SC transfers CBI cases related to Manipur violence to Assam, asks Gauhati HC CJI to choose trial judges

The Supreme Court on Friday said the trial in the Manipur violence cases being probed by the CBI will take place in neighbouring Assam and asked the Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court to nominate one or more judicial officers to deal with the matters.

In a radical move, that shifts the judicial scrutiny to a neighbouring state, a bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud, passed a slew of directions, including that judicial procedures related to production of accused, remand, judicial custody and its extension will be conducted online at a designated court in Gauhati. Judicial custody of the accused, if and when granted, will be done in Manipur to obviate transit, it said.

The bench also further permitted persons, including victims, witnesses and others related to CBI cases, to appear physically before the designated Gauhati court if they don’t want to appear online.

The SC also directed the Manipur government to provide proper internet services to facilitate hearing in CBI cases through online mode at the Gauhati court. Manipur has been under a consistent internet ban that has hampered rights and access to information and also services since May ¾ 2023.

At the last hearing, on August 21, the top court had appointed the Justice Gita Mittal committee to oversee relief and rehabilitation of the victims of ethnic violence in Manipur. As many as 10 cases, including the one related to sexual assault of two women whose video had gone viral on social media, were transferred to the CBI.

Observing that several Manipur residents may have lost their identity documents in the ethnic strife, the Supreme Court-appointed panel has urged the top court to pass a slew of directions to the state government and others, including the UIDAI, to ensure Aadhaar cards are made available to those displaced and the victims’ compensation scheme is broadened.

This  panel had submitted three reports highlighting the need for reconstruction of identity documents, upgradation of compensation and appointment of domain experts to facilitate its functioning. Over 160 people have been killed and several hundred injured since ethnic violence first broke out in the state on May 3 when a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ was organised in the hill districts to protest against the majority Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe status.

The Supreme Court on Friday, August 25 asked the Chief Justice of Gauhati High Court to nominate one or more judicial officers in Gauhati to deal with the production and remand of the accused in the Manipur violence-related cases which have been transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

A three-judge bench presided by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud ordered this following a request made by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

Mehta told the bench also comprising Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra that 27 cases have been transferred to the CBI. He added that some of these cases may be triable by a magistrate and some by a sessions judge.

“Instead of troubling the judges in Manipur where there might be some issues of the judge belonging to a tribe etc., the suggestion is that one sessions judge may be designated by the Chief Justice of Gauhati as Assam is a border state and there is connectivity facility. If this request is accepted, the issues of production, custody of accused etc. would arise. The concern of CBI is that in most parts of Manipur, the situation now is normal, but there may be security issues if we have to transfer physically for the purpose of production etc. So that may be permitted through virtual mode. And any accused is to be kept in judicial custody, that can be kept in Manipur though the judge is in Assam,” Mehta submitted.

He added that these were the “broad requests that would ensure that justice is not only done but also seen to be done”. Allowing the request, the bench issued certain directions saying it was doing so “at the present stage, bearing in mind the overall environment and the need for ensuring a fair process of criminal justice administration”.

The Supreme Court allowed the designated courts to take up via online mode, all applications for the production of the accused, remand, judicial custody, extension of custody and other proceedings in connection with the investigation, bearing in mind both distance and security issues.

The SC bench said that the judicial custody of the accused, if and when granted, shall be permitted in Manipur to obviate transit. It also permitted the statements of witnesses under Section 164 Code of Criminal Procedure can be recorded in the presence of a local magistrate in Manipur and asked the acting Chief Justice of the Manipur High Court to designate one or more magistrates as the need may arise, for this.

“Applications seeking arrest warrant etc. are permitted to be made by the investigating officers through the online mode,” the Supreme Court said, adding, “Chief Justice of Gauhati HC is requested to preferably select judges who are conversant in one or more languages of Manipur”.

On concerns that internet services have not been fully restored in the state, the court recorded in its order that the “SG has assured the court that the government of Manipur shall take all necessary steps to ensure that proper internet connectivity is made available…to facilitate compliance of the direction”.

However, senior Advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for a petitioner, urged the court to allow those who wanted to physically approach the court to do so. SG Mehta said the concern is that the CBI may get hundreds of applications from people saying they want to go and ask the agency to provide security.

The CJI said the court cannot compel anyone to appear by online mode and said in its order that “the above directions shall not preclude any witness or person who desires to appear in person to do so before the judge in Gauhati”.


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