25 September 2023

New Delhi, India – In its continued vigilance regarding in Dinganglung Gangmei v. Mutum Churamani Meetei And OrsDiary No. 19206-2023, the repercussions of the recent turmoil in Manipur, a panel consisting of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misrahas issued supplementary guidelines. The actions of the Supreme Court are a result of its ongoing scrutiny of the issues stemming from the Manipur violence. However, the bench emphasized that its intent is not to supersede the administration of Manipur but rather to encourage collaboration with the government to resolve these concerns.

Reports from the Committee Highlight Persisting Challenges

Representing the judicial committee appointed by the Supreme Court, Senior Advocate Vibha Datta Makhija apprised the court that the committee had submitted a dozen reports on the matter. She underlined that while both the Manipur state government and the Union government had taken steps to address the situation, certain crucial measures remained pending, leading her to request further instructions from the court.

Key Directives Issued by the Supreme Court

1. Restoration of Aadhaar Cards and Bank Information: A primary concern raised was the loss of Aadhaar cards by numerous individuals during the disturbances and subsequent displacement. The Court directed that displaced individuals, whose records are verifiable with the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), should be issued Aadhaar cards following comprehensive authentication. Simultaneously, instructions were given to provide these individuals with their bank account details. Additionally, the Health Secretary of Manipur was instructed to provide duplicate disability certificates to those affected during the displacement period. The court underscored the necessity of conducting biometric verification to prevent illicit claims to citizenship.

2. Shortage of Secretaries at District Legal Service Authorities: Makhija pointed out the dearth of secretaries at the District Legal Service Authorities (DSLA), citing seven unfilled vacancies. The Court stressed the importance of appointing supplementary paralegals if required, to ensure efficient delivery of legal services at the district level.

3. Centralized Nodal Counsel: The Court instructed the Manipur government to allocate sufficient funds for compensating victims of the unrest. Although there were reservations expressed regarding the Court’s involvement in administrative matters, the bench emphasized the need for a centralized nodal counsel to assist displaced individuals. The Union government was directed to nominate a nodal officer based in Delhi, tasked with facilitating petitions and complaints, routing grievances to the relevant authorities.

4. Committee to Address Emerging Issues: The Solicitor General proposed that concerns could be presented to the Chief Secretary of Manipur or the Judges’ committee rather than burdening the Supreme Court. The Court acknowledged this perspective and stressed that the committee should be kept apprised of ongoing issues. If the committee identifies issues requiring the Court’s attention, they are encouraged to return with their findings.

5. Protection for Religious Structures: Concerns were voiced regarding the destruction of churches and other religious buildings in Manipur. The Court directed the Manipur State government to identify vandalized and burnt religious structures and oversee their reconstruction. Both the State of Manipur and the Union of India were given one week to respond to directives mentioned in the ninth report. Additionally, the Court expressed its intent to review a confidential report filed by the Manipur Government regarding the recovery of weapons stolen from the State armory.

A Collaborative Approach

The Supreme Court’s latest directives in response to the Manipur unrest underscore its dedication to ensuring the well-being of affected individuals while avoiding unwarranted intrusion into administrative matters. By advocating cooperation with government authorities and emphasizing the role of committees and nodal officers, the Court seeks to facilitate the resolution of ongoing issues in Manipur without assuming direct administrative control.

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