The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to direct army deployment in trouble-torn Manipur, saying the “greatest hallmark of democracy is civilian controls over the armed force... let’s not breach that”.
The bench of Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justices P.S. Narasimha and Manoj Misra, however, asked the Centre and the Manipur government to take all steps to maintain law and order.
It also asked them to take a “considered view” on the pleas for reconstruction of the religious places damaged during the unrest and for compensation to the victims of violence.
“The greatest hallmark of democracy is civilian controls over the armed forces. That is something which is one of the strongest points of this nation; let’s not breach that,” Justice Chandrachud remarked.
“We will not do that (direct deployment of the army). We are not going to do that.”
The Manipur Tribal Forum and other organisations had petitioned the apex court seeking directions for the restoration of normality in the state, racked by clashes between Meiteis and Kukis since May 3.
The forum had sought deployment of the army on the ground that the Manipur police were biased in favour of the Meitei community.
The bench, however, asked solicitor-general Tushar Mehta to consider the suggestion from advocate Nizam Pasha, representing a student organisation from Manipur, to consider the inclusion of Kuki MLAs in the various committees formed to oversee the relief camps and ensure proper facilities.
It was alleged that none of these relief committees included elected Kuki representatives.
The bench took exception to the forum’s allegation about the authorities patronising certain militant outfits that claim to represent Meitei interests.
“These are not suggestions. See how they’re framed... these are innuendos,” Justice Chandrachud told senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, who appeared for the forum.
“The moment you say that terrorist organisations are aligned with central government, the solicitor-general won’t agree, we won’t make headway.”
Gonsalves reiterated that a call for genocide had been sounded by the head of the Meitei Pride group, Pramot Singh, who had allegedly said in an interview with journalist Karan Thapar that he would annihilate Kukis.
“He should be immediately arrested. He called for genocide of Kukis on national television,” Gonsalves said while demanding army deployment.
“Mr Gonsalves, this cannot be the tenor of suggestions. In the last 72 years, we haven’t issued such directions to the Indian army,” the bench said.
The court said in an order: “We are of the view that it will not be appropriate for the court to direct army and paramilitary forces. At the same time, we would impress upon the Union of India and state of Manipur to ensure arrangements to protect lives of citizens of Manipur.”
It also directed the Centre and the Manipur government to file status reports on the situation within one week.
Mehta assured the court that he would get back to it in connection with the petitioners’ suggestion for university exams to be deferred in Manipur.
He said a notification had been issued asking government functionaries to report for work.