NEW DELHI: In a recent development, the Supreme Court has issued a directive, granting a one-week window for the families of the victims of the Manipur violence that erupted on May 3, 2023, to claim the bodies. The three-judge bench, led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, reviewed the comprehensive report submitted by the three-member committee appointed by the Supreme Court. This committee, headed by former Jammu and Kashmir High Court Chief Justice Gita Mittal, former Bombay High Court Judge Shalini Phansalkar Joshi, and former Delhi High Court Judge Asha Menon, was tasked with overseeing relief, rehabilitation, and rebuilding measures in Manipur.
The Supreme Court's decision follows the committee's visit to the strife-torn districts of Manipur, accompanied by Chief Secretary Vineet Joshi, to assess the situation. In October 2023, the Supreme Court had initially appointed this committee to address the pressing issues arising from the violence. During the Tuesday hearing, Chief Justice DY Chandrachud stated that the state government could conduct dignified burials for bodies identified by the next of kin in any of the nine designated burial sites. The families in Manipur have been given a one-week window to claim the bodies; failing which, the state government is authorized to perform the last rites.
The bench emphasized that it is not appropriate to keep bodies, which have not been identified or claimed, indefinitely in mortuaries. According to Chief Justice Chandrachud, out of 175 dead bodies, 169 have been identified. Among the identified bodies, 81 have been claimed by the next of kin, leaving 88 unclaimed. For the six bodies yet to be identified, the state has been granted the liberty to provide a dignified burial following the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).
This development follows the August 2023 interim directions issued by the High Court of Manipur to prevent violence related to the controversial burial site at Torbung Bangla under Bishnupur District. The Kuki community had selected this site for the mass burial of 35 Kuki-Zos who had lost their lives in the ongoing Manipur violence. Responding to the High Court's order, the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF) submitted a letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, requesting consideration of the demands for the Kuki-Zo tribals. The demands included the legalization of the burial site in S. Boljang of Churachandpur, Manipur, and the relocation of the dead bodies of the Kuki-Zo communities from Imphal to Lamka (Churachandpur).
Supreme Court's recent decision aims to address the sensitive aftermath of the Manipur violence, providing a defined timeframe for families to claim the bodies and outlining procedures for dignified burials.