The Supreme Court of India (SC) on Friday held that the trial of those criminal cases connected with the Manipur ethnic violence which are being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), can be conducted in Assam.
Pertinently, the Court has also issued a series of directions to facilitate victims to give their statements from Manipur, through video conference.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud passed the order after factoring in an assurance by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that proper internet facilities shall be provided in Manipur to allow such video conference.
The Court, however, clarified that its order would not prevent those who wished to go to Guwahati in Assam, to appear there physically as part of such proceedings.
The Court also factored in concerns raised by Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves and advocate Vrinda Grover that the victims of the violence should not be made to travel to Assam for the trial.
In response to Senior Advocate Indira Jaising's query over why Assam has been chosen for the conduct of the trial, Solicitor General Mehta responded by saying that internet connectivity is relatively better in Assam.
The Court proceeded to pass the following directions bearing in mind the overall environment in Manipur and the need to ensure a fair process.
The Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court has been asked to nominate one or more officers above the rank of Judicial Magistrate First Class and sessions judge to deal with such trial cases.
All applications for the production of the accused, remand, judicial custody, extension of custody, and other proceedings are allowed to be conducted on online mode, bearing in mind both distance and security issues at the courts that will be designated to conduct the trial.
The statement of witnesses under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) is permitted to be recorded in the presence of a local magistrate in Manipur. The Acting Chief Justice of the Manipur High Court shall designate one or more magistrates for this.
Test identification parades can be conducted through video conferencing in the presence of a Manipur-based magistrate. Applications for search and arrest warrants will be issued by the investigating officer through the online mode.
The Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court shall nominate judges who are conversant with one or more languages spoken in Manipur to deal with the criminal trial.