Justice Mittal panel seeks SC directions to state, UIDAI on Aadhaar, compensation for Manipur victims

Noting that many Manipur residents may have lost their identity documents in the ethnic strife, a Supreme Court-appointed panel has urged the top court to pass a slew of directions to the state government and others including the UIDAI to ensure Aadhaar cards are made available to those displaced and the victims’ compensation scheme is broadened.

The all-women committee headed by Justice Gita Mittal that also comprises Justices (retd) Shalini P Joshi and Asha Menon, submitted three reports to the apex court on personal documents of the displaced persons, Manipur Victim Compensation Scheme, 2019 and appointment of domain experts to facilitate its functioning.

The panel has been constituted to oversee relief and rehabilitation of those hit by ethnic violence in the border state.

The panel of former women judges was constituted days after the apex court had termed as “deeply disturbing” the video of women being paraded naked in the state.

Three separate reports, which were shared with the counsel concerned on Tuesday in pursuance of the apex court’s directions, were filed before a bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud.

The Justice Mittal panel said among the several gaps, which could impact reaching the benefits of relief and rehabilitation measures to the victims, the first and foremost would be “non-availability of documents for identification which would include Aadhaar cards, voter I-card/ration cards/BPL cards etc.”

It said enquiries have revealed that out of all the above documents, the process of obtaining a copy of the Aadhaar Card may be the simplest as the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has all the necessary information available in digital format.

The panel has sought directions to the Deputy Director General, UIDAI, Regional Office, Guwahati as well as the Secretary, Department of Home Affairs, Manipur to jointly take all steps to ensure availability of Aadhaar card to the displaced persons whose records are available with Aadhaar authorities.

“Direct the Secretary, Department of Finance to issue appropriate instructions to all Banks in the effected parts of Manipur to make available the details of the bank accounts held by the displaced persons to them. If necessary, the Banks should depute responsible staff members to visit the relief camps and interact with the displaced persons, ensuring continuity of banking service to them,” it said.

The committee has also suggested urgent steps for issuing the Disability Certificates/Duplicates of Disability Certificates to specially-abled persons in the relief camps immediately.

On the issue of compensation to the victims, the committee said the Manipur Victim Compensation Scheme, 2019 covers extremely limited number of offences entitling a person to compensation and its outreach needs to be immediately widened.

It said time-bound directions need to be given to National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) to examine and make recommendations regarding offences other than those covered and fixation of rates of interim compensation.

Noting the lapses in the scheme, the panel has sought directions to the Manipur High Court and the state government to urgently complete the process of appointing secretaries of the District Legal Services Authorities in all the 16 districts in the state.

The committee urged the top court to direct the Manipur government to make appropriate amendments or modifications in the Manipur Victim Compensation Scheme, 2019 within two weeks.

“Direct the Police Authorities to forward immediately after registration, soft and hard copies of FIRS registered so far or as may be registered hereafter to the concerned District State Legal Services Authority.

“Directions be issued to the Government of India and Government of Manipur to provide information regarding Manipur Victim Compensation Scheme, 2019 as well as any other Special Schemes to the displaced persons under which they can take benefit,” the

committee said.

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In addition to the above subjects, the committee said special care needs to be accorded to the elderly.

The panel said it is necessary to engage with authorities and officials at all levels of the government machinery located in far flung relief camps as well as the senior most in the bureaucracy.

“Ascertaining their particulars as well as the contact details and contacting them can prove to be difficult. It is therefore, essential to have urgent assistance of an accomplished and efficient former senior bureaucrat who has served in the Manipur Cadre,” it said.

The top court, while taking note of the three reports, had on Monday said it will pass “certain procedural directions” on August 25 to facilitate the functioning of the Justice Mittal panel and to deal with issues pertaining to administrative requisitions, funding to meet administrative and other expenses, and setting up a web portal to provide necessary publicity to the work being done by the panel.

More than 160 people have been killed and several hundred injured since ethnic violence first broke out in the state on May 3 when a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ was organised in the hill districts to protest against the majority Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe status.

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