New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday (July 31) said that the sexual violence incident in Manipur cannot be justified by saying that “this and this happened elsewhere”.
“We are dealing with something of unprecedented magnitude of violence against women in communal and sectarian violence. It cannot be said that crimes are happening against women and in Bengal also. But here the case is different. We cannot justify what happened in Manipur by saying that this and this happened elsewhere,” said Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud.
The apex court made these remarks while hearing a plea filed by two women from the Kuki community who were paraded naked by a mob of men on May 4.
The incident occurred in B. Phainom village in Kangpokpi district, one day after the ongoing ethnic clashes between the Meiteis and Kukis began. However, the video went viral only on July 19, following which several politicians and groups expressed outrage at the brutality and impunity with which the women were assaulted.
According to Bar and Bench, the top court was responding to advocate Bansuri Swaraj’s remark who highlighted that in West Bengal and Chhattisgarh, mobs had paraded women naked. The advocate asked the top court to take up similar incidents from Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.
“There is no gain saying the fact that crimes against women are taking place in all parts. The only answer is this. You cannot excuse what is taking place in one part of the country, like Manipur, on the ground [by saying] that similar crimes are happening in other parts too. Question is how do we deal with Manipur. Mention that…Are you saying protect all daughters of India or don’t protect anyone?” the CJI asked, NDTV reported.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing the women, said: “The government doesn’t have the data now to tell you how many such cases have been registered. That shows the state of affairs.” He made these comments while requesting for a Supreme Court-monitored probe, the report added.
On July 20, the apex court took suo motu cognisance of the sexual violence video, asking the government to take action or else it will.
“We will give a little time for the government to take action otherwise we will step in,” the CJI said, after asking details of the action taken by the authorities to book the criminals since the incident took place on May 4.
The CJI also asked the government whether this incident was isolated or a pattern.
The chief justice also questioned what did police do for 14 days, considering that the “incident came to light on May 4”, India Today reported.
The top court also asked the Union government and the state government to give details about the first information reports (FIRs) filed in the matter.
“We need to know the bifurcation of 6,000 FIRs, how many zero FIRs, how many forwarded to jurisdictional magistrate, action taken, how many in judicial custody, how many involving sexual violence and position of the legal aid,” the CJI said.
A committee of women judges
Separately, the top court contemplated formation of a committee of retired woman judges to probe incidents of sexual violence against women in Manipur.
“Merely entrusting to CBI or SIT (Special Investigation Team) would not be enough. We will have to picture a situation where a 19-year-old woman who has lost her family is in a relief camp. We cannot have her going to the magistrate. We have to ensure that the process of justice goes to her doorstep. We will constitute a committee of women judges and members of civil society, who will in turn get the assistance of members of civil societies,” the court said.
The court made these remarks while hearing the Union government’s plea on transferring the case of the two women to a different state.
The Union government on July 27 informed the apex court that the Central Bureau of Investigation will be probing into that case, and requested that the trial be shifted outside Manipur.
However, Sibal, appearing for the petitioners, told the court that they do not want a CBI investigation into the incident. They also don’t want the case to be transferred outside the state.
“It is clear that the police are collaborating with those who perpetrated the violence. They took them to the crowd. What confidence do we have in the state which is there to protect citizens?” India Today reported him as saying.
“If there’s an element of bias, an independent agency is needed,” he further said.