Chhattisgarh PUCL’s Memorandum to the NHRC


To

The Hon’ble Chairman,

National Human Rights Commission

Camp Raipur.

Sub:   Regarding the Human Rights situation in Chhattisgarh – a Note by the         Chhattisgarh PUCL

Sir,

First of all we welcome the fact that the National Human Rights Commission has, in its present sitting at Raipur, not only taken up several extremely serious cases of human rights violations to which the State Government had miserably failed to respond to so far, but has also invited various non-governmental organizations to share their experiences and suggestions.

On behalf of the Chhattisgarh PUCL, being the Chhattisgarh State Branch of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, we would like to place on record, along with a copy of “Chhattisgarh me Manav Adhikar ki Haqeekat” – a compilation of our Reports over the past two years (henceforth referred to as our Report), the following note delineating some of the serious aspects of the human rights situation in the state, which we believe require deserve the urgent attention of the National Human Rights Commission:-

Aspects of the Human Rights Situation in Chhattisgarh

1.       Widespread displacement of peasants and adivasis from livelihood resources:-

On account of a large number of MOUs (121 as on 30.03.2011 as per the Chhattisgarh government website) to set up power plants, steel plants and cement plants, as well as the grant of a large number of Prospecting and Mining Leases (already more than 2 lakh acres have been covered under 354 MLs as on 30.03.2011),  a large scale transfer of agricultural lands, commons and other livelihood resources – particularly forest lands and water (both surface and ground water) – is occurring from the peasants and adivasis (who enjoyed these earlier both privately and collectively) to private corporate entities. While this phenomenon is visible all across this mineral rich state, it is particularly acute in the districts of Raigarh, Sarguja, Janjgir-Champa and Korba. This is causing a crisis of livelihood among a vast rural population, intensifying earlier trends of migration to brick kilns, human trafficking and other forms of bondedness.

In carrying out acquisitions of land the State Government is misusing its powers of eminent domain in the name of “Public Purpose” whereas the reports of the CAG of the state clearly indicate that in granting such largesse corruption is occurring on a large scale, and private companies are gaining at considerable loss to the state exchequer. The case of allotment of coal blocks is an example in point where the spirit of the Directive Principles of State Policy is being violated.

The legal provisions designed to protect agriculturists and tribals are being systematically violated, bypassed or turned into an empty formality. This is particularly true of the provisions for mandatory consultation with the Gram Sabha under the “Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act” (PESA Act) in the Scheduled Areas. Similarly the provisions for making objections under Section 5A of the Land Acquisition Act are circumvented by misuse of the provisions for urgent acquisition under Section 17 of the Act.  Despite the law being clear that the consent of both owner and occupier are mandatory for entry into private land for mining by a company (other than a government company under the Coal Bearing Areas Acquisition Act), the State acts on behalf of the private company to present the farmers with a fait accompli of having to accept compensation as if in the case of acquisition.

Almost in all affected villages there have been protests, some sporadic and short lived, others more prolonged and determined, but almost all have faced state repression. The leaders of the protests and often large numbers of villagers have been victims of malicious prosecution by powerful corporates in which the local police and administration have been hand-in-glove. The Chhattisgarh PUCL has documented a few such cases of malicious prosecution of farmers’ leaders, trade unionists and environmental activists at Pages 60-65 of its Report. An extreme example of this is the case of the murderous attempt on the life of environmental activist Ramesh Agrawal at Raigarh by persons associated with the Jindal Steel and Power Limited.

2.       Increasing attacks on dalit communities:-

In the aforesaid scenario, as the pressure on land mounts, we find repeated instances of targeted and brutal eviction of dalit families. PUCL has documented at Page 58-60 of our Report one such stark representative case of 34 dalit families of Village Chichour Umariya, district Raigarh brutally evicted from generations-old occupation of forest land (for which forest rights applications were pending) by the dominant caste community. Even more serious in this case was the absolute failure of constitutional mechanisms to bring relief either through a Writ Petition in the High Court or by a complaint to the State Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Private as well as state violence against dalits has been on the increase. PUCL and other human rights groups had also taken up the case of custodial torture of young dalit workers belonging to Village Lailunga, district Raigarh culminating in the death of one, which is reported at Pages 27-31 of our Report. Despite detailed statements by the victims and their families, neither the enquiry of the DSP under the SC-ST (Prevention of) Atrocities Act nor the Magisterial Enquiry has resulted in any action taken against the culprit private persons or policemen.

3.       Conditions of Industrial workers and Contract teachers (Shikshakarmis):-

Chhattisgarh accounts for the highest number of industrial accidents per lakh of workers in the entire country. In the large and ever increasing number of industrial establishments in the state, the labour laws are violated with impunity, 12 hour work day is the norm and even minimum wages – which are grossly inadequate – are not paid. Even permanent, perennial and core production activity is carried out by contract workers who are not even given statutory proof of employment. Precariousness of employment results in extremely poor unionization. Compliance with the ESI and Provident Fund Acts is poor. Recently in the Ambuja Cement Factory at Village Rawaan, district Baloda Bazar (now a unit of Swiss multinational Holcim), the collapse of fly ash hoppers due to gross negligence in design and maintenance of buildings resulted in the death of five workers literally buried in hot cement ash in a confined space. (A fact finding Report by the Building Wood Workers International, New Trade Union Initiative Federation and local unions is available.)

Nearly 2 lakh Shikshakarmis (contract teachers ostensibly employed by the Panchayati Raj institutions) were on strike recently for their legitimate demands of absorption as regular teachers in the Education Department as in fact mandated by the Right to Education Act and the principle of “equal pay for equal work”. 17 teachers and their family members committed suicide/ died unnatural deaths during the agitation in the course of which tens of thousands of teachers were suspended, dismissed, cane charged and arrested.

4.       Jail deaths:-

Chhattisgarh again tops the states in the proportion of overcrowding in its jails, which house prisoners to the extent of between two and three times their capacity.

The PUCL recently filed RTI applications with regard to deaths in jails and discovered shocking facts. At Page 78-81 of our Report, for instance are the details revealed by Central Jail Bilaspur. We see that:-

a)       All 11 deaths were of undertrials, and three of them were held in preventive detention (151 or 107/116 of the Criminal Procedure Code) when they died in jail.

b)       The caste composition of the 11 dead prisoners was – 7 SC, 1 ST, 2 OBC, 1 Muslim.

c)       6 of them died within a short time of being admitted into jail ( 5 days, 16 days, 3 days, 2           days, 2 days, 8 days) which is indicative of either being admitted with serious injuries or           having being subjected to ill treatment in jail.

d)       One died owing to the barrack roof having collapsed and he having sustained head injuries.

e)       In all cases the nature of illness/ cause of death as per the Medical Officer was “serious”.

The documents obtained from Central Jail Jagdalpur show that deaths due to severe anaemia (3.5 grams or 5.0 grams of Haemoglobin) was the commonest cause. Usually blood transfusion could not be arranged in a timely manner and there is nothing on record to show that any efforts were made to contact the family to find a blood donor.

5.       Violence against women:-

Trafficking of young women for work as domestic servants in the metropolises and also in prostitution has been widely reported from the districts of Jashpur and Sarguja and Advocate Sevati Panna, who is also an active member of the Chhattisgarh PUCL, has conducted meticulous research in exposing the so-called “placement agencies”.

The recent cases that came to light regarding sexual abuse of young adivasi girls in State run Ashrams/ hostels has now also been verified by the National Commission of Protection of Child Rights.

Violence against women takes on an even more serious dimension in conflict areas, where it has been observed internationally and also elsewhere in our country that sexual violence is used as a means to subjugate a population. Even today the affidavits of 99 women alleging rape by SPOs, Salwa Judumm and the security forces, which are filed before the Supreme Court in the Nandini Sundar and Kartam Joga cases (challenging the constitutionality of Salwa Judum) remain to be acted upon.

6.       Large number of adivasi undertrials languishing in Bastar jails:-

There are a large number of poor adivasis languishing in the jails of the Bastar region. A recent estimate of the number of undertrials in three of these jails is as follows

Name of Jail Capacity No. of convicts No. of undertrials
Dantewada 250 4 577
Kanker 65 8 217
Jagdalpur 648 573 1120
Total 963 585 1914
963 Convicts + Undertrials  = 2,499

While we can understand and appreciate the complex conditions under which the courts and jails would be functioning in this region, we are concerned at repeated complaints that a large number of these adivasis are being implicated in serious cases without the concerned magistrate exercising his/her judicial discretion in an independent manner. This has resulted in thousands of ordinary villagers, routinely picked up in searching operations, being incarcerated under serious charges. Once, being implicated in a serious offence, and particularly a “Naxal Offence”, the undertrials are not produced in the courts for long periods of time, on account of there not being “sufficient police guard”. Owing to this the trial does not proceed for years together. Out of economic difficulty and for fear of harassment, family members of the undertrials are unable to visit them in jail. Particularly in situations of physical and mental ailments this makes the undertrials even more vulnerable.

Since “Naxal undertrials” are only kept in Central Jails, owing to overcrowding, many of them of them are transferred to Durg or Raipur Central Jails, where they are even more inaccessible, and too far away to be taken to court regularly. PUCL had been sent a list of 79 undertrials facing trials in Kondagaon who were sent to Durg Jail (more than 300 km away) and who had petitioned the Chief Justice of Chhattisgarh High Court in 2011 regarding their long incarceration without trial. One undertrial from amongst them Sukdas (32 years) died in jail on 1st February 2010.

Most of the adivasi undertrials are dependent on legal aid lawyers. However more often than not, the legal aid lawyers never go to meet the client or seek instructions regarding the case. Often they are careless in their conduct of cases and are amenable to pressures from the police or prosecution. The vast majority of adivasi undertrials speak only adivasi languages i.e. – Gondi, Halbi etc., however it is shocking that even now Courts in the Bastar region do not have official interpreters/ translators and the adivasis are unable to communicate with the Officers of the Court or otherwise effectively intervene in the judicial process.

On 12th January 2011, 379 adivasi undertrials in Dantewada Jail, alleged to be “Naxalites”, went on hunger strike saying that they had been held falsely, their trials were not being conducted and that they be released on bail.

It is unfortunate that the Nirmala Buch Committee, created in the wake of the abduction of Collector Alex Paul Menon, has neither been able to carry out a judicial review of adivasi cases nor conduct a fact finding mission to find out the actual circumstances of arrest of the large number of undertrials.

Another disturbing aspect of the functioning of the criminal justice system in Bastar is that political opponents or other “inconvenient” persons can easily be implicated in “Naxal offences” thus ensuring that they would be put away behind bars for several years. Page 77 of our Report has a list of all the activists of the Communist Party of India, a registered national political party contesting elections, incarcerated including Kartam Joga who was a Petitioner in the Petition filed in the Supreme Court challenging the modus operandi and the atrocities committed by the Salwa Judum, and was acquitted after being in jail for the past 3 years.

7.       Fake encounters and police excesses in the name of the anti- Naxal operations and failure of the constitutional response:-

Page 7-27 of our Report carries extracts of our Fact Finding Report titled “Just a Little Collateral Damage” which concerned four cases of alleged encounters in areas outside the Bastar region, namely Village Ledgidipa, district Mahasamund; Village Kade, district Rajnandgaon; Jamul, district Durg and Village Sawargaon in the bordering district of Maharashtra and which we found clearly to be cases of fake encounters. The Magisterial Enquiries announced in all the cases appear to have been routinely carried out only to support the police versions of events, and despite our finding that in all the cases local persons were vociferous in their allegations, their versions have never been recorded.

Page 31-36 contains the Fact finding Report of the Chhattigarh Bachao Andolan into the murder of a minor girl Meena Khalkho in Sarguja by the police and security forces in July 2011, again claiming her to be a Naxalite. The Judicial Enquiry announced has not even begun, though again, the family members have been brave enough to submit their affidavits. Similarly an investigation into an alleged encounter at Village Harri, district Jashpur, revealed that the police and security forces had manhandled and beaten ordinary villagers and had been rewarded for their “bravery in Naxal encounter”. The unaccounted funds allotted to Naxal affected police stations and to Naxal- affected districts seem to be an incentive to claim Naxal activity even where there is none.

Page 46-52 contains the Fact Finding Report of the Co-ordination of Democratic Rights Organisation into the fake encounter which occurred on 27-28 June 2012 in the clearing between Villages Sarkeguda, Rajpenta and Kottaguda in district Beejapur. The Magistrate conducting the Enquiry turned down the villagers who had come to depose before him. The Notification for Judicial Enquiry signed in November 2012 was notified in December 2012, and this Notification was not even communicated to the concerned villages. It was only when lawyers associated with PUCL contacted the villagers that they came to know of the Judicial Enquiry. The Terms of Reference made to the Judicial Enquiry Commission have, perhaps deliberately, mixed up this obvious case of fake encounter with two other cases of possibly actual encounters in Village Chimlipenta and Village Silger, both of district Sukma on the same day, to which the villagers have objected. Although the villagers have filed affidavits, the Enquiry does not appear to have started in earnest. In the meantime two villagers arrested from the spot of the encounter continue to languish in jail as “Naxals” and the victims of the encounter have had a string of cases put upon them showing them to also have antecedents of “Naxal cases”, and this includes the 12 year old bright student Kaka Rahul.

A case filed in the High Court in regard to the Singavaram fake encounter and demanding a CBI Enquiry remains pending even after about 6 years, while another filed in the Supreme Court in regard to the killings in Village Gompad also remains pending for the past 3 years. Thus, the people of Bastar have continuously been denied constitutional remedies, which has accentuated their alienation.

The PUCL received by post in the year 2011 a letter from a journalist in Bastar enclosing a list of 135 villagers alleged to be killed during Operation Green Hunt between January 2009 and April 2010. Many of the incidents narrated could be correlated with newspaper reports and some news of protests by villagers. However, we have not been able, through our own investigation, to verify these serious allegations, mainly because there has been a denial of physical access to the entire Bastar division to concerned citizens from other parts of Chhattisgarh or India over the past 3-4 years. This denial has been systematic – whether to an All India Women‘s Team who were trying to meet women who had filed complaints of rape against SPOs (November 2009); or to Medha Patkar, Sandeep Pandey and other members of the NAPM who were going to join activist Himanshu Kumar in a public hearing in Dantewada to which the Union Home Minister had been invited; or to a team of Gandhians who were on a Peace March (May 2010) including Shri Banwarilal Sharma and Swami Agnivesh who subsequently made efforts for talks with the Maoists. The modus operandi of such denial has been through the mobilization of SPOs and Salwa Judum camp inmates who have organized demonstrations and brickbatted the teams. Individual researchers, lawyers, film makers and journalists have been detained, intimidated or otherwise ―persuaded to leave Dantewada. Even the CBI has not been spared. The acts of burning of the huts of adivasis in Morpalli, Tadmetla and Timmapuram, in regard to which the Supreme Court had, in the course of the Salwa Judum case directed CBI Enquiry, could not be carried out by the CBI, as per their application in the Court, owing to an attack by Chhattisgarh Auxiliary Force (into which the SPOs have been absorbed)!

8.       The civil war in Bastar is creating a grave humanitarian crisis:-

The districts of the erstwhile Bastar division in Southern Chhattisgarh are now undisputedly the arena of a civil war and also the region where Operation Green Hunt, as it is still referred to by the police and security forces in Chhattisgarh despite denials by the Union Home Minster, is been carried out with the greatest ferocity. The already heavy deployment of security forces is being continuously reinforced, now the Army has a training camp here and even helicopters of the AIF are being pressed into service. Almost every day there are reports of ambushes and land mine blasts by Naxalites killing security forces; and reports of searching and area domination exercises by security forces with considerable number of Naxalites being killed in encounters and also a very large number of arrests. SPOs and police

informers who are being recruited in hundreds are being targeted by Naxalites.

What is of great concern are the repeated reports and complaints of thousands of adivasis fleeing these areas in several waves since 2005. Indeed at page 39-46 of our Report is a joint write-up of different human rights groups including PUCL into the serious conditions of internally displaced adivasis in Andhra Pradesh. The recommendation of the NHRC in the Enquiry conducted on the directions of the Supreme Court in the Salwa Judum Case, that the displaced villagers be rehabilitated back in their villages, has not been acted upon at all by the State. On the contrary, those NGOs which were trying to assist such resettlement were severely victimized. The  Ashram of Himanshu Kumar, who is also one of the Vice Presidents of the Chhattisgarh PUCL, was demolished and two activists associated with him – Koparam Kunjam and Sukhnath Oyami – active in rehabilitating the adivasis of 10-15, were arrested under the draconian Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act. Sukhnath was finally acquitted after several years in jail and Kopa Kunjam had to obtain bail from the Supreme Court. The Sarkeguda village was also one such rehabilitated village. Indeed it appears that apart from the counter insurgency strategy of clearing the villages to bring the adivasis to roadside camps, there is a ground clearing motive, possibly connected with mining since 7443 hectares of land in Kanker,  Narayanpur and Dantewada alone have been given out in prospecting leases to various private companies as per the Government website.

Another issue of grave concern is that with the withdrawal of educational and health services of the State as well as ration shops from the so-called “Naxal” stronghold areas, into which a large proportion of the population has fled, a situation has arisen in which several lakh adivasis have been automatically “outlawed”. This population is being deprived of basic needs. Anti Naxal operations in this area could result in a virtual genocide and killings of unarmed civilians and non-combatants on a large scale. Additionally the State programme of bringing children to study in roadside hostels and ashrams and separating them from their families is repeating the “historical mistakes” committed by the Australian government on its indigenous peoples for which the Australian Prime Minister recently rendered a public apology.

The democratic voices in Chhattisgarh have been repeatedly demanding that the way to de-escalate violence in the Bastar region would be to rehabilitate people in their villages, restore the civil administration and whole heartedly comply with the Forest Rights Act and PESA Act to give the adivasis of the area substantial rights. Decisions to carry out large scale mining and set up industries in that area can only be effective if carried out with a genuine consultation with the people and by winning their confidence.

(Sudha Bharadwaj)

General Secretary,

Chhattisgarh PUCL.

 

#Chattisgarh Explain ‘unnecessary’ hysterectomy surgeries: NHRC #Vaw #Womenrights



Press Trust of India, 12/04/2013

Raipur: The NHRC has directed the Chhattisgarh government to submit a report within a month over the allegations that 7,000 ‘unnecessary’ hysterectomy surgeries were conducted in the state by some doctors, just to claim money under a health insurance scheme. “There are allegations that 7,000 hysterectomies – uterus removal surgeries – had been conducted by unscrupulous doctors in 169 hospitals of Chhattisgarh, to claim money under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna (RSBY),” National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) chairperson Justice KG Balakrishnan said on Friday.
“The commission has asked the state government to submit a detailed report within four weeks,” he said. He was addressing a press conference after the conclusion of the NHRC’s two-day camp at Raipur. “The government has informed that the licenses of nine doctors in Raipur have already been suspended for carrying out such operation,” the former Chief Justice of India added.
As per media reports, the surgeries were conducted over the past two-and-a half years. During its two-day camp, the NHRC took up 27 different cases for hearing in the Full Commission and Division Bench Sittings comprising seven members. Out of these, six cases were closed after satisfactory replies by the state government.
The commission has recommended about Rs 20 lakh as monetary relief in different cases of human rights violations. In a case of alleged killing of 17 tribals, including four women, in an alleged encounter between ultras and a police party on January 8, 2009 near village Singaram in Dantewada district, the commission said it was “unsatisfied” with the report submitted by the police. It asked the Director General of Police (DGP) to seek an explanation of the officer who carried out the probe. “The commission was not satisfied with the reports submitted by the SP, SIB, police headquarters in the matter.. It observed that there were several serious shortcomings in the police investigation, coupled with the evidence of autopsies.. they raised serious doubt about the encounter,” Balakrishnan said.
“The DGP has been directed to seek an explanation of the officer who conducted investigation in the case,” he added. In the matter of torture of Soni Sori in police custody, he said, “A two-member team of the commission had met Sori on Thursday to know about her condition. She has informed that she has been treated better since the NHRC’s last visit.” Sori, a tribal teacher, has been languishing in jail on charges of being a Maoist sympathiser and acting as a conduit to extort money for banned CPI (Maoist) from the Essar group.
In the alleged gangrape of eleven minor tribal girls in a government-run residential school in Narharpur area in Kanker by a teacher and a watchman, the commission asked the government to submit a detailed report about the steps taken for the rehabilitation of the victims, so that such measures could be considered by the commission for adoption by other states, he said.

 

NHRC’s two-days ‘Camp Sitting’ in Chhattisgrah – Soni Sori Torture #Vaw


SONISORICOLLAGE

CURTAIN RAISER

 

New Delhi, April 8, 2013

The National Human Rights Commission was set up under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 with a mandate to promote and protect the human rights in the country and it is actively engaged in this task since its inception. In its efforts to reach out to the far-flung areas, the Commission has been organizing its Camp Sittings in different parts of the country. The aim of the Camp Sittings is to dispose of pending cases concerning one particular State by hearing the senior government officers; sensitize them about the importance of human rights issues and compliance of NHRC recommendations by them; meet the local NGOs to get an insight into the problems being faced by the people. In the past, the NHRC has held Camp Sittings in the States of U.P., Bihar, Bengaluru (for four southern States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu), Odisha, Gujarat, Assam and Meghalaya.
The Commission has now decided to hold its Camp Sitting at Raipur in the State of Chhattisgarh on 11th-12th April, 2013. A delegation of the National Human Rights Commission headed by Justice Shri K.G. Balakrishnan, Chairperson, Justice Shri B.C. Patel and Shri Satyabrata Pal, Members, Director General (Investigation) and other senior officers will be attending the Camp Sitting at Raipur.
On the opening day of the Camp Sitting on 11.04.2013, the Commission has decided to take up 26 cases in Full Commissin and Division Bench Sittings to be held at New Circuit House, Civil Lines, Raipur. 19 cases shall be taken up by the Full Commission comprising Justice Shri K.G. Balakrishnan, Chairperson, Justice Shri B.C. Patel, Member and Shri Satyabrata Pal, Member. 7 cases of deaths in police action shall be taken up by the Division Bench comprising Justice Shri B.C. Patel, Member and Shri Satyabrata Pal, Member. The cases to be taken up during the Camp Sitting, among others, include the following:
Excesses by Salwa Judum Members, Torture in Police custody, Atrocities on SCs, Malnutrition, sexual abuse of students, reconstruction of school buildings, damaged /destroyed by naxalites, Death of under trial prisoner in judicial custody, Deaths in alleged fake encounter, medical negligence etc.
On the second day of the Camp Sitting i.e. 12.4.2013, the Commission will hold a meeting with local NGOs on human rights issues at New Circuit House, Civil Lines, Raipur from 10.00 AM to 11.30 AM. Thereafter, the Commission will hold discussions at the same venue with the Chief Secretary, DGP, DMs, SPs and other senior civil, police and jail officers on the issues raised by the NGOs and on the following issues:
¢ Strategy of the State Government to combat naxalism in the state.
¢ Atrocities committed on tribals in districts of Bastar and Dantewada by Police, security forces and Salwa Judum.
¢ Relief and rehabilitation of tribal victims of violence by security forces and naxalites.
¢ Education for tribal children in Bastar and Dantewada district.
¢ PDS system in the State
¢ Prison Reforms.
¢ Bonded Labour & Child Labour.
¢ Manual Scavenging & Sanitation.
¢ Status of implementation of recommendations of Shri K.B. Saxena’s report on SCs.
¢ Visit of Dr. L. Mishra, Spl. Rapporteur, NHRC to Raipur on 24-27 Mar.2008
¢ Human Rights Education at State Level.
¢ Indignity to women – practice of witchcraft.
¢ Pre-conception & Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) (PCPNDT) Act.
¢ Silicosis
¢ Leprosy
¢ Intimation about deaths in police/judicial custody within 24 hours of occurrence.
¢ Intimation about death in police encounter.
¢ Intimation about death in State Government Homes/Juvenile Homes/Probation Homes.
¢ Timely submission of the legible copies of the reports by the authorities.
¢ Delay in submission of compliance reports.
¢ Non-registration of FIR by the police in time

A delegation of the Commission shall also visit Dantewada and a relief camp near Dantewada to assess the relief and rehabilitation measures undertaken by the State Government for the affected persons.
On the conclusion of the Camp Sitting, Justice Shri K.G. Balakrishnan and Members of the Commission would brief the media about the outcome of the Camp Sitting as well as discussions with the NGOs and senior officers of the State Government for wider dissemination of information on the human rights issues and action taken by the NHRCfor their protection and promotion.
In its endeavour to implement the recommendations made by Shri K.B. Saxena, IAS (Retd.) in his report submitted by him after carrying out a study about the atrocities against persons belonging to Scheduled Castes, on the request of the Commission, public hearings on various issues relating to atrocities and problems faced by Scheduled Castes, have also been held in various parts of the country. So far, such Public Hearings have been held in the States of Odisha, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. The response of the people to the public hearings of the Commission was very encouraging.

DOWNLAOD CAUSE LIST HERE
*****

 

Seeking public endorsements for Protest Statement regarding NHRC MEMBER selections.


Please see theprotest statement opposing the selection of former NIA Chief   S C Sinha and Justice Cyriac Joseph to the NHRC.
ON The NIA Chief an IPS Officer is being appointed as member NHRC under the category which as per law is  meant for human rights activists.
Justice Cyriac Joseph’s selection is being opposed on ground of the sexist and anti woman bias displayed during his years of Judgeship. Further there is nothing to show any expertise in human rights or interest during his years on the Bench, whereas there is evidence to the contrary.
As long as NHRC is staffed by such persons it will not discharge its mandate. If you agree with the statement please endorse the same. Let us try and reclaim these institutions.
PLEASE NOTE : ENDORSEMENTS ARE TO BE SENT ONLY TO
Vikash Kumar <vikash@wghr.org.

Public Statement Opposing Selection of Mr. S.C.Sinha (IPS – former NIA Chief) and Justice Cyriac Joseph (former Judge of Supreme Court of India) to the NHRC

As members of human rights organisations, women’s rights groups, lawyers, academics and activists, who are engaged with a range of human rights issues we express our strong opposition and disagreement with the recent selections of new members to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). We assert that the guiding principles for appointing members to the NHRC are: that they must be persons with a proven track record and experience in the field of human rights; the composition must reflect the plurality and diversity of peoples, particularly the vulnerable and marginalised communities in the country; and the process must be transparent and the appointments credible and must inspire confidence.

We are disturbed to learn from media reports that the Appointment Committee of the NHRC has completed its selection process for the two positions which became vacant with the retirement of Mr. P.C. Sharma (IPS retd.) on 27th June 2012 and Justice G.P. Mathur on 18th Jan’ 2013, with the selection of:

[i] Mr. S.C. Sinha, Former Chief of the National Investigating Agency [NIA]

[ii] Mr. Justice Cyriac Joseph, Former Judge of  the Supreme Court of  India who retired on 27thJan’ 2012

It is noteworthy that serious and credible objections have been raised against these names by 2 members of the statutory Appointments Committee of the NHRC viz. the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.

The Paris Principles 1993 prescribe the minimum standards required by national human rights institutions to be considered credible and to operate effectively, among which the composition of the Commission is crucial. The Paris Principles underscore pluralism, diversity and transparency. The International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights Sub-Committee on Accreditation (ICC-SCA), has on 9th June, 2011, recommended that the limited recruitment process of the Indian NHRC be altered as it restricts diversity and plurality in membership.1The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekkagya, after an official country visit to India has also recommended “that the functioning of the national commission be strengthened by, inter alia, broadening the selection criteria for the appointment of the Chair and diversifying the composition of the Commission, including regarding gender”2.

It is important to highlight that the vacancy created by the completion of tenure of Mr. P.C. Sharma IPS [Retd.], belongs to the category under Sec. 3(2)(d) of The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, which provides for, ”two Members to be appointed from amongst persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights’.

It is indeed shocking and shameful that the government has selected a former IPS police officer, Mr. S.C. Sinha, former NIA Chief, as member of NHRC under this clause. It is a matter of record that the highest number of complaints received by the NHRC annually are against police torture, harassment and brutality. This appointment is in contravention of The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, the Paris Principles, and amounts to an abuse of power. In a country that boasts of a large number of prominent human rights and women’s rights activists, the appointment of a Police Officer under this category, is unacceptable and deserves to be set aside.

The consistent violation of the mandate of the Protection of Human Rights Act, the Paris Principles and the principles of pluralism and diversity is apparent from the following facts:-

1.      The NHRC, India has hitherto been only comprised – other than the judges appointed to it – by representatives who are retired senior bureaucrats – IAS, IPS, IRS, IFS etc.;

2.      NHRC, India has been ‘advised’ in the recent ICC recommendations that the NHRCI has not had a woman member for the past 8 years;

3.      There is no one representing the members of the SCs and STs or Minorities on the NHRCI as of now;

4.      Further, there has also not been a single member representing civil society since the inception of the NHRC, India.

We wish to underscore the fact that for over 19 years, since the constitution of the NHRC there has not been a single representative from the human rights, women’s rights or democratic rights movement, appointed to the NHRC, despite a very vibrant and active civil society movement in the country society. The members of the NHRC have on each occasion been selected from retired IAS, IPS, IFS, and IRS etc. The list of persons who have in the past been appointed against this particular category of statutorily reserved for persons engaged with human rights is enclosed as Annexure A. Conspicuous by their absence from this list are human rights and women’s rights activists. No person belonging to the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe has ever been appointed as a member of the NHRC. NHRC records themselves reveal that dalits, adivasis, religious minorities and persons from the North-East face severe violations and deprivations, yet not a single activist from these constituencies has ever been appointed to the NHRC.

It deserves special mention that for the last 8 years and 7 months, since 27th Aug’ 2004, when Justice Ms. Sujata V. Manohar, completed her term, i.e. 8 years and 7 months ago, no woman has ever been appointed as a memebr of the NHRC. This glaring fact reflects not only the embedded prejudice that operates in myriad ways to exclude women but also violates the constitutional mandate of equality and non discrimination. It is distressing and unpardonable that at a juncture when the Justice Verma Committee Report has observed that violence against women is a manifestation of the discrimination and inequality suffered by women, the government is still reluctant to discharge its obligation and continues to deprive women of equal opportunity. The ICC-SCA, in General Observations 2.1 interpreted the Paris Principles as: Ensuring Pluralism, and “further emphasizes that the principle of pluralism includes the meaningful participation of women in the National Institution”.

We have also learnt that the Appointments Committee has selected Mr. Justice Cyriac Joseph, who had retired from the Supreme Court of India on 27th January 2012, to fill the vacancy in the category of a member who is or has been a Judge of the Supreme Court of India. It is apparent from a holistic reading of The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, that any interpretation of this clause for purposes of appointment to the NHRC, would inherently require that the Judge must have an established and credible record of respecting, protecting and promoting human rights. Further there should not even be a whisper of allegation against him of discrimination or prejudice against women, dalits, religious or ethnic minorities and others. Any such allegation in his personal or public life, should disqualify the Judge from membership of the NHRC. Moral integrity demands not only that the member of the NHRC should not be monetarily corrupt but that he should be free of bias and should have an abiding faith and resolve in the charter of human rights and principles of equality.

It is to be recalled that Justice Cyriac Joseph was earlier selected to be appointed as the Chairman of Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), New Delhi after Justice S. B. Sinha. Justice Sinha during his judgeship was known for being a workaholic. But due to some ‘reports’ from an “agency” to the Chief Justice before taking a final decision on Justice Joseph’s appointment to the TDSAT, but contained  ‘observations’ on the former judge’s “style of functioning”. In particular, the report had commented on alleged delays in delivering verdicts. It is now known that during his period of service of 1300 days on the Supreme Court from 7th July 2008 to 27th January 2012, J. Cyriac Joseph delivered only 10 judgments in all on the following dates : 18th October 2011, 14th November 2011 (3 judgments), 15th November 2011, 16th December 2011 [ 2 judgments] 25th January 2012 and 27thJanuary 0212 [ 2 judgments]. How a Judge found unfit for the post of TDSAT chairman owing to his working style is fit for membership of the NHRC is inexplicable. The spate of violations experienced by people across the country demands from the members of the NHRC very high levels of integrity, commitment and efficiency, as the right to life and dignity of the most disadvantaged is at stake.

We invite your attention to Article 51A of the Indian Constitution which requires that all citizens renounce practices derogatory of women. This is particularly expected of judges who swear on oath of allegiance to the constitution.

A judge both in his judgments and in his conduct in court is expected to be respectful of women including women lawyers. Justice Cyriac Joseph is reputed to have made extremely derogatory remarks in the presence of women lawyers during the course of arguments in court causing harassment to them. That apart, it has been alleged against him that he attempted to interfere with pending investigations in a criminal prosecution for murder of a nun Sister Abhaya  in Kerala by visiting the forensic laboratory where analysis of the narco analysis test of the accused was being conducted, while he was a sitting judge of the Supreme Court of India. The Kozhikode Bar Association passed a resolution against Justice Cyriac Joseph demanding an investigation into his role and suspending him from work for that period.

Far from demonstrating a track record of commitment to human rights he has demonstrated a derogatory attitude towards women. Such a person cannot be considered to be qualified for appointment as a member of the NHRC.

We therefore urge the government to immediately rescind both the selections made to the NHRC as the same violate the letter and spirit of The Protection of Human Rights Act, the Paris Principles and make a mockery of the mission and purpose of the NHRC. These appointments do not stand the test of credibility, transparency and plurality. It is imperative that a woman member actively engaged with human rights, and associated with the most marginalized communities is appointed to the NHRC to rectify the continuing imbalance and non-representational character of this institution. The government, to inspire confidence amongst the people of India in the NHRC, needs to demonstrate the track record of individuals that qualifies them for membership of the NHRC. If the government is also serious about retaining the global credibility of the NHRC appointing individuals such as Justice Cyriac Joseph and Mr. S.C. Sinha as members will once again call the attention of the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions to the serious flaws that mark the appointment process for the NHRC. The damage that can be caused by such ill-advised appointments can even lead to the downgrading of the NHRC from the ‘A’ status that it currently enjoys.

Endorsed by:

Vrinda Grover, Lawyer, Delhi

Miloon Kothari, Convenor, WGHR

Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Human Rights Activist, Mumbai

1 International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the promotion and protection of Human Rights, Report and Recommendations of the Session of the Sub-Committee on Accreditation — 2011, ICC: Geneva, pp. 13-15. Available at:http://nhri.ohchr.org/EN/AboutUs/ICCAccreditation/Documents/SCA%20REPORT%20MAY%202011%20-%20FINAL%20%28with%20annexes%29.pdf

2 A/HRC/22/47 , para 52

#Bangalore- NHRC notice to Chief Secretary on evictions from Ejipura


STAFF REPORTER, The Hindu

 

A child, given food by an NGO, runs to the gigantic pipe that doubles as his home in the wake of the demolition at Ejipura, Bangalore, in January this year. File Photo: Bhagya Prakash. K

The HinduA child, given food by an NGO, runs to the gigantic pipe that doubles as his home in the wake of the demolition at Ejipura, Bangalore, in January this year. File Photo: Bhagya Prakash. K

It takes cognisance of media report on health problems of those ousted

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a notice to Chief Secretary S.V. Ranganath on the forced eviction of residents of Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) shanty town by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) in Ejipura in January this year.

A communiqué received in Bangalore on Monday said that the NHRC has taken cognisance of a media report, forwarded by non-governmental organisations, alleging serious health problems being faced by about 2,000 people who were evicted.

Report sought

The Chief Secretary has been directed to submit a report within four weeks on the eviction, steps taken to rehabilitate the evicted people, besides informing the commission about the steps taken to provide basic amenities such as food, drinking water, sanitation and health facilities upholding the evictees’ human rights.

The NHRC noted that 200 evicted families have made their temporary homes on the periphery of the area from where they were ousted. “They have not been provided with any basic facilities. Diarrheal diseases, infections and other forms of water and air-borne diseases are rampant. There are no proper water, sanitation and toilet facilities,” it has said.

The commission had taken cognisance of the forced eviction and harassment of victims by police.

A notice was issued to the Chief Secretary and Director-General and Inspector-General of Police early this year and the issue is under consideration.

Meanwhile, a fact-finding report by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties – Karnataka, and Housing and Land Rights Network – Delhi, found that the human rights of the urban poor had been violated. The government and its agencies have breached the Constitution, national laws and policies, orders of the Supreme Court and international law, including the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement.

Illegal land use

The report, a copy of which is with The Hindu, notes that the public-private partnership between the BBMP and Maverick Holdings is illegal because the land that was designated for “public purpose”, namely housing for economically weaker sections, has been converted into commercial use for the gain of a private entity. The BBMP has flouted its own resolution (passed in 2005) recognising the rights of the residents to permanent housing and assured them of in-situ resettlement.

The demands

The fact-finding team has demanded that the government recognise and uphold the “right to the city” of the urban poor — who contribute to the city — as their inalienable right, besides ordering a judicial enquiry into the evictions, demolitions and public-private partnership. The government should also provide immediate and adequate rehabilitation to all the evicted residents, irrespective of whether they are original allottees or tenants. The other demands include compensation to all victims, dissolve the illegal public-private partnership, and take action against BBMP and police officials responsible for the violence and attack on residents and activists.

 

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