NEW DELHI: Reprimanding lawyers representing warring Kuki and Meitei ethnic groups for trying to use the Supreme Court as a platform to further escalate violence in trouble-torn Manipur, a CJI DY Chandrachud-led bench on Monday said it can ameliorate humanitarian issues faced by violence-affected persons but cannot take over law and order and security apparatus in the state.
When senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for Kuki groups, said despite assurances from the state government since May 10 to bring the situation under control, violence has spread and led to rise in death toll from 10 to 110, solicitor general Tushar Mehta dissuaded Gonsalves from making partisan statements and informed the SC that such one-sided statements could affect the ground situation that is slowly returning to normalcy.
With Gonsalves continuing to allege that the entire “other side is against tribals” and that “banned militant groups, under state patronage, are unleashing violence against the tribals”, the bench of CJI Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha firmly set a non-adversarial humanitarian tone to the proceedings. The SG joined in, warning that “what Gonsalves alleges in SC today, will impact the ground situation in the state tomorrow”.
The CJI said, “Gonsalves, this is not the line we want to be taken. We cannot run the law and order situation on the ground. We would request lawyers from both sides to ensure that this should not be a platform for further escalation of violence and other problems which exist in the state. We are not running the law enforcement apparatus in the state. If we find there are deficiencies, we can issue directions. Let us not do it in a partisan manner. This is a humanitarian situation.”
The Manipur government, through advocate Pukhrambam Ramesh, presented a status report which showed that in the 5,053 incidents of arson and violence in the state since May 3, as many as 142 people were killed and 462 injured. Imphal East and Imphal West were worst affected districts with 29 deaths each, followed by Churachandpur (26), Kakching 21 and Bishnupur (18).
The state said as many as 54,488 people have taken shelter in 354 relief camps. The 120 relief camps in Churachandpur shelter 14,816 people; 60 in Kangpokpi shelter 12,740; 50 in Bishnupur house 7,053; 38 in Imphal East have 5,828 people and 33 in Imphal East shelter 5,111 people. The state said it has rice stock for 30 more days, petrol for 16 days, diesel for 28 days, kerosene for 59 days, LPG for 10 days and aviation fuel for 15 days and assured the court that all essential commodities are regularly being brought in.
Advocate Sapam Biswajit drew the court’s attention to freewheeling interviews being given by Gonsalves which was not ethical since he was appearing in the case before the SC. The court told Gonsalves that he should consider refraining from giving interviews on the issues which he is raising before the SC.
Gonsalves said he was skeptical of the state government’s statement that normalcy is returning when there is escalation of violence against Kukis on the ground. The CJI said, “Your skepticism cannot lead us to take over the law and order machinery, nor can we ask the high court to take it over. It is essentially the function of the Union government and the state. If you think the number of relief camps and facilities there needs to be increased, we can ask the authorities to consider it.”
The SG intervened and said, “Petitioners (represented by Gonsalves) and other parties must show utmost sensitivity as any misinformation or rumour or even suspicion may aggravate the situation in Manipur as things are slowly returning to normal with great efforts from the central as well as state governments. Even if one-sided arguments are being portrayed in SC, with the advent of live reporting, there is a possibility of the same affecting public order in Manipur.”
The bench asked the SG to look into the Manipur High Court Bar Association’s suggestion to remove the blockade on NH2 so that essential supplies reach the state though this highway, instead of the landslide-prone Jiribam highway.
Senior Advocate Ranjit Kumar, appearing for a Meitei group, said, “Please refer to the UN report on drugs and crime. Please go through it. It will be very helpful in understanding why the violence is happening.” The SG supplemented and said it will help in understanding what is happening and why it is happening.
The SC posted the matter for further hearing on Tuesday.

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