In a scathing rebuke of the government’s handling of the recent ethnic violence in Manipur, the Supreme Court of India issued strong criticism today, decrying an “absolute breakdown of constitutional machinery” in the state over the past two months. The remarks, delivered by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, have further fueled political tensions and provided ammunition to the Opposition’s calls for the removal of Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh and the imposition of President’s Rule.
Chief Justice Chandrachud, leading the bench, slammed the investigation into the violence as “tardy” and “lethargic,” highlighting significant delays in registering First Information Reports (FIRs) and recording witness statements. Expressing deep concern, the court demanded the personal presence of the Manipur Director General of Police during the upcoming hearing on Monday.
During the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta revealed that a staggering 6,523 FIRs related to the violence had been registered, with 11 of these specifically involving crimes against women and children. The shocking revelation comes amid nationwide outrage over the brutal treatment of women in the midst of the violence.
The court particularly focused on a horrific incident captured on video, where women were paraded naked and allegedly gang-raped. Justice Chandrachud pressed for accountability, questioning whether the police officers accused of handing the women over to the mob had been thoroughly interrogated. The Solicitor General admitted that obtaining such information overnight might not be feasible.
However, the court expressed dissatisfaction with the overall progress of the investigation, pointing out that, apart from a few cases, there had been a glaring lack of arrests and a delay in filing FIRs. Chief Justice Chandrachud lamented, “There has been an absolute breakdown of constitutional machinery in Manipur for the past two months. The state police is incapable of investigation. They have lost control. There is absolutely no law and order.”
The court’s frustration was echoed by its demand for a detailed breakdown of the FIRs, categorizing them based on the nature of the crimes committed. Justice Chandrachud stressed the need for a comprehensive assessment of the situation, including murders, rapes, arson, looting, destruction of religious sites, and other forms of violence.
In response to the Solicitor General’s assertion that 252 arrests had been made, the court expressed skepticism and urged the government to expedite its efforts. The possibility of transferring select cases to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was also discussed, with the court emphasizing the importance of a well-defined mechanism for such transfers.
As the Manipur violence continues to stir public outrage and political turmoil, the Supreme Court has indicated its intent to establish a committee of former high court judges to monitor and assess the investigation. The court’s rigorous questioning and demand for accountability underscore its commitment to upholding justice and constitutional integrity.
The issue has now reverberated beyond the courtroom, causing a parliamentary logjam with both Houses repeatedly adjourned since the monsoon session began on July 20. As the nation awaits further developments, the Supreme Court’s unwavering stance serves as a reminder that the protection of citizens and the maintenance of law and order are paramount.