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Manipur clashes: Report on status of recovery of arms has been filed, state govt tells SC

The Manipur government Friday informed the Supreme Court that it had filed a report, as sought by the court, on the status of recovery of arms from “all sources” in the state which has been witnessing ethnic clashes.

Tushar Mehta, acting on behalf of the state of Manipur, conveyed this information to a three-judge tribunal presided over by the Chief Justice of India, D. Y. Chandrachud, which stated that it would review the report.

In its August 7 order appointing former Mumbai police commissioner Dattatray Padsalgikar to “overall monitor” the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) investigation into instances of sexual violence in Manipur, the Supreme Court had also directed the state to “take stock of the number of arms missing or looted from the armories of the state and of these, the number of arms which have been recovered.” Develop and execute a plan to recover any missing limbs.”

Hearing the case on September 6, the court clarified that it meant armaments from all sources, not just state armories, and ordered that a status report be placed solely for the bench’s perusal.

The bench, comprised of Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, announced on Friday that it will review the report after taking notice of Mehta’s submission.

The Supreme Court bench stated that it would grant Padsalgikar additional time before requesting a status report.

“We will give the commander a brief period of time to assume command and assess the situation before requesting an update. Now we are very early…,” the CJI said as senior advocate Indira Jaising appearing for some of the petitioners, submitted that the “CBI has not filed any update on the investigations”.

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In response to Jaising, Mehta stated that the “CBI is not required to provide updates” and that the court-appointed officer is supervising the investigation. He added, “Your Lordships did not choose to conduct daily monitoring on purpose.”

The CJI responded, “The officer himself traveled to Manipur. He has operated extensively in the northeast and is a seasoned officer with the Maharashtra police. Thus, he is conscious of the sensitivity…There is no problem, he will oversee it”.

Mehta stated that the officer already appointed by the court should be permitted to continue overseeing the investigation, adding that “when we file a report, instead of Your Lordship monitoring, everyone else begins monitoring the CBI investigation.”

The state’s Attorney General R Venkataramani advised caution in light of the precarious situation.

The attorney general stated, “We must tread very carefully in many of these matters, as a small spark can quickly ignite a fire; therefore, I believe we should all work together to tread very carefully.”

Advocate Vrinda Grover, representing some petitioners, stated that the state has not yet returned the bodies of the two women violated and murdered in Manipur in May to their families.

Mehta stated that the “committee has taken note, issued directives, and these are currently being carried out.”

On August 7, the Supreme Court also appointed a three-member committee of former High Court judges headed by retired J&K High Court Chief Justice Gita Mittal to look into the humanitarian aspects of the crisis.

Friday, the bench instructed parties wishing to intervene in the matter first to contact the committee. “Appear before the committee…you may present it to the committee.” If not, we will duplicate the committee’s efforts. Go first to the committee…we have a prestigious committee led by a former chief justice. Therefore, you should travel there first. Afterward, something remains; return to us. But first consult with the committee,” the bench instructed.

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