SC transfers NSCN leader's trial to Delhi

New Delhi: Accepting a plea by CBI, the Supreme Court today transferred the murder trial involving Naga militant leader Hopeson Ningshen, from Manipur to New Delhi, to prevent possible ethnic backlash or threat to the accused.

A bench of Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices Deepak Verma and B S Chauhan directed that the trial be transferred from Court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Ukhrul, Manipur to a designated CBI Court (manned by a judicial officer of the rank of a Sessions Judge) in New Delhi.

Nignshen, who belongs to NSCN (IM), is charged with the killing of three government officers Dr Thingnam Kishan Singh, Sh. Y. Token Singh and Sh. A. Rajen Sharma belonging to the rival Meities ethnic community on February 17, 2009, in Senapati district of Manipur.

The incident had provoked ethnic tension in thestate which transferred the case to CBI.

CBI filed an application in the apex court seeking transfer of the case to Delhi arguing it was not safe for the trial to be conducted in Manipur as the accused faced threat to his life and his presence could flare up the surcharged atmosphare owing to the widespread ethnic division.

The accused, however, objected to the transfer.

"We are indeed confronted with a complex situation where there is a certain degree of divergence in the interests of the respective stakeholders. CBI in its capacity as the investigating agency has clearly conveyed the risks associated with conducting the trial in Manipur.

"Even if one were to concede that the apprehension about social unrest and communal tension between the Meities and the Nagas were a little exaggerated, there can be no quarrel that there exists a real possibility of a physical attack on the respondent-accused as long as he is in Manipur.

"It was precisely because of this consideration that the respondent-accused is being held in custody at a distant location in Delhi. Furthermore, conducting the trial in Manipur could also reasonably lead to more friction in the state of Manipur which in turn could affect the trial proceedings themselves," Justice Balakrishnan said in the judgement.

CBI has also given an undertaking to the apex court that it would take care of the travel and accommodation of all the 52 witnesses for their deposition in Delhi during the trial.