After a disturbing video went viral depicting the sexual assault of two Kuki-Zo tribal women in Manipur, a small state in north-east India, the Supreme Court of India took suo moto cognizance of the event Thursday. Suo moto cognizance is the right of the Supreme Court and the High Court of India to accept cases on their own, without them moving through the traditional legal processes, and is granted by the Indian Constitution.
Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said that the Court was deeply disturbed by the video and would act if the government does not. The court has sought information from the Central government and the Manipur State government regarding the actions taken to prosecute the offenders. Chandrachud’s order states:
The Court is deeply disturbed by the visuals which have appeared in the media since yesterday depicting the perpetration of sexual assault and violence on women in Manipur. What is portrayed in the media would indicate gross constitutional violations and infractions of human rights. Using women as instruments for perpetrating violence is simply unacceptable in a constitutional democracy…This Court must be apprised of the steps which have been and shall be taken by the government to (i) hold the perpetrators accountable; and (ii) ensure that such incidents are not repeated.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation after months of silence saying that actions of the mob were “unforgivable.” Chief Minister of Manipur N. Biren Singh stated:
My hearts go out to the two women who were subjected to a deeply disrespectful and inhumane act, as shown in the distressing video that surfaced yesterday…A thorough investigation is currently underway and we will ensure strict action is taken against all the perpetrators, including considering the possibility of capital punishment.
The 10-year-old quest for the Meitei group to receive a Scheduled Tribe (ST) status is what started this ethnic violence. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government’s decision to grant the Meitei group a protected status as a Scheduled Tribe sparked violent protests on May 3.