Pulling up the Manipur Police for inordinate delay in lodging an FIR in connection with a viral video of two women being paraded naked, the Supreme Court on Monday termed it a “horrendous” crime of “unprecedented magnitude” and hinted at setting up an SIT to probe the case.
A horrendous crime of unprecedented magnitude... women were handed over to mob by police. Why did police take 14 days to file FIR?... We do not want the police to handle it. SC Bench
“The incident happened on May 4 and the zero FIR was registered only on May 18. Why did the police take 14 days to register the FIR? What were the police doing from May 4 till May 18?... What stood in the way of police registering the FIR immediately?” a Bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who represented the Manipur Government
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“This is horrendous. There are media reports that these women were handed over to the mob by the police. We also do not want the police to handle it,” asked the Bench, which had on July 20 taken suo motu cognisance of the issue. The case has already been transferred to the CBI with the consent of the state government.
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The Bench, which also included Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra, pointed out that actual action started only after the video went viral on July 19. The Bench asked the Manipur Government to submit details with regard to the number of FIRs registered, investigation carried out as also relief and rehabilitation. It sought details as to the categories of offences —gang rape, murder, bodily injuries, loot and arson etc —and posted the matter for further hearing at 2 pm on Tuesday.
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“I am surprised the state of Manipur even today is not in possession of facts…. If these facts are partially true, we are not saying at this stage that there is complicity because that is a matter for investigation…. there are statements by the victims that these people were virtually handed over by the police to the mob,” the CJI said. The top court hinted at setting up a committee of retired judges, including women judges, to record statements of victims of sexual violence.
Mehta told the Bench that there were around 6,000 FIRs in Manipur and the Government of India didn’t have any objection to the Supreme Court monitoring the probe.
Mehta’s statement came after senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing the two women shown in the viral video who have moved the top court, told the Bench that the probe should be conducted by an independent agency. “We need an agency in which the victims have confidence,” Sibal said, accusing the state police of collaborating with the culprits. After hearing senior counsel Sibal, Indira Jaising, Colin Gonsalves, advocate Vrinda Grover and others for the petitioners and Attorney General R Venkataramani and the Solicitor General for the Centre/Manipur Government, the Bench deferred the hearing to Tuesday. Several petitioners demanded an SIT probe into cases of sexual violence against women in Manipur, saying they didn’t have faith in the state police and the CBI.
Maintaining that it was open to suggestions, the Bench asked the parties to submit names of police officers who could be on the SIT.
Noting that violence in the state might not be from one side, the Bench assured the parties that the top court will be “even-handed” in dealing with the culprits. “I have also seen the video myself. But we can’t confine ourselves to it. That was a trigger point… That’s all,” the CJI said.
Maintaining that it was concerned about bringing the lives of victims back on track, the Bench clarified that the issue of transfer of probe would be considered later. Noting that a large number of women were attacked and the viral video was not an isolated incident, the Bench said, “We need to put in place a mechanism to deal with it… it must be broad enough… it must ensure all the cases where complaints and FIRs have been lodged were probe