Courts can only be facilitators to issue directions to authorities to address the deficiencies in maintaining law and order, the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dr D.Y. Chandrachud said. They are not running a security or law and order apparatus, he averred. “What are the elected governments for?” he asked.
ON Monday, the Supreme Court directed the petitioners to submit their suggestions on the updated status report filed by the Manipur government on steps it has taken in view of theviolence that ensued in the Bishnupur and Churachandpur districts on May 3.
A division Bench of the Supreme Court, comprising the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dr D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice P.S. Narasimha, passed the directions after perusing the state report filed by the chief secretary of Manipur on July 9.
During the previous hearing on July 3, a three-judge Bench, comprising the CJI and Justices Narasimha and Manoj Mishra, had directed the Manipur government to submit a report on the prevailing situation in the state and the measures taken by the state government to de-escalate the situation (which has been described as akin to a “civil war”) through recovery of arms, and enforcing law and order; and provide relief to those affected by the violence, including by establishing and maintaining rehabilitation camps.
On Monday, the Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Union and Manipur governments, apprised the court that the situation in the state is slowly limping back to normal due to the efforts of the state and Union governments.
The Bench directed the petitioners to study the status report and submit concrete and constructive suggestions for improving the situation, particularly regarding the difficulties faced on the ground in relation to rehabilitation camps and medical aid.
The Bench assured that such suggestions will be then duly considered by the state and the Union governments.
Reading portions of the report submitted before the court, Mehta appealed that the full report should be examined by the petitioners and other parties with the utmost sensitivity, since any misinformation, rumour or suspicion may aggravate the situation in the state.
Pertinently, on July 8, a first information report (FIR) was filed at the Imphal police station against three members of a fact-finding team that visited Manipur. After their visit to Manipur from June 28 to July 1, the members of the team had addressed apress conference and termed the ethnic tensions in Manipur as “state-sponsored violence”.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioners, emphasised the severe escalation of violence allegedly caused by armed groups notified as ‘terrorist organisations under theUnlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, which are involved in killings of members of tribal communities.
He stressed that the main assailant groups are operating mainly with the protection of the State and urged that the assailants be arrested.
In response, the CJI averred that the constitutional court should not be used as a platform by the parties further to escalate violence and other problems in the state. He stated the courts are not running a security or law and order apparatus. “What are the elected governments for?” he asked.
Courts can only be facilitators to issue directions to authorities to address the deficiencies in maintaining law and order, the CJI said. The Bench asked the parties to be mindful of the humanitarian issue in the state and address it in a non-partisan manner.
Referring to themedia reports on the many weapons taken from police stations, the Bench directed Mehta to report on missing weapons and their recovery.
One of the counsels for the petitioners challenged the June 26 circular of the state government dated which threatens disciplinary actions, including pay cuts, against those people who fail to return to work immediately.
The counsel submitted that the situation has not returned to a state where people can be expected to return back to work.
Considering that people should not suffer from loss of pay, the Bench directed Mehta to receive instructions from the state government on the circular.
Another counsel for the petitioners submitted that according to the status report, at present, all supplies are entering the state through the landslide-prone Jiribam highway. He suggested that the state government allow supply vehicles access to the 10 kilometres of National Highway 2 in Kangpokpi district, which is currently blocked.
The Bench directed Mehta to address the government on the issue of the highway and apprise the court of the state government’s reply.
The matter is posted for consideration of such further suggestions by the contesting petitioners tomorrow, July 11.
OnMarch 27, a single-judge Bench of the Manipur High Court of Justice M.V. Muralidaran had directed the state government to consider the inclusion of the Meitei community in the list of Scheduled Tribes and to send a recommendation to this effect to the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs expeditiously, preferably within a period of four weeks.
Reportedly, the high court Order led to tensions between the Kuki tribe and the majority Meitei population. The Tribal Solidarity March, organised by the All Tribal Students’ Union of Manipur led to protests against the demand of the Meitei community to be included in the list of Scheduled Tribes.
The protests devolved into violence in the Bishnupur and Churachandpur districts of the state. Over the next few days, the violence quickly escalated to other districts of the state over the following days, leading to the loss of lives, and the destruction of homes, churches and temples.