The Supreme Court of India has appointed former Maharashtra Director General of Police (DGP) Dattatray Padsalgikar to supervise the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) probe into the ongoing violence in Manipur, a small state in north-east India. In an order made public on Thursday, the Supreme Court condemned delays in the CBI’s investigation and ordered Padsalgikar to investigate allegations that Manipur police “colluded with the perpetrators” of sexual violence. The court previously took up the case on July 17 after a video surfaced online depicting the sexual assault of two Kuki-Zo tribal women in Manipur.
The court directed Padsalgikar to supervise the CBI’s investigation into local incident reports from Manipur as well as the broader machinery of the state of Manipur—including law enforcement. Specifically, the court ordered Padsalgikar to ensure that the local incident reports, known in India as first information reports (FIRs), are tailored to the unique circumstances of the incidents and invoke appropriate criminal provisions.
In the judgment, the SCI bench of Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud, Justice J B Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra observed:
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. 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.
In addition to appointing Padsalgikar, the court also formed a judicial committee made up of three women to examine ongoing probes—by both the CBI and Manipur police—into incidents of violence. The committee members will also oversee rehabilitation and relief measures in the state. The court emphasized that the committee must first ensure that the violence ceases and that the perpetrators are punished. Second, the committee is ordered to restore the rule of law and public confidence in Manipur’s law enforcement processes.
The court asked Padsalgikar and the judicial committee to submit reports on their progress within the next two months.
The rule of law began has steadily fractured in Manipur since the outbreak of ethnic violence over a March order from the Manipur High Court in the case of Mutum Churamani Meetei v. The State of Manipur. The order, authored by Justice M V Muralidharan, directed the inclusion of the Hindu majority Meitei community in the list of Scheduled Tribes, which comes with access to educational, employment and other economic benefits. The predominantly Christian Kuki and Naga communities, who already enjoy the status of Scheduled Tribes, launched protests vehemently criticizing the High Court order. Consequently, violence broke out to such a heightened degree that the government ordered the Chief Minister of Manipur, N. Biren Singh, to immediately take measures to restore peace. Even after that, a video depicting the sexual assault of two Kuki-Zo tribal women in Manipur surfaced on July 17, prompting the court to take the actions it did this past week.