Supreme Court ‘deeply disturbed’ by Manipur sexual assault video

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Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud summoned the government’s top law officers — the Attorney General and Solicitor General — on Thursday to convey that the court was “deeply disturbed” by a video showing two women being paraded naked and sexually assaulted in strife-ridden Manipur. The Chief Justice, speaking for the court, gave the Centre and Manipur government an ultimatum to either bring the perpetrators to book or step aside for the judiciary to take action.0

“Using women as instruments of perpetrating violence in a charged atmosphere is simply unacceptable in a constitutional democracy,” the court emphasised in its order.

Upping the ante
The top court’s initiative signals that it is upping the ante from its past consistent stand that judicial intervention in the Manipur situation should only extend to “humanitarian issues”. Portraying itself as a platform to facilitate the restoration of peace in the State, the court had placed its trust in the Centre and the State to provide security for the people trapped in the violence.

The Chief Justice’s remarks came immediately after the court assembled for the day’s work. Both Attorney General R. Venkataramani and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta were already waiting in the front row of the courtroom.

‘Gross violations’
“The court is deeply disturbed by the visuals which have appeared in the media since yesterday depicting the perpetration of sexual assault and violence on women in Manipur,” the three-judge Bench headed by the CJI said, addressing the two law officers.

Taking suo motu cognisance of the video, the court said that the visuals indicate “gross constitutional violations and infractions of human rights”.

Chief Justice Chandrachud said that it did not matter that the video was not a recent one, but rather recorded an incident that occurred in May, when the violence initially broke out. “What matters is that this is just simply unacceptable… This is the grossest of constitutional and human rights… We are expressing our deep concern… We will give the government a little time to take action or we will take action,” Chief Justice warned.

Mr. Venkataramani assured the court that he would convey its concern to the government.

Mr. Mehta — who has been appearing for the Manipur government in a series of separate cases related to the violence, and who has repeatedly given assurances that the situation is calming down — said, “We share the concern of the court.”

Despite these oral assurances, the Bench made it clear to the Centre and State governments that it wanted to see immediate action. “We direct both the Centre and the Manipur government to take immediate steps — remedial, rehabilitative and preventive — and to apprise the court of the action which has been taken before the next date of listing… The affidavits shall be filed by the Union Home Secretary and the Chief Secretary for the State of Manipur,” the court ordered.

It also directed the Central and State governments to provide details of the steps taken by them to hold the perpetrators of this incident accountable and to ensure that such incidents were not repeated in the strife in Manipur.

The court posted the case for its next hearing on July 28.

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