'We cannot accept that this incident was not in the knowledge of the home ministry.'
'If they had no knowledge about this incident, then it is a big intelligence failure as the Union home ministry has no idea what is going on in Manipur and what the state police is doing.'
Advocate Vishal Tiwari has filed a criminal writ petition in the Supreme Court seeking a probe by a court appointed expert committee into the horrific Manipur video.
The shocking video of naked Kuki women being paraded by a mob has shocked the nation's conscience.
Chief Minister Biren Singh's statement that he had no idea about the incident which occurred on May 4 only served to aggravate sentiments.
Later, it was found that the FIR in the case was registered after 13-14 days and the culprits seen in the video were not arrested till the video went viral.
Advocate Tiwari now wants the top court to set up an independent expert committee under the leadership of a former Supreme Court judge to inquire into the incidents of sexual assault and ongoing violence in Manipur.
Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com spoke to advocate Tiwari about why he filed the criminal writ petition in the Supreme Court.
Why have you filed this writ petition in the Manipur video case?
My writ petition is a criminal writ petition.
There was a judgment of the Supreme Court in Lalita Kumari vs State of Uttar Pradesh in which the court gave a clear direction that in cognisable offences there will be no delay in filing a first information report (FIR) by the police. This means it is mandatory for the police to register FIR in such cases.
Now, in this Manipur case, it is revealed that the FIR was under process for 13-14 days and no prompt action was taken. After two months, when the video went viral, this incident was revealed (to the general public). This means there was dereliction of duty by the police agency.
I feel this is only one incident that has come to the limelight and there might be similar incidents, but due to the prevailing situation in Manipur other incidents have not been recorded or the state agencies do not know about it.
Therefore, there should be a proper inquiry under the chairmanship of a retired Supreme Court judge which can inquire into the ongoing violence or sexual harassment cases which have taken place against humanity in Manipur.
This report must be submitted within four weeks to the Supreme Court.
Do you feel there was a deliberate attempt to downplay and hide the facts about this video, because Chief Minister Biren Singh said that he had no idea about this incident till the video went viral?
'I had no idea' is not a responsible statement on the part of the chief minister of Manipur.
In news reports it is stated clearly that the police force in Manipur is divided in two groups: Kuki and Meitei.
In such circumstances we cannot expect that there will be a fair investigation and prompt action on the ground.
And if this is the ground situation, then sexual violence, murder and loot are bound to happen.
So to control that the state government has to take firm action and if that is not happening, a committee should be constituted to inquire into these acts of violence, to find the actual reason behind these violent acts.
Now, in Mizoram too the dispute has started. If this is not controlled soon by some effective measure, this fire will spread more.
There has to be some action taken to have effective law and order on the ground.
Do you fear this violence can spread to other states of the North East?
In the North East the way the prevailing situation is it (violence) can pass from one state to another, but this can be stopped immediately if some prompt action is taken from the state or central government's side.
And if there is some political problem which is leading to no intervention, then the judiciary must take a direct step in the interest of the public.
The Supreme Court did tell the central government that if it does not take steps to curb violence in Manipur, then the court will step in.
In furtherance to that order I have filed this petition in court and now it is up to the court as to how much action they will take.
My focus is only to see how much violation of law is done on the ground by agencies or any other organisations. The people of Manipur must not suffer, this is my ultimate goal.
Where did we fail as a State?
After two months this case has come out. They (victims) complained about this incident the very next day, but the FIR was not filed by the police for 13-14 days. Seeing the gravity of the situation the complaint should have been registered much faster, but that did not happen.
I read in a newspaper report that these two women were in police custody and it was the police that handed them over to the mob. In a such situation a very strong intervention is required.
What is your personal suggestion?
In our country every issue runs with some political motives. But the judiciary keeps itself away from political motives. So, whether Presidential rule has to be imposed or not, it is up to the government to decide but we have to focus on public security and safety.
Political motives are a different issue because some people can always say such and such things happen in other states too. We cannot mix all the things together.
This incident is different because the women were disrobed publicly, paraded naked and later on raped. And there was no action taken against the perpetrators for two months.
The home minister (Amit A Shah) too went to the state.
We cannot accept that this incident was not in the knowledge of the home ministry. And if they had no knowledge about this incident, then it is a big intelligence failure as the Union home ministry has no idea what is going on in Manipur and what the state police is doing.
So these things need to be independently and impartially investigated.
There was no Internet in Manipur, so how could the central home ministry or for that matter even the state government have known that such an incident had happened?
When this incident happened it was in the knowledge of the local police and they should have brought this to the notice of the higher authorities in their department.
The court took cognisance only after the video went viral. If the Manipur video had not gone viral, the case would have been buried in the ground.
Supporters of the government say the situation in Manipur was returning to normalcy, but this video was leaked so the situation could worsen.
Did it not make sense for the government, in order to maintain law and order, that the video incident be buried and let the investigation go on?
Do you mean to say if the situation is becoming normal, then the bad things done in the past should not be revealed?
When the question of law and order comes, then it is the material that decides what will be the outcome of the cases.
For example, if a communal riot takes place, you cannot say there will be no action taken against the person who provoked the riots. We cannot say that the situation is normalising so do not raise your voice.
When a crime takes place, it is the duty of the State to detect the crime and punish the actual offender. Hunt the offenders and find out why they committed the crime. And if there is some agency which has done dereliction of duty, then they too shall be questioned.
Supporters of the government are questioning the timing of the video. Parliament was about to conveve and a day before that this video got leaked.
In our country any crime related to such issue gets related to politics.
When any political party is in power, they will say the law and order situation is fine and when they are out of power they will make opposite statements and curse the same police administration.
And if Article 21 is violated, then it is immaterial what a particular government thinks and what it does not think as the judiciary always focusses on the safety and security of citizens.
Do you feel Chief Minister Biren Singh should own up moral responsibility and resign?
These are political statements. His Constitutional responsibility is to give protection and safety to the citizens of Manipur.
If any person is sitting on the chief minister's chair, s/he must protect the citizens and follow the Indian Constitution.