The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Unique Identification Authority of India and the Manipur government to take steps to ensure that Aadhaar cards are provided to people displaced due to the bloody ethnic conflict in the state whose records are already available with the UIDAI.
Observing that it does not propose to run the administration in Manipur, the apex court said necessary verifications shall be carried out before issuing the Aadhaar cards expeditiously.
A bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud clarified that UIDAI, which would have the biometric details of people to whom Aadhaar cards were already issued, will match the claims of those displaced about the loss of their cards.
The bench, also comprising Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, directed the secretary of Manipur's finance department to issue appropriate instructions to all banks in the affected parts of the state to make available the details of bank accounts to those who have lost the documents.
It said secretary of Manipur's health department shall take all expeditious steps for issuing disability certificates/duplicates of disability certificates to specially-abled persons in relief camps.
The bench issued the directions while it was considering the reports filed by the apex court-appointed all-woman committee of former high court judges headed by Justice (retd) Gita Mittal. The panel also includes Justices (retd) Shalini P Joshi and Asha Menon.
In the reports filed in the apex court, the committee had sought certain directions on issues including lost personal documents of those displaced.
"The Deputy Director General, UIDAI, Regional Office, Guwahati, and the secretary, Department of Home Affairs, Manipur, shall take all steps to ensure that Aadhaar cards are provided to all displaced persons, who may have lost their Aadhaar cards in the process of displacement, whose records are already available with UIDAI," the bench said.
During the hearing on a batch of pleas, including those seeking court-monitored probe into cases of violence, besides measures for relief and rehabilitation, the bench observed that for issuing Aadhaar cards, the authority will have to verify whether these are genuine residents or citizens.
"What if somebody is an illegal entrant?" it asked and added "We will say the authorities will verify whether the person is genuine." Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre and the Manipur government, said several of these issues can be sorted out if the committee discuss them with the authorities.
"Let the committee be aware of its remit," he said.
The bench said the committee has not pressed for several of the directions mentioned in its reports.
Mehta said if the government authority does not respond to the reports or directions of the committee, then the panel can bring it to the court's notice.
"They have possibly misconstrued their role," he said, adding, "I would request the committee that a telephonic call to the chief secretary can sort out most of the issues rather than troubling your lordships." One of the lawyers appearing in the matter raised the issue of properties, which were burnt during the violence, being occupied by others.
"This is eventually an aspect of law and order. The committee is seized of it," the bench observed.
On the issue of disposal of dead bodies, Mehta said the authorities are acting as directed by the committee.
"Everything that happens here is publicised irrespective of what work has been done on the ground, what directions are being given by the committee. Allow that process to work out," the bench observed.
When lawyers appearing in the matter referred to various issues, the bench said, "You tell us one thing, either we scrap the committee and hear this matter after every four weeks because we are not going to hear it every week. We don't have time to hear this matter every week because we don't propose to run Manipur administration in the Supreme Court." The apex court said the committee is handling several aspects and these issues can be brought to the notice of the panel.
One of the advocates referred to the status report filed by the state on recovery of arms from "all sources" in the ethnic violence-hit state.
"That sealed cover report be given to the committee," the lawyer said. The solicitor general objected to the submission.
The bench observed the committee, in one of its reports, has sought a direction to the Manipur High Court and the state government to urgently complete the process of appointing secretaries of the district legal services authority (DLSAs) in all 16 districts there.
It noted the advocate general of Manipur has told the court there are nine judicial districts in the state and secretaries of DSLAs in each one of them has already been appointed. The bench said the state government shall place adequate funds at the disposal of the Manipur state legal services authority/district collectors/competent authorities for releasing compensation to the victims under the Manipur Victim Compensation Scheme, 2019.
In order to accommodate the requirements of such displaced people as may have temporarily re-settled outside the state, the bench directed the Centre to nominate one nodal officer in Delhi who would guide and direct the grievances of such persons to the appropriate channel.
"If steps are already taken in that regard, no further action may be required," it said.
The bench noted Mehta's submission that in order to obviate the need for the court to pass individual directions on the committee's reports, the panel may contact the chief secretary of Manipur so necessary remedial action can be taken immediately.
The bench, which posted the matter for hearing after a week.
Manipur descended into chaos and untrammelled violence in May over a high court order directing the state government to consider including the non-tribal Meitei community in the list of Scheduled Tribes.
This order led to rampant ethnic clashes. More than 170 people have been killed and several hundred others injured since ethnic violence first broke out in the state on May 3 when a 'Tribal Solidarity March' was organised in hill districts to protest against the majority Meitei community's demand for ST status.
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