In a significant development, the Supreme Court on Friday transferred to Assam 17 cases of violence in Manipur being probed by the CBI, including the sexual assault case of two women seen in a viral video being paraded naked. Pertinently, the court has also issued a series of directions to facilitate victims, so that they can give their statements from Manipur, through video conference.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud passed the order after factoring in an assurance by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that proper internet facilities shall be provided in Manipur to allow such videoconference.
Victims of the violence should not be made to travel to Assam for the trial
The Court, however, clarified that its order would not prevent those who wished to go to Guwahati in Assam, to appear there physically as part of such proceedings. The Court also factored in concerns raised by Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves and advocate Vrinda Grover that the victims of the violence should not be made to travel to Assam for the trial.
In response to Senior Advocate Indira Jaising's query over why Assam has been chosen for the conduct of the trial, Solicitor General Mehta responded by saying that internet connectivity is relatively better in Assam. "We chose it for the connectivity and the maximum connectivity is in Assam." The court said that the directions have been issued "bearing in mind the overall environment in Manipur and the need for ensuring a fair process".
The Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court has been asked to nominate one or more 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. Judicial custody shall be permitted in Manipur.
Test identification parades can also be conducted through video conferencing
Test identification parades can also be conducted through video conferencing in the presence of a Manipur-based magistrate. Again, applications for search and arrest warrants will be issued online by the investigating officer. 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.
The court was hearing a batch of pleas related to the violence in Manipur, including a plea by two women from the Kuki-Zomi community who were seen in a video being paraded naked and molested by a mob of men.