Manipur video: SC calls it grossest of Constitutional, human rights violation; asks Centre, state to act

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday said it was “very deeply disturbed” by the video of two women being paraded naked in Manipur, terming it “simply unacceptable in a constitutional democracy”.

Taking cognisance of the video, a bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud asked the Centre and Manipur government to take immediate action. It observed that using women as an instrument to perpetrate violence in a charged atmosphere is simply unacceptable and that the visuals indicated gross constitutional violation and infraction of human rights.

“We are very deeply disturbed by the videos which have emerged yesterday about the way those two women were paraded in Manipur,” said the bench, also comprising Justices P S Narasimha and Manoj Misra.

“I think it is time that the government really steps in and takes action because this is simply unacceptable,” the CJI said, adding, “We will give a little time to the government to act, otherwise we will take action if nothing is happening on the ground.” Justice Chandrachud said using women as an instrument to perpetrate violence in an area of communal strife is “deeply disturbing” and this is “simply unacceptable”.

“It is grossest of Constitutional and human rights violation,” he said, adding that the court is conscious of the fact that the video, which appeared on Wednesday, was of May 4 but that makes no difference.

As soon as the bench assembled to hear mentioning of matters, the CJI said the apex court had requested Attorney General R Venkataramani and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to come to the court.

“What action has been taken since May to bring the perpetrators to book and second, what action is the government taking to ensure that this is not repeated because who knows, it may have been isolated, it may not be isolated, it may be a pattern,” the CJI told both the law officers.

He said in history and across the world, use of women as an instrument to perpetrate violence in these situations happens but in a “constitutional democracy, this is unacceptable.” Sharing the deep concern expressed by the CJI, Mehta said such incidents are simply “unacceptable”.

Mehta said the government is also seriously concerned by the incident and he will apprise the court about the steps taken in this regard.

In its order, the bench said the court is “deeply disturbed” by the visuals which have appeared in the media about the perpetration of sexual assault and violence on women in Manipur.

“We are of the view that the court must be apprised of the steps which have been taken by the government to hold the perpetrators accountable and also to ensure that such incidents are not repeated in the strife in Manipur,” it said.

“The visuals which have appeared in the media would indicate gross constitutional violation and infraction of human rights,” the bench said, adding, “We direct both the Union government and the state government to take immediate steps and to apprise the court of what action has been taken.” The bench has posted the matter for hearing on July 28.

Tension mounted in the hills of Manipur after a May 4 video surfaced on Wednesday showing two women from one of the warring communities being paraded naked by a few men from the other side.

The video was doing the rounds on the eve of a planned protest march announced by the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF) on Thursday to highlight their plight.

At least 150 people have been killed and several hundred injured since ethnic violence broke out in the state on May 3, when a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ was organised in the hill districts to protest against the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.

The top court, while hearing a batch of petitions on the violence in Manipur, had earlier said it was not a platform to be used for escalating tensions in the state and asked the warring ethnic groups to exercise restraint during court proceedings.