandpur for the Kuki-Zou community. Tombling, the Secretary of ITLF, underscores the need for a distinct administration for Manipur. Currently, the Kuki-Zou community uses Imphal for burials, but with the proposed cemetery in Churachandpur, this process would change.

Tombling further emphasizes the importance of legality for the Churachandpur cemetery. He advocates against deploying Manipur State Forces in hill districts, as this would adversely affect the security of the Kuki community.

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