On Thursday, Chief Justice of India, D.Y. Chandrachud, took a significant step by summoning the government’s highest legal authorities, namely the Attorney-General and Solicitor-General. The purpose of this summons was to express the court’s profound distress over a distressing video depicting the heinous acts of two women being paraded naked and sexually assaulted in Manipur.
Chief Justice Chandrachud issued a clear ultimatum to the Central government and the BJP Ruled Manipur government. They were given the option to either promptly bring the perpetrators to justice or allow the judiciary to intervene and take appropriate action. This move underscores the seriousness of the matter. It reflects the judiciary’s determination to address such grave violations with urgency and accountability.
“Using women as instruments of perpetrating violence in a charged atmosphere is simply unacceptable in a constitutional democracy,” the court emphasized in its order.
The recent move by the highest court indicates a significant escalation from its previous stance, which limited judicial intervention in the Manipur situation to addressing only “humanitarian issues.” Presenting itself as a platform dedicated to fostering peace restoration in the State, the court had previously relied on the Center and the State to ensure the safety and security of the people caught in the midst of violence.
The Chief Justice delivered his remarks right after the court convened for the day. In the courtroom’s front row, Attorney General R. Venkataramani and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta were already seated, awaiting the proceedings.
“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,” the three-judge Bench headed by the CJI said, addressing the two law officers.
Upon independently recognizing the video, the court observed that the images suggest “severe breaches of the constitution and violations of human rights.”
Chief Justice Chandrachud emphasized that the video’s time frame, which was not recent but related to an incident from May during the initial outbreak of violence, was irrelevant. He stated that what truly matters is that such actions are completely unacceptable, constituting severe violations of both constitutional principles and human rights. Expressing deep concern, the Chief Justice conveyed a warning to the government, indicating that they would grant a brief period for the government to take appropriate action. Should the government fail to do so, the court would intervene accordingly.
Mr Venkataramani assured the court that he would promptly convey its concerns to the government.
Representing the Manipur government in various cases linked to the violence, Mr Mehta, who had previously asserted that the situation was improving, acknowledged that they share the court’s concerns.
Notwithstanding these verbal assurances, the Bench made it explicitly clear to both the Centre and State governments that immediate action was expected. The court instructed the Central and Manipur governments to promptly implement remedial, rehabilitative, and preventive measures and inform the court of the actions taken before the next scheduled hearing. The court required the Union Home Secretary and the Chief Secretary for the State of Manipur to file the necessary affidavits.
Furthermore, the court directed the Central and State governments to furnish comprehensive details regarding the actions taken to hold the culprits accountable for the incident and to ensure that such incidents do not recur amid the strife in Manipur.
The case is slated for its next hearing on July 28.