Supreme Court permits CBI case trials in Assam and virtual statements recording for Manipur violence victims.

The Supreme Court’s recent decision centered on the trial of criminal cases related to the Manipur violence, which fall under the jurisdiction of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The Court ruled that these trials could take place in Assam. Additionally, it issued specific directives to enable victims to provide their statements remotely from Manipur through video conferencing.

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The Court’s decision was based on various considerations. The bench, led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, took into account an assurance from Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that adequate internet facilities would be provided in Manipur to facilitate video conferences. However, the Court clarified that the order didn’t prevent victims who preferred physical appearance from participating in the proceedings in Guwahati, Assam.

The Court addressed concerns raised by Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves and advocate Vrinda Grover, ensuring that victims wouldn’t have to travel to Assam for the trial. Chief Justice DY Chandrachud reassured that statements and evidence would be recorded in Manipur itself.

Solicitor General Mehta responded to queries about why Assam was chosen for the trial’s location by mentioning that internet connectivity was relatively better there.

The Court issued several directions to ensure a fair trial process:

1.The Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court was tasked with nominating officers above the rank of Judicial Magistrate First Class and sessions judges to handle trial cases.

2.Various proceedings such as applications for production of the accused, remand, judicial custody, and others were allowed to be conducted online.

3.Judicial custody would be permitted in Manipur.

4.The presence of a local magistrate in Manipur was required for recording the statement of witnesses under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). The Acting Chief Justice of the Manipur High Court would nominate magistrates for this purpose.

5.Test identification parades could be held via video conferencing in the presence of a Manipur-based magistrate.

6.Online mode would be used for issuing search and arrest warrants by the investigating officer.

7.Judges familiar with languages spoken in Manipur would be nominated by the Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court to preside over the criminal trial.

8.The Court clarified that those who wanted to appear physically in Guwahati were not precluded from doing so.

This decision arose from a batch of pleas concerning the Manipur violence, including a case involving two women from the Kuki-Zomi community who were subjected to harassment by a mob. A committee led by former Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, Justice Gita Mittal, had submitted reports on the violence, recommending increased compensation for the victims.

Previously, the Central government had handed over the investigation to the CBI, resulting in several cases connected to the violence being transferred to the agency. The Supreme Court had also taken suo motu cognizance of the incident involving the two women after a video of the incident went viral on social media. The women themselves sought a Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe.

On August 1, the Court had criticized the authorities and State Police for their apparent failure to maintain law and order during the Manipur incident.

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