The Supreme Court, yesterday, while dealing with a batch of Writ Petitions related to the Manipur Violence and after reviewing the findings of the Court-appointed committee led by Retired Justice Gita Mittal, issued a series of directions pertaining to the burial or cremation protocols for the deceased tribal individuals in the state's ethnic conflict.

During the hearing, the Court of Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice J.B. Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra witnessed a heated exchange of words between the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the State of Manipur and Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves who was representing the Manipur Tribal Forum, a civil organization.

The exchange of words was based on the latest report from the Court-appointed committee. The report accused local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) of impeding the cremation or burial of 88 bodies stored in mortuaries. Additionally, the report suggested that these NGOs were contributing to the preservation of tensions in the ethnic strife.

The CJI, after considering the submissions, remarked, "We can't keep these bodies in the mortuary indefinitely." Senior Advocate Gonsalves then submitted, "This information may be slightly outdated because the meeting between the tribal community and the home ministry took place the day before yesterday and finished yesterday evening. According to my instructions, there is now clarity on either side and unanimity as to the place where people can be buried. So we are eager to get the bodies."

However, Solicitor General (SG) Mehta objected, stating, "We means whom?... you represent whom?" SG Mehta further added, "How are you concerned... next of kin is concerned."

In response, Gonsalves said, "I am the next of kin, Mr. Solicitor." SG Mehta replied, "No, you are not." Gonsalves responded, "Don't talk like this, I represent all these 19 families. You want the Vakalatnama, I will give it to you in two days' time." SG Mehta replied, "I know whom you represent. Don't pressurise the next of kin." Intervening, CJI said, "That's why we want to pass an order today."

However, Gonsalves urged, "Please, don't pass any order today without us seeing the report. That will not be fair to us." Agreeing with the SG's contention, the Chief Justice stated "Frankly, it appears that the idea is to keep the pot boiling, because, for the last 10 minutes, we are only getting obstructions. There is only an effort to adjourn, obstruct... I just told you that we are asking them to disclose the nine burial sites."

Gonsalves further submitted, "There is a second issue, according to our Kuki customs; we will bury them all in a mass burial site. That is our demand. They died not as Mr. X or Mr. Y, they died as the tribe that was exterminated. We have identified all 19 bodies."

SG Mehta responded, "They are threatening milords, if next of kin wants to take a body, next of kin is threatened by these people".

Tushar Mehta then offered to hand over some documents to the Bench and said, "This is what Mr. Gonsalves has done on the ground. Please have a look at it. It is a banner showing...against Solicitor General's remarks in Supreme Court.....He is making these remarks so that they can be projected there."

Later, after the Court dictated its order, SG Mehta turned to Gonsalves and said, "Now that the order is over. I must say one thing. Mr. Gonsalves, never try this thing with me again. Page 16 of the report.. you will never succeed. I am decent because I am before the Court. Never try this with me."

CJI Chandrachud who was trying to stop of exchange, then said, "Oh, those placards. We also saw it. It also pained us. You are all doing your duties." Mehta then said, "Kindly have a look at the report at page 16". "I saw that," replied the CJI.

Gonsalves then said, "Let me see page 16. I would like to see it. I can't see anything. I can't see the report". Mehta then said, "You know. You have done this. This is what is going on and the Committee says this".

Telling Gonsalves what is on page 16 of the report, the CJI said, "There is a placard over there...". Tushar Mehta then interrupted to say, "There are placards. On different issues, including this. This is not done. The Committee says this".

During the hearing, Gonsalves asked for the report and the list of persons who have been offered compensation out of the victims, for him to take instructions. Tushar Mehta then said, "Nothing will be given to Mr. Gonsalves. Next of kin will be given.... You need not take any instructions unless you are one of the civil society organisations. It is against the civil society organisations".

Gonsalves then said, "Don't be aggressive with the victims Mr. Solicitor, have some shame. They have died and you are aggressive with the victims. Please stop it in this Court."

Mehta retorted, "My learned friend should understand that he is not in Jantar Mantar. He is in the highest Court of the country. I know his problem, that is the problem."

The matters have been adjourned to 15 December.

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