The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Manipur government to file an updated status report detailing the steps taken to ensure rehabilitation and improve the law and order situation in the ethnic violence-hit state.
A bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices P S Narasimha and Manoj Misra listed the batch of petitions on the issue for hearing on July 10.
Asking Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the state government, to file an updated status report, the bench said, “It should have details like rehabilitation camps, law and order and recovery of arms.”
In a brief hearing, the top law officer gave details of the deployment of security forces and the recent status of the law and order situation and said curfew in the state has now been reduced to five hours from 24 hours.
According to Mehta, civil police, Indian reserve battalions and 114 companies of CAPFs are also deployed in the state.
He said senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for Kuki groups, should not give the case “a communal angle” and added that “real human beings are being dealt with”.
Gonsalves argued that militants came on a news programme and said they will “annihilate the Kukis” but no action was taken against them. He alleged that the violence against Kukis was “sponsored by the state”.
The apex court is seized of a batch of pleas on the Manipur situation, including one by a ruling BJP MLA challenging the high court order on Scheduled Tribe status to the Meitei community, and a PIL by a tribal NGO for an SIT probe into the violence that has rocked the northeastern state.
One of the NGOs, Manipur Tribal Forum, has moved the top court seeking Army protection for the minority Kuki tribals in Manipur and prosecution of communal groups attacking them.
On June 20, a vacation bench headed by Justice Surya Kant declined urgent hearing on the plea, saying it’s a law and order issue the administration should tackle.
Gonsalves, appearing for the NGO, submitted that 70 tribals have been killed in ethnic violence in the state notwithstanding the solemn assurances that nobody will die.
The solicitor general had opposed the request for an urgent hearing, and said security agencies are on the ground and doing their best to stem the violence and restore normalcy.
He submitted that the main matter pertaining to the Manipur High Court’s order for grant of Scheduled Tribe status to the majority Meitei community, which set off a chain of violence in the northeastern state, has been posted for hearing on July 17 by the top court.
More than 120 people have lost their lives in clashes between the Meitei and Kuki communities. The clashes first broke out on May 3 after a Tribal Solidarity March was organised in the state’s hill districts to protest the Meitei community’s demand for ST status.
Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur’s population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley. Tribal Nagas and Kukis constitute another 40 per cent of the population and reside in the hill districts.
On March 27, the Manipur High Court order asked the state government to send a recommendation to the Centre within four weeks on the demand for ST status to the majority community.