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SC orders probe monitor to investigate Manipur Police on charges of collusion

SC orders probe monitor to investigate Manipur Police on charges of collusion

New Delhi: Former Maharashtra DGP Dattatray Padsalgikar has been appointed by the Supreme Court to oversee the CBI and state police investigation in Manipur. He was also asked by the apex court to “investigate the allegations that certain police officers colluded with perpetrators of violence (including sexual violence) during the conflict”.

The court named a three-member committee of former High Court judges to look into the humanitarian elements and announced its decision to name Padsalgikar as the "overall (probe) monitor" on August 7. However, the detailed order was only made public on Thursday, Indian Express reported.

“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. Every officer of the state or other employee of the state who is guilty not only of the dereliction of their 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,” said the Bench of Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra.

The SC gave Padsalgikar and the former judges’ committee two months time to submit a progress report. It said it would then “issue further directions at that stage… for the shifting of the trials outside the State of Manipur, as may be required”.

Expressing anguish over the “manner in which women have been subjected to grave acts of sexual violence in the course of the sectarian strife”, the court said: “Subjecting women to sexual crimes and violence is completely unacceptable and constitutes a grave violation of the constitutional values of dignity, personal liberty and autonomy, all of which are protected as core fundamental rights under Part III of the Constitution”.

“Mobs commonly resort to violence against women for multiple reasons, including the fact that they may escape punishment for their crimes if they are a member of a larger group. In time of sectarian violence, mobs use sexual violence to send a message of subordination to the community that the victims or survivors hail from. Such visceral violence against women during conflict is nothing but an atrocity. It is the bounden duty of the state — its foremost duty, even — to prevent people from committing such reprehensible violence and to protect those whom the violence targets,” the court said.

Stating that “its intervention will be a step towards the guarantee of non-repetition that victims of such crimes are entitled to”, the Bench said the “victims of violence must receive remedial measures irrespective of their community” and “likewise, the perpetrators of violence must be held accountable, irrespective of the source of violence”.

“There is a need to ensure that the violence (in Manipur) ceases, the perpetrators of violence are punished according to the procedure established by law, and that consequently, the faith and confidence of the community in the justice system is restored,” it said.

With reference to the cases transferred to CBI, the court asked the Union Home Ministry “to place at the disposal of the CBI five officers drawn from the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha and NCT of Delhi, at least of the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police. At least one of these five officers shall be a woman”. It said these officers would “submit periodical information and reports as may be required” by Padsalgikar”.

In addition, the court ordered the Home Ministry to assign 14 officers with at least the rank of superintendent of police to oversee the Manipur Police SITs looking into other FIRs.

These SITs, the court said, “will visit each relief camp within the area assigned to it and make it known that it is an impartial body which is accepting complaints of violence (including sexual violence)”. It added that the “SITs constituted by the state… shall not consist exclusively of members belonging to either one of the communities involved in the clashes”.

The panel of former judges will “enquire into the nature of violence against women… from 4 May 2023, from all available sources including personal meetings with survivors, members of the families of survivors, local/ community representatives, authorities in charge of relief camps and the FIRs lodged as well as media reports,” the court said.

It will also look into “steps required to meet the needs of the survivors, including measures for dealing with rape trauma, providing social, economic and psychological support, relief and rehabilitation in a time-bound manner, ensure that free and comprehensive medical aid and psychological care to victims of survivors is provided, and ensure conditions of dignity in relief camps set up for displaced persons”. The committee will also “enquire into and take steps necessary for the disbursement of compensation”.

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