Manipur Violence: Supreme Court directs the trial of criminal cases under CBI probe in Assam

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On August 25, the Supreme Court of India stated that the trial of criminal cases related to the Manipur violence that are under the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) probe can be conducted in Assam. This decision was passed by a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court including Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice Manoj Misra, and Justice JB Pardiwala after considering the suggestion of Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta. Earlier during the court proceedings regarding the matter, SG appearing for the State of Manipur suggested transferring the trials to a designated court in the neighboring state of Assam stating, "We chose it for the connectivity and the maximum connectivity is in Assam.” The advocates appearing for the victims objected to the same, Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves, SA Indira Jaising, SA Uday Singh, Advocate Vrinda Grover, and Advocate Nizam Pasha. 

Along with this, the SC also asked the Chief Justice of Gauhati High Court to nominate “one or more officers above the rank of Judicial Magistrate First Class and sessions judge to deal with such trial cases.” The bench also directed the CJ of Gauhati HC to nominate those who are conversant with languages spoken in Manipur. While hearing the matter on August 25, the CJI said “There have been victims in the valleys of Manipur and there have been victims in the hills of Manipur. People belonging to community A have suffered, people belonging to community B have suffered…We are not who suffered more…We are concerned about fair trial…We are today at an anterior stage. There are some immediate things to be done like production of the accused, judicial remands, extension of remands, recording the statements of victims and witnesses, etc. These things have to be done immediately…” The CJI assuring the victims stated that “When the actual trial starts, we will review this order. At that stage, if we find that Manipur has returned to normalcy, we will bring the cases back to be tried in Manipur. We can do that under Article 142 of the Constitution…What we are doing now is only for the present moment.” 

In context with the issue of whether victims or witnesses have to fly to Assam to record their statements, the CJI said, “We are not asking the victims or survivors to travel to Assam to record their statements. All they have to do is testify from the nearest possible place. Besides, the statements can be recorded online…The Solicitor General has assured solid internet connectivity for the nominated Magistrates in Manipur.” While issuing directions to conduct pre-trial processes, ‘the overall environment in Manipur and the fairness of criminal justice process’ was considered by the bench. Earlier on August 7, the SC of India passed a judgment in the Dinganglung Gangmei vs. Mutum Churamani Meetei & Ors. stating that “This Court shall issue further directions at that stage for the shifting of the trials outside the State of Manipur, as may be required and for consequential directions.” Further, the then bench ordered to the list the proceedings on October 13, 2023.