The Supreme Court, today, ordered the relocation of the trials related to rape and crimes against women during the Manipur violence, which are currently under investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation to be now conducted in the neighbouring state of Assam. Additionally, the Apex Court directed the Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court to nominate one or more judicial officers who will be tasked with overseeing these cases.

The Bench of Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice J.B. Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra while noting the details of the cases being transferred to the CBI at present, ordered: "At the present stage, bearing in mind the overall environment in Manipur and the need for ensuring a fair process of criminal justice administration, we issue the following directions: 1) We request the Chief Justice of the High Court of Gauhati to nominate one or more officers of the rank of Judicial Magistrate/District and Sessions Judge in Guwahati. All applications for the production of the accused, remand, judicial custody, extension of custody and other proceedings in connection with the investigation are to be conducted in the online mode bearing in mind both distance and security issues at the Courts which will be so designated. The Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court is requested to preferably select Judges who are conversant in one or more languages of the State of Manipur."

Continuing, the Court ordered, "2) The judicial custody of the accused if and when granted, shall be permitted in Manipur in order to obviate transit; 3) The statements of witnesses under Section 164 CrPC may be permitted to be recorded in the presence of a local Magistrate in Manipur only or as the case may the place where witnesses reside outside Manipur; 4) The acting chief justice of the High Court of Manipur shall designate one or more magistrates as the need may arise for the purpose of recording the statements under Section 164; 5) The test identification parades are permitted to take place in the presence of a Manipur based magistrate among the magistrates designated by the acting Chief Justice in pursuance of clause 3 of the above direction; 6) Applications such as seeking arrest and warrant are permitted to be made by the investigating officer through the online mode."

Further after being apprised by Advocate Nizam Pasha appearing for the Petitioners that the internet connectivity has still not been completely restored in the State of Manipur, the Court ordered "Further, the Solicitor General has assured the Court that the Government of Manipur shall take all necessary steps to ensure that proper internet connectivity is made available from the State of Manipur to facilitate compliance with the above directions."

In the same context, Senior Advocate Indira Jaising requested the Court to provide clarification that any victim who wishes to personally appear for their testimony should be permitted to do so. Taking this into account, the Chief Justice of India included the following statement in the order: "The above directions shall not operate to preclude any person or witness who desires to appear in person to do so before the Judge in Gauhati,", the Court ordered.

Appearing for the State of Manipur, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appealed to the Court to refrain from adding the line for in-person appearances in the order due to potential security concerns. The Solicitor General expressed, "Only difficulty is we will get 100's of applications that we want to go to personally provide us security, the only problem is that." "But we can't compel them to appear online", replied the CJI.

The Supreme Court further said that on the next date of the hearing, they will pass appropriate directions regarding the third report, of the women judges tasked with overseeing the relief, remedial, compensation and similar measures for the victims of the Manipur Violence, proposing a Committee for domain experts to facilitate its working.

The third report proposes a Committee for domain experts to facilitate its work. A panel of 12 experts has been suggested by the Committee. "The Committee has found that the directions issued by the Court on 07.08.2023 fall broadly under seven thematic subjects and has identified highly accomplished and experienced experts to assist the evaluation and consideration thereof", reads the Report.

The panel had submitted three reports highlighting the need for the reconstruction of identity documents, the upgradation of compensation and the appointment of domain experts to facilitate its functioning. More than 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.

Cause Title: Dinganglung Gangmei v. Mutum Churamani Meetei And Ors.& Connected Matters [Diary No. 19206-2023]