The Supreme Court has given two months' time to former deputy national security adviser Dattatray Padsalgikar and a committee of three retired women high court judges to return with their reports on investigation and the efficacy of rescue, relief and rehabilitation measures in violence-hit Manipur.
The order sheet of August 7 proceedings released late on Thursday stated that the top court bench led by Chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud will take up the reports on October 13 for further directions.
The directions were intended to “restore a sense of faith in the rule of law and build a sense of confidence”, it said.
While allowing the transfer of 11 cases of sexual violence to the CBI, the top court said it would depute five DSP/SP-rank officers from other states to ensure there is a sense of ‘faith’ and ‘objectivity’. These officers will function within the administrative setup of the CBI, it added.
Regarding cases not transferred to the CBI, the top court said 42 special investigation teams (SITs) would look into these. The SITs would be supervised by six DIG-rank officers from other states to ensure the investigations were carried out properly.
Expressing anguish with regards to the manner in which women were subjected to grave acts of sexual violence in the course of sectarian strife, the bench in the 36-page order has tasked the three-member committee comprising former women HC judges Gita Mittal, Shalini P Joshi and Asha Menon to enquire into the nature of violence against women that occurred in the state from all available sources.
Additionally, the committee has been tasked to submit a report on the steps which are required to meet the needs of the survivors including measures for dealing with rape trauma, and providing social, economic and psychological support.
The court has asked the former DGP and three-member committee to submit a report in two months. With a view to ensuring fair probe by the 42 state SITs, the court also asked the MHA to make available one police officer from Rajasthan, MP, Odisha, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and GNCTD and also depute 14 SP officers to be in charge of the SITs.
The retired IPS officer, the court order clarified, will also monitor and supervise the 42 special investigation teams (SITs) constituted by the Manipur government for probing more than 6,500 other First Information Reports (FIRs) registered in connection with the violence in the north-eastern state.
“Padsalgikar is also requested to investigate the allegations that certain police officers colluded with perpetrators of violence (including sexual violence) during the conflict in Manipur,” it added.
The all-women committee of three former high court judges have been tasked with enquiring into the nature of violence against women and ensuring physical and psychological well-being of those housed at relief camps, besides the payment of damages to victims.
In its 36-page order, the apex court criticised the N Biren Singh government for its alleged “tardy pace of investigation by the investigating machinery,” referring to the reported delays in lodging of FIRs and no arrest, among other reasons.
The top court also said that it is crucial for the police to identify and arrest the accused person expeditiously because they may be required for the completion of investigation.
“Further, the accused may attempt to tamper with or destroy the evidence, intimidate witnesses, and flee from the place of the crime,” the bench said, adding significant delay in the identification and arrest of the accused for no reason at all cannot be countenanced by it.
The top court said there are serious allegations, including witness statements, indicating that the law-enforcing machinery has been inept in controlling the violence and, in certain situations, colluded with the perpetrators. “Absent a proper investigation, this court will not enter a finding of fact on these allegations. But, at the very least, such allegations require an objective fact-finding to be conducted.
“Those who are responsible for a breach of public duty must equally be brought to account, regardless of their rank, position, or post,” it said.
The apex court said every officer or employee of the state who is guilty not only of dereliction of constitutional and official duties but of colluding with perpetrators to become offenders themselves, must be held accountable without fail. “This is the promise of justice that the Constitution demands from this court and from all branches of the state,” it said.