The SC on Wednesday gave its nod to extend the tenure of the incumbent Delhi chief secretary by six months.
The Supreme Court on Friday transferred to Gauhati, Assam, the trial of the cases of violence against women and children – involving the murder and/or rape/gangrape, outraging of modesty and parading them naked in the streets – during over three-month long violence in Manipur, that are being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Transferring the trial outside Manipur to Gauhati, a bench of Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice J.B. Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra said, “There have been victims in valleys and in hills. It would be difficult for people who suffered in valleys to travel to hills, and the other way round. We are not on, who suffered more.”
Pointing to the “practical difficulties” in holding trial of these cases in Manipur at present situation, the Chief Justice Chandrachud said this as senior advocate Colin Gonsalves appearing for NGO Manipur Tribal Forum – a Kuki outfit and other tribal victims – urged the bench that trial in these cases be held in Manipur itself.
The Chief Justice Chandrachud said that the trial of 11 cases being probed by the CBI is being transferred to Gauhati “keeping in mind the overall environment in Manipur and a need to ensure a fair process of criminal justice administration.”
However, the bench clarified that the actual trial will take some time to start and at that stage the court will review if it was possible to hold trials in Manipur.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising objected to transferring the trial to Gauhati – an obvious pointer that it was a BJP ruled State – and said that trial could be transferred to Mizoram. Chief Justice Chandrachud said that for travelling to Shillong, one will have to go through Gauhati and it is too small a State where trials of so many cases can take place. CJI cited his own acquaintance with the region to buttress the point.
Stating that he understood what was being pointed to by the senior advocate, CJI Chandrachud said that he was asking the Chief Justice of Gauhati High Court to pass direction designating first class judicial magistrate and sessions judge to deal with the cases.
In a slew of directions passed today, the bench asked the Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court to nominate one or more judicial officers above the rank of Judicial Magistrate First Class and sessions judge to deal with such trial cases.
“All applications for the production of the accused, remand, judicial custody, extension of custody, and other proceedings are allowed to be conducted on online mode, bearing in mind both distance and security issues at the courts that will be designated to conduct the trial,” said the order on the conclusion of the hearing.
It said that judicial custody shall be permitted in Manipur.
“The statement of witnesses under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) is permitted to be recorded in the presence of a local magistrate in Manipur. The Acting Chief Justice of the Manipur High Court shall designate one or more Magistrates for this,” the top court directed.
It further ordered that test identification parades can be conducted through video conferencing in the presence of a Manipur-based Magistrate.
Applications for search and arrest warrants will be issued by the investigating officer through the online mode, it added.
Further, the Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court shall nominate judges who are conversant with one or more languages spoken in Manipur to deal with the criminal trial.
It also took into note an assurance given by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that proper internet facilities shall be provided in Manipur to allow such video conferences.
“The above directions shall not preclude those who wish to appear physically in Gauhati,” the bench added.
The top court is seized of several cases relating to the violence in Manipur between Meitei and Kuki communities.
The violence in Manipur between the Meiteis and the tribal Kuki, erupted after a rally by the All-Tribal Students Union of Manipur (ATSUM) on May 3.
Violence has gripped the entire State for over three month now and the Central government had to deploy paramilitary forces to bring the situation under control.