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Supreme Court Expresses Concern Over Lawyers’ Safety Amid Ethnic Violence in Manipur

The Supreme Court of India has expressed deep concern over the safety of lawyers unable to appear before the Manipur High Court due to ethnic violence in the state. The Court has taken notice of this matter and issued orders to safeguard two individuals who claimed they could not engage lawyers to seek protection from arrest in separate criminal cases filed against them in Manipur. Chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, leading the bench, sought a response from the state government and emphasized the seriousness of the situation if lawyers are unable to practice their profession.

Petitioners’ Cases One of the petitioners, retired Army Colonel Vijaykant Chenji, faced arrest in a police case filed last month, accusing him of waging war against the government and promoting enmity between different groups. The second petitioner, Professor Henminlun, faced similar charges.

Lawyers’ Safety Concerns Senior advocate Anand Grover, representing both petitioners, informed the Court that the lawyers who were supposed to appear in their cases before the Manipur High Court expressed their inability to do so. Following this, the lawyers withdrew from the cases, and their homes were vandalized. One lawyer sought refuge in a paramilitary camp due to safety concerns.

Court’s Response The Supreme Court allowed Anand Grover to file an affidavit affirming these facts and set the next date of hearing for September 22. The Court expressed the need to ensure people are represented in court and stated that once they receive a response from the state government, instructions will be passed to the registrar-general of the Manipur High Court.

Government’s Perspective Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Manipur government, highlighted a pattern being portrayed by certain individuals. While he was not familiar with the specific case, Mehta informed the bench that the Manipur High Court is fully functional, and lawyers can appear either physically or virtually. He suggested that the Supreme Court’s Secretary General should contact the High Court’s registrar general to obtain a detailed report.

Supreme Court Bar Association’s Resolution An important point raised during the hearing was the Supreme Court Bar Association’s recent resolution condemning the mob vandalism at the house and office of lawyer Soraisham Chittaranjan in Imphal. Chittaranjan had been targeted after representing a Kuki academic in a case.

Conclusion The Supreme Court’s intervention in this matter highlights the significance of ensuring the safety and professional practice of lawyers amid ethnic violence in Manipur. The Court awaits the state government’s response and will assess the situation to determine appropriate actions, prioritizing the welfare of individuals involved.


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