#Gujarat- NHRC irked over denial of scholarships to dalit students


TNN Jun 14, 2013

AHMEDABAD: The National Human Rights Commission has taken suo motu cognizance of the TOI report alleging denial of scholarships to 3,125 dalit students in Ahmedabad district. Out of this, applications of 1,613 students for scholarship are pending, whereas, 1,512 have been denied due to lack of funds. Allegedly, the state government had no answer for the Rs 3 crore that was to be spent on scholarships for dalit students.

The commission, shot off notices on Thursday to state chief secretary, Varesh Sinha and has sought a reply within four weeks. The commission also observed that, “the contents of the newspaper report, if true, paints a worrisome picture and constitute a gross violation of human rights of the dalit students. In view of their socio-economic backwardness, they deserve to be given special care and that is why such special provisions for scholarships to them have been made. Any failure in their implementation would defeat the whole purpose.”

The data was procured from the department of social justice after an RTI application was filed by dalit rights activist of Navsarjan Trust Kirit Rathod. It took Rathod three years before he could land on this basic information from the department.TNN “This is the level of transparency that the Gujarat government shows when it comes to the rights of the common man and the downtrodden classes. It took me three years to access information which should ideally should have been on the government website.”

The data in the RTI comprises only of ITI, science, arts, engineering and medical colleges. The information commission failed to provide the information for the dalit kids studying in schools

 

#India -Daughters, wives sold to repay debt; NHRC notice to U.P. #WTFnews #Vaw


J. BALAJI, The Hindu

Incident allegedly took place in State’s Lalitpur district

A social activist Lenin Raghuvanshi has claimed that women and daughters were sold off to repay debts in Uttar Pradesh’s Lalitpur district in Bundelkhand region.

Mr. Raghuvanshi said that caste discrimination is so intense in some villages of Bundlekhand that a Dalit has to take off his chappal and hold it in his/her hand if a person belonging to the Thakur caste is approaching.

Taking a serious view of such incidents, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notices to the Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police calling for reports on the complaint within four weeks.

Fact-finding team

It also directed the NHRC Director General (Investigation) to send a fact-finding team to study and file a report about such discrimination against the oppressed class.

Mr. Raghuvanshi also alleged that a Dalit cannot wear chappal or shoes and must walk barefoot if he/she wants to visit the area dominated by people belonging to the upper caste.

 

Sati deaths

Women belonging to the Balmiki community manually dispose off night soil and carcass. Violence against women is rampant and a number of S ati deaths have been reported from the region during the last few years. Even the sex-ratio is very adverse in the area, Mr. Raghuvanshi added.

 


  • ‘In some Bundlekhand villages, a Dalit has to take off his/her chappal if a Thakur is approaching’
  • Balmiki women dispose off night soil, carcass manually: Activist

 

#India – Judges have to watch their scorecard


V. VENKATESAN

The deplorably small number of judgments by Justice Cyriac Joseph, especially when courts have a huge backlog of cases, is valid enough reason for concern at his suitability for the National Human Rights Commission

The Indian Supreme Court is an extraordinarily powerful institution in the world. It can make and unmake laws; it can keep the executive accountable, and seek to ensure the autonomy of institutions. It can rewrite the Constitution the way it wants, through its creative interpretation yet remain largely unaccountable for its omissions and commissions. Its collegium has the responsibility to choose judges to fill its own vacancies, but it sees little merit in adopting an open and transparent process while exercising it.

As a result, very little is known about the merits of a judge, before he or she is appointed to the Supreme Court, unless there are serious allegations damaging to the judge’s integrity. There is a vast pool of post-retirement jobs that awaits a retiring judge from the Supreme Court, in the form of membership of statutory tribunals and commissions, yet there is no mechanism to evaluate the suitability of former judges to these bodies.

The Government’s proposal to nominate the former judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Cyriac Joseph, to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), has brought into focus the issue of performance-evaluation of a judge.

While the members representing the Government on the NHRC selection committee appear to have favoured his nomination, the two members belonging to the Opposition, Ms Sushma Swaraj and Mr. Arun Jaitley, have submitted dissenting notes pointing to an adverse report of an intelligence agency about the unsuitability of the proposed nominee on the basis of his tenure at the Supreme Court.

Facts

The facts regarding Justice Joseph can be gathered from the Supreme Court’s website.

He authored exactly seven judgments during his tenure, from July 7, 2008 to January 27, 2012. However, he was a signatory to as many as 309 judgments, and 135 orders, all authored by his colleagues on the Bench. The website lists the judgments and the orders authored and/or signed by a judge together, and it requires considerable effort to identify those which were authored and not merely signed by a judge, as the author’s name is affixed on the top of a judgment.

Thus, Justice Joseph authored concurring judgments in two cases, namely, Action Committee, Unaided Private Schools & Ors v. Director of Education & Ors (August 7, 2009), and Haryana State Warehousing Corporation v. Jagat Ram (February 23, 2011). His judgment in the Action Committee, Unaided Private Schools seems to have been necessitated because of the compulsion to resolve the disagreement between the other two judges on the Bench, Justices S.B. Sinha and S.H. Kapadia. Justice Joseph opted to agree with Justice Kapadia in order to help arrive at the ratio of the judgment.

The website also shows that Justice Joseph wrote judgments in Safiya Bee v. Mohd. Vajahath Hussain @ Fasi (December 16, 2010), State of Haryana & Ors v. M/s Malik Traders (August 17, 2011), Deepa Thomas & Others v. Medical Council of India & Others (January 25, 2012), Mohd.Asif v. State of Maharashtra (January 27, 2012), and A.V. Padma v. R.Venugopal (January 27, 2012).

Evaluation

Critics of the Government’s efforts to nominate Justice Joseph to the NHRC have pointed to the number of judgments authored and delivered by him as the factor weighing against him.

While they have a case against him, it has to be admitted that the number of judgments written by a judge alone cannot be a determining factor about his or her competence. As the Supreme Court mostly sits in benches of two or three judges, the senior-most on a bench decides once the hearing is complete, who among them will write the judgment, depending on the interest of the judge. The judge writing the judgment, then circulates the draft for the perusal of the other judge/s, who are then free to agree, or write concurring judgments, or dissents. Superfluous, concurring judgments can make the process of arriving at the ratio of a judgment challenging, and leave the litigants confused. But that cannot be an excuse for a judge to avoid judgment-writing altogether.

Scholars of the Supreme Court have never attempted to evaluate the performance of each judge, on the basis of the number of judgments and orders authored by him or her. It is probably because such a study is likely to lead to comparison, and the drawing of inferences regarding the competence of a judge, which may invite the charge of contempt of court.

George H. Gadbois Jr., who made a seminal contribution compiling the biography of the judges in his recent book, Judges of the Supreme Court of India, 1950-1989, is also silent on this aspect. He perhaps thought that compiling such data could only aim at evaluating the importance or contributions of a judge, which he has consciously avoided.

What data shows

When Justice Joseph joined the Supreme Court in 2008, the strength of the Court rose from 26 to 31, following a Constitutional amendment. Based on the number of judges, the average number of judgments and orders written by each judge could be easily arrived at, given the total number of judgments and orders in a calendar year.

Thus between 2008 and 2012, the average number of judgments and orders per judge varied from 88 (2008) to 27 (2012). The average was just nine in 1955, 14 in 1959, 25 in 1969, 17 in 1977, 15 in 1987 and 71 in 1996. During this period, the strength of the Supreme Court kept on increasing from: eight to 11 (1956), 14 (1960), 18 (1978), and 26 (1986).

Based on this data, it would be hazardous to infer the competence of a judge/judges in a particular year or era. As Gadbois would put it, some of those judges were giants who will be remembered a century from now. Others, to quote Gadbois again, are blips on the radar screen, sidebars to the history of the Supreme Court, likely to be recalled only by the closest of court watchers. In the history of the Supreme Court, some judges are celebrated merely because of their salient contributions to the interpretation of the law and the Constitution, and not because they wrote more judgments than their colleagues.

Yet, the number of judgments written by a judge cannot be dismissed as being irrelevant, especially in the context of the Court’s efforts to limit its own backlog of cases. If the number of judgments authored by a judge is deplorably and consistently below average, then it is an important factor in the evaluation of a judge. The concerns that such a judge may prove to be unequal to the demands of an institution like the NHRC are valid.

A test for government

The Supreme Court, in its March 3, 2011 judgment, set aside the appointment of Mr. P.J. Thomas as Central Vigilance Commissioner, even though the majority in the selection committee had recommended him. The Court quashed his appointment by emphasising the concept of institutional integrity. The key test for institutional integrity, it said, is to ask whether the incumbent would or would not be able to function and whether the working of the institution would suffer following the appointment. This test is as relevant in the appointment of Justice Joseph, as it was in the case of Mr. Thomas.

The Supreme Court held in the same judgment that if the selection committee decides to overrule any dissent while recommending a person for the appointment, it should record clear and cogent reasons for doing so.

In April, the Government appointed Mr. S.C. Sinha, Director of the National Investigation Agency to the NHRC, overruling dissent within the selection committee, pointing out that he did not have the knowledge, or practical experience in matters relating to human rights, as required under the Human Rights Act.

The reasons why the majority in the selection committee overruled the dissent have not been made public, and it is not known whether the Supreme Court’s directive has been complied with.

The appointment of Justice Joseph will constitute another test of legitimacy for the Government.

venkatesan.v@thehindu.co.in

 

#India – Custodial Torture – Tailor, Farmer, Bootlegger, and many young men #mustread


The Hell Of Living Souls

A tailor. A farmer. A bootlegger. Often just young men going about their day. brutally tortured, then acquitted. G Vishnu captures the impunity with which this happens. And why society needs to react
G Vishnu

G VISHNU , Tehelka

1-06-2013, Issue 22 Volume 10

If the protector becomes (the) predator, civilised society will cease to exist… Policemen who commit criminal acts deserve harsher punishment than other persons who commit such acts, because it is the duty of the policemen to protect the people and not break the law themselves

Supreme Court of India, 2010

Marked man Harak Chandra Chakma, who was arrested and tortured by the police for taking part in a tribal celebration in Tripura, ended up in hospital for 10 days

Marked man Harak Chandra Chakma, who was arrested and tortured by the police for taking part in a tribal celebration in Tripura, ended up in hospital for 10 days

On 14 May, police rounded up four men in Etah district of Uttar Pradesh, 260 km west of the state capital, Lucknow, in connection with a month-old case of murder. Three days later, one of them, a 33-year-old farmer named Balbir Singh, lay dead in a hospital in Lucknow. “The police gave him electric shocks and injected acid and petrol in his body,” says his brother- in-law, Sunul Kumar. “They forced him to sit on an electric heater that burnt his body horribly.” According to Kumar, Singh told him before dying that the police wanted him to confess his involvement in the murder.

So critical was his condition that Singh was moved to three hospitals in as many cities before he died. He named the policemen who tortured him in a dying declaration before a magistrate. The police were forced to register a case of murder. Five lowly policemen were suspended. No arrests are yet made. A sub-inspector is on the run. Devendra Pandey, who heads the police station of the alleged perpetrators, was merely transferred, though, according to Kumar, it was Pandey who gave Singh the electric shocks. Singh has left behind a one-year-old son and a pregnant wife.

The scourge of torture by police and prison officials is routine, random and vicious across India. On 18 May, Khalid Mujahid, 32, fell dead on his way back to a prison in Lucknow from a court in Faizabad. His death has generated unusual focus and political attention on the issue of police torture and custodial deaths. For the most part though, police torture hardly ever features as a red-button issue for Indians. First, there is a sense that torture only happens to the deserving. Second, there is a common perception that torture is the only — even if illegal — way of extracting crucial information from deadly terror suspects or mafia gangsters. Both these assumptions are false. Torture almost never yields accurate information. In fact, it is a security hazard as victims often confess in utter desperation to crimes they have not committed, while the real perpetrators roam free. Equally, torture is not restricted to rare cases. Often, it is perpetrated on those caught on trivial charges. According to the NHRC, over 14,000 people have died in police custody and in prisons in the decade ending 2010. This translates to a rate of more than four deaths a day. In the past three years, the NHRC has recorded 417 deaths in police custody and 4,285 deaths in judicial custody.

The story of Ratanji Vaghela is symptomatic of the sheer randomness of this brutality. On 27 April, Gujarat Police arrested Vaghela, a patient of depression and amnesia, for crossing the path of an official convoy in Gandhinagar. The family alleges torture, due to which he had to be hospitalised with severe wounds. “There are very few countries in the world where torture is as systematic and endemic as in India,” says New Delhi based campaigner Suhas Chakma. Rights activist Teesta Setalvad of Mumbai agrees: “Torture is not the exception, but the norm in jails as well as prisons across India.”

 Sarfaraz
‘At the station, the inspector forced my penis into my mother’s private parts. He kept shouting ‘rape her’ the whole time’
Sarfaraz A Mumbai domestic worker who was arrested when he went to report his wife’s suicide

Vaghela may still turn out lucky. On a plea from Chakma, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), an autonomous statutory watchdog, has ordered the state government to pay him an interim compensation of Rs 3 lakh and probe the allegation that he was tortured. But for the tens of thousands of citizens subjected to brutal torture across police stations and prisons in India, there is virtually no end to the tunnel.

“I have seen people beaten until they collapsed. I heard a prisoner was beaten until he died,” says Binayak Sen, a rights campaigner in Chhattisgarh, who spent two years in prison and was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2010 for sedition. “There is no question of natural justice. It is done with impunity. This is the everyday reality of torture in Indian jails.” Sen, whose incarceration became a global cause and who is on bail having appealed his conviction, says he was called crazy when he protested the torture of fellow prisoners. He says he never saw a victim of torture try to seek justice.

While the rest of the world is no stranger to torture by State agencies, India has the dubious distinction of sticking out as a sore thumb in the comity of nations. Along with half-a-dozen tiny nations such as Comoros and Guinea-Bissau, India is the only big country that has failed to ratify the UN Convention Against Torture, by outlawing torture and legislating punishment, despite signing it. An attempt to legislate to outlaw torture went into deep freeze in 2010 after rights campaigners pointed out howlers in the draft Bill and a parliamentary committee began to sift through it.

As a result, an architecture of torture dominates India’s law enforcement, and the judiciary turns a blind eye. “We have seen the courts demand action against the police, but in most cases, torture invokes only a verbal outrage on the part of the judiciary,” says Supreme Court lawyer Vrinda Grover, a long-time campaigner against torture. “It does not necessarily lead to effective prosecution of the perpetrators of torture.”

If ever a stink stirs judicial and quasi-judicial agencies, compensations are paid out, but any prosecution of the guilty drags forever. Stunningly, data from the National Crime Records Bureau, a government agency, shows there have been no convictions despite numerous cases filed against policemen and prison staff.

Activists reckon that most deaths emanate from torture, though, of course, officials always deny that. Most deaths are written off as suicides; very many are put down to illnesses and diseases. And the number of those who survive is exponentially larger and highly underreported. For most victims, torture begins a never-ending nightmare.

Mukesh Kumar, 21, was arrested on 24 January in Sheikhpura, a district in Bihar 120 km south of state capital, Patna, for bootlegging. According to a complaint he later filed with the State Human Rights Commission, Kumar was taken to the official residence of the city’s Superintendent of Police (SP) Babu Ram and thrashed. A baton was pushed into his rectum. (The police deny the charge.) Doctors at a hospital where he was brought four days later found his intestines had ruptured. He was told they might never heal.

 Naresh
‘When the policemen caned my soles, the pain shot up here (head). Three days later, I confessed that I had planted the bomb’
Naresh Sank Kujuri A tribal who was accused of planting a bomb in Gadchiroli that killed 12 CRPF personnel

Kumar’s relatives admit that, desperate to feed his family of five, he had taken to plugging moonshine. They were forced to bring him to the State-run All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi for surgeries that have already cost Rs 2 lakh. “He passes stool through a pipe and can’t walk to the toilet,” says Kumar’s uncle, Dhiraj Singh. “What do you do when the guardians of law commit such a crime?” After newspapers wrote of the torture, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar ordered the SP transferred out. “All the policemen involved in the case, including the SP, have been transferred,” says Sheikhpura’s new SP, Meenu Kumari. “I cannot comment further.”

With 11 crore people, Maharashtra has just over half the population of Uttar Pradesh. Yet, it tops the country in the number of cases of custodial deaths and torture by police and in prisons, beating even India’s most populous state. Recurrent bombings, supposedly by homegrown Islamic fundamentalists, and a Maoist rebellion in the state’s east have stoked the appetite for torture among the law enforcement agencies.

On 26 March 2012, a bomb exploded in Gadchiroli district, killing 12 members of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force. It responded by raiding surrounding villages with the police, who arrested 11 men. “Every morning and evening, we were hung upside down and our feet, ankles and back caned,” Nanaji Chambrupadha Bapra, 28, told this reporter on a visit to his village. “After four days, the police stopped the torture but still won’t release us,” adds Shatrugan Rajnaitham, 18. The men were instead charged with waging war against the State. They were bailed after three months.

“There is no evidence against them but they were picked up because it was convenient,” says their lawyer, Jagdish Mishram. And fruitful. “When they caned the soles, the pain shot up here,” says Naresh Sank Kujuri, 26, pointing at his head. “Three days later, I told them I had planted the bomb.” The families of these men, all poor farmers, have run up debts of lakhs of rupees on legal and health expenses. Of course, the police reject the charge. “None of the men were tortured,” Gadchiroli SP Suvez Haque told TEHELKA. “We arrested them on the basis of evidence.”

Kujuri’s story illustrates how torture is entirely self-defeating. Bandhu Mishram, 46, a tailor in Nagpur district and a veteran of torture, describes how the police set about implementing their regime of torture. He has been arrested thrice in a short life: in 1984, 1996 and 2010. In his early years he was targeted, he says, for his trade unionism and activism to demand a separate state of Vidarbha in the east of Maharashtra. In 2010, the police named him a Maoist rebel and arrested him.

“They break you down scientifically when they want a confession,” he says. “They know how to make you feel hurt and anxious.” Mishram was hung upside down between a tyre and his feet were caned for an hour. They made him believe his wife and mother were being raped in the next room. For hours he heard screams as the policemen laughed. A fellow inmate told him his wife had been raped and killed, and her body chopped and dumped. “I wanted to kill myself. Thankfully, I saw my wife in the court the next day.” Mishram spent three months in jail before being bailed. In 2012, he was acquitted of all charges. He has filed a petition against his tormentors.

Does Indian law allow torture? Actually, no. Activist Arun Ferreira, who spent four years in Nagpur prison until January 2012 and was charged under the Unlawful Activity Prevention Act (UAPA), witnessed many fellow inmates suffer torture. “Even solitary confinement is illegal but every prison in India has cells for solitary confinement,” he says. “The State uses torture as a weapon. It is systemic for a reason.” He points to the hypocrisy of the State in an anti-torture Bill that the government rushed through Lok Sabha in 2008 and that, activists found, actually exempted torture in some cases.

‘At the 2008 UN Human Rights Convention, many countries asked India why it still hadn’t ratified the convention on prevention of torture. Then India had said it would legislate a domestic law. Five years later, there’s no law yet’

Vrinda Grover Human Rights Lawyer

‘Doctors ought to provide relief and recourse but medical services available to prisoners are inadequate. The medical staff treats them with disdain. By and large, doctors reinforce the messages imposed by jail authorities’

Binayak Sen Pediatrician and Public Health Specialist

‘Torture needs to be defined under the IPC. An amendment is pending in Parliament and that needs to be enacted. There is a proper definition of torture that is universally accepted, and it should be brought in as an offence’

Teesta Setalvad Civil rights activist

‘The worst thing is that courts don’t take notice of complaints. When undertrials are presented before them, they invariably complain about custodial torture. Courts brush aside these claims. They don’t pay any heed to such grievances’

SR Darapuri Former IG, Uttar Pradesh

 

Former Indian Police Service officer-turned-activist, SR Darapuri of Lucknow, has a rare insider’s perspective on torture. “The worst thing is that the courts do not take notice of the complaints. When these victims appear before the courts, invariably they make these complaints and the courts just brush them aside. Our whole system is infested.” As for the courts, although they have begun to take greater cognisance of torture by police and prison staff, they are still far from being in an overdrive to end the practice. A public lawsuit against custodial torture filed by lawyers Rebecca Gonsalves and Vijay Hiremath is gathering dust at the Bombay High Court since 2003. Over six years ago, the Supreme Court directed all states to set up a Security Commission as a watchdog for law enforcement to free it of political control. That is yet to happen.

“We must recognise that our criminal justice system has all but collapsed,” says the petitioner in that case, former Uttar Pradesh Director-General of Police Prakash Singh. “Even simple cases take three to five years.” Then, the society expects quick results. “Decent people have asked me why don’t we just take out criminals and terrorists. Torture is easy closure because they know justice won’t be delivered otherwise.”

Singh says reforms alone would make the police democratic and accountable and not dance to political masters. But says Supreme Court lawyer Grover: “More than reforms, we need accountability. The police have an institutional bias against minorities, the Dalits, the poor and the women. And the political class uses the desensitised police to push its agenda.” Mumbai lawyer Yug Mohit Chowdhry, who has represented several victims of custodial torture, says the police are understaffed, under-equipped, underpaid and stretched. “They have to manage everything from law and order to domestic disputes,” he says. “When we make them work like animals, they behave like animals.”

Actually, animals behave better.

When Naushad Sheikh, 45, accused of being a thief, died in custody in Navi Mumbai on 16 March, police said he had banged his head on an iron grill. The autopsy showed wounds across the body. A co-accused told the Maharashtra Police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) that Sheikh was subjected to “bhajirao”, a severe lashing with police uniform belts whose buckles caused deep wounds on his head. The co-accused also said Sheikh was hung upside down and beaten with a cricket bat.

“Custodial death is inhuman. Nobody should be subjected to torture,” Additional Commissioner of Police Qaiser Khalid told TEHELKA. “Let us wait for the CID findings.” But will a probe be impartial? Not in the experience of the family of Rafiq Sheikh, 35, a cosmetic company executive in Mumbai, who was arrested on 28 November 2012 in a fake currency racket. When his brother, Majhal, went to meet him on 2 December, Sheikh was dead. “The deepest wounds were on his legs. The soles of his feet had blackened from the beating,” says Majhal. “I want those cops to pay for what they did.”

In this case, too, a co-accused testified that policemen belted and caned Sheikh for hours. A judge of the Bombay High Court noted that the wounds appeared inflicted by others. When Sheikh’s family filed a criminal case, the police assigned the probe to a CID team that includes an officer who was himself once charged with the killing of an accused named Khwaja Younus in January 2003. Now Assistant Commissioner of Police, Praful Bhosale was known as an “encounter specialist”, who had killed 74 alleged criminals. Bhosale was suspended for four years and reinstated in 2010.

On 15 April 2011, police in the northeastern state of Tripura arrested Harak Chandra Chakma, a 32-year-old tribal, for taking part in a tribal celebration. He claimed the police attacked him with a blunt object. Photographs showed injuries on his thighs, back and below the knees. He was hospitalised for 10 days. Four days after the torture, the Asian Indigenous and Tribal People’s Network, an NGO, moved the NHRC. An inquiry proved Chakma’s torture by the police. What happened then to the guilty? One of the three named in the report was suspended. No action was taken against the others.

A hair-raising account of torture has come from a Bengaluru journalist, Muthi-ur- Rahman Siddique, who was released in February after being in prison for six months allegedly for a terror plot. In all, there were 14 accused in the case. “One was beaten, hung upside down, and had petrol poured into his private parts,” Siddique told TEHELKA. Another accused, Obaid-ur-Rehman of Hyderabad, had his finger broken. “Most were given electric shocks on their genitals.” The police deny the allegations.

Justice typically eludes victims of torture for decades. In 1989, a domestic worker named Sarfaraz went to the police in Navi Mumbai to report that his wife had hanged herself and died. Instead, the police accused him of being responsible for his wife’s death. They allegedly called his mother to the police station, stripped both of them, and forced them into sexual positions. “After some time, a constable took me into a room where my mother was being held,” reads Sarfaraz’ shocking statement to the court. “She was in the nude. I was forced to strip naked even as I begged them to let us go. An inspector took me to my mother and put my hands on her breasts. After making her lie down on a bench, he asked one of the constables to shake my penis. They tied me up and beat me again. I was untied after a point and they pushed me on my mother. The inspector was forcing my chest to her breasts and my penis into her private parts. The inspector kept shouting ‘rape her’ the whole time.” It is a narrative that Sarfaraz reproduces with a kind of clarity as though it happened yesterday. He was then paraded naked in his neighbourhood. After he was acquitted in 1991 of trumped up charges, he filed cases against the three policemen who were instrumental in making him suffer. It was only last year that the case was finally taken up by a fast-track court.

 
‘Every morning And evening, We were hung upside down and our feet, Ankles and back caned. The torture continued for four days’
Shatrugan RajnaithamA tribal from Gadchiroli who was charged with waging war against the State

Policemen long enjoyed impunity from prosecution because the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), a set of rules coded in 1973 to administer criminal jurisprudence, stipulates that officials cannot be prosecuted for acts committed in the discharge of their duties. The Indian Penal Code of 1860 had allowed sentences of up to seven years for a range of acts that can be considered as torture. But to prosecute cops under these laws has traditionally been next to impossible. Few victims are forensically examined. A lack of a witness protection mechanism deters the victims from taking on the guilty. Compensation is yet not a fundamental right. The courts have taken a minimalistic view on claims for compensation from acts of torture. As such, awards vary across India.

In 2005, an amendment to the CrPC mandated a judicial probe on the death or disappearance of a person or rape of a woman in custody. But it has hardly lessened the use of torture. Deaths from torture are almost always passed off as suicides. “What led them to the extreme act and how they commit suicide with strange objects like shoe laces, blankets, jeans, etc are (questions) never answered,” says a report by Asian Centre for Human Rights, an NGO that activist Chakma heads. “How the victims had access to the means like poisons, drugs, electric cables, etc in custody remain(s) unknown.” Many victims, who are healthy prior to their arrest, develop medical complications once in custody. “They are subjected to torture and murdered. With the acquiescence of the medical fraternity, the police are able to describe the death as medical complications.”

Internationally, it is becoming hard for India to escape censure. As early as 1997, the UN Human Rights Committee voiced anguish over the extensive use of torture by India’s law enforcement agencies. The Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2007 and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2008 expressed serious concern over the impunity that India afforded to its men in uniform who tortured citizens in custody. In March, Henri Tiphagne, a leading global activist from the Geneva-based World Organisation Against Torture, joined a public hearing against torture at Madurai city in Tamil Nadu. “Torture is inflicted not only on the accused but also on petitioners and complainants,” he told the gathering. Of course, the government has long turned a deaf ear to domestic and international voices against the culture of torture. And unless it is shaken out of its complacence, tens of thousands more will continue to be brutalised by the men in uniform.

vishnu@tehelka.com

With inputs from Virendra Nath Bhatt, Nupur Sonar, Imran Khan and Ratnadip Choudhury

Fixing accountability for unlawful killings in India #AFSPA


DIVYA TRIVEDI, The Hindu

Students demand withdrawal of the Act. Photo: S. Subramanium
The HinduStudents demand withdrawal of the Act. Photo: S. Subramanium

Hundred and nine civilian deaths occurred due to police firing in 2011, according to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). Disproportionate use of force during demonstrations caused many deaths and at least 100 deaths were caused due to excessive use of force against demonstrators in Jammu and Kashmir in 2010. According to the NHRC, 2,560 deaths during encounters with police were reported between 1993 and 2008. Of this, 1,224 cases were regarded by the NHRC as “fake encounters”. The police, the central armed police forces and the armed forces have been accused of “fake encounters”. Complaints have been lodged, particularly against the Central Reserve Police Force, the Border Security Forces, and the armed forces acting under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA).

In the face of such alarming statistics, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Mr. Christof Heyns, was invited to the country and he toured extensively between March 19 to 30 this year meeting several State and non-State actors. The main findings of his report will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva in June 2013.

It recommends a series of legal reforms and policy measures aimed at fighting impunity and decreasing the level of unlawful killings in India.

While deaths resulting from excessive use of force by security officers, and legislation that is permissive of such use of force hampers accountability, impunity is a central problem and represents a major challenge, according to the report.

His report states that India should repeal, or at least radically amend, AFSPA and the Jammu and Kashmir AFSPA, with the aim of ensuring that the legislation regarding the use of force by the armed forces provides for the respect of the principles of proportionality and necessity in all instances, as stipulated under international human rights law. It should also remove all legal barriers for the criminal prosecution of members of the armed forces.

“While waiting for the necessary amendment or repeal of AFSPA, it should be ensured that the status of a “disturbed area” under AFSPA is subject to regular review – for example, every six months – and a justified decision is made on its further extension,” states the report.

The report also recommends the immediate ratification of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and its Optional Protocol and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

It recommends India to swiftly enact the Prevention of Torture Bill and ensure its compliance with CAT.

All vigilante groups and civilians recruited to perform military or law enforcement tasks, and who are not part of the regular security forces, should be dissolved and prohibited with immediate effect, states the report.

The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act should be reviewed with the aim of extending its scope to Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians. The criminal legislation should be reviewed to ensure that all gender-based killings, as well as killings of any member of a tribe or lower caste receive high sentences, possibly under the form of life imprisonment. The Indian legislation regarding the imposition of the death penalty should be reviewed to provide that the death penalty may be imposed for the most serious crimes only, namely only for those crimes that involve intentional killing. India should consider placing a moratorium on the death penalty in accordance with General Assembly resolutions with a view to abolishing it, according to the report. A mechanism should be put in place to regularly review and monitor the status of implementation of the directives of the Supreme Court and the NHRC guidelines on arrest, encounter killings, and custodial violence and death.

The establishment and effective functioning of the independent Police Complaints Authorities should be made a priority in all states. It should be ensured that FIR registration is prompt and made mandatory in all cases of unlawful killings and death threats. The authorities should put in place an independent mechanism to monitor FIR registration following any request to do so, as well as of punishment of those law enforcement officials who refuse to register a FIR.

To a large extent, the required structures to decrease extrajudicial executions are already in place but a concerted and systematic effort is required by the State, civil society and others to eradicate unlawful killings, states the report.

 

 

NHRC has not given clean chit to Chhattisgarh Govt on Soni Sori as reported in Media


RAIPUR, April 15, 2013

NHRC gives clean chit to Chhattisgarh Government on Soni Sori

 

SUVOJIT BAGCHI, The Hindu

  While various national women’s organisations decried an attempt to make Soni Sori, the tribal school teacher accused of acting as a courier between Essar Steel and outlawed Maoists, undergo a “psychiatric evaluation” as a “sinister ploy” by the Chhattisgarh government, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has given a clean chit to the State government on the treatment meted out to the tribal school teacher. Last week, Ms. Sori informed the NHRC members that she has been “treated better” over the last few months, the NHRC claimed in a press statement.

Several national women’s organisations in Delhi decried psychiatric examination conducted on Ms. Sori recently in Jagdalpur jail where she is currently lodged. In a joint statement, seven women’s organisations said that in December 2012, a team of National Commission of Women (NCW) conducted a jail visit here and met Ms. Sori in custody.

“While the NCW report of the visit is still pending, a stray remark made by NCW member Shamina Shafiq, that Ms. Sori needed psychological counselling seems to have provided the Chhattisgarh government the pretext to carry out a full-fledged psychiatric evaluation on her, with the potential of declaring her mentally unsound,” the organisations said in a joint statement. Annie Raja, general secretary of National Federation of Indian Women, who was also part of the NCW team visiting the jail, pointed out that Ms. Shafiq’s remark was not an opinion shared by the entire team and hence, does not have the legitimacy of a formal observation. Hence, in a letter to Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, the organisations demanded quashing of further proceedings in “psychiatric evaluation” and initiate steps to redress Ms. Sori’s genuine grievances of “sexual torture and ill-treatment.”

Another statement issued by the NHRC a day after the statement made by the women’s organisation, however, gave a clean chit to the Chhattisgarh government. The NHRC sent a two-member team to Jagdalpur jail on April 10 to “meet her to know her condition.”

“Ms. Sori informed the team that she has been treated better since the NHRC’s last visit,” the statement said. The Commission expressed “hope that the jail authorities would continue to give proper treatment to Ms. Sori.” A.G. Balakrishnan, chief of the Commission Justice, read out the statement here.

While the NHRC’s maiden ‘full commission’ in Chhattisgarh ended in a damp squib on Friday, the Commission took up certain matters and asked the government for a follow-up report. For example, in the case of 7,000 allegedly fake hysterectomies under the Centre’s insurance scheme Rashtriya Sam Vikas Yojana (RSVY), the Commission has asked the State government for a detailed report within a month. Hysterectomies, or removal of the uterus, have been carried out in 169 hospitals in Chhattisgarh to claim money under RSVY, according to the Commission’s press statement.

In two cases of fake encounters, mentioned in the press statement, the Commission recommended a compensation of Rs. 5 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased. Those killed in separate police encounters are Kunjami Joga of Kurtrem village of Dantewada and a Naxalite named Ramesh Barumana for “violation of human rights”. Compensation has also been recommended in cases of custodial killing of 25-year-old trial prisoner Kunjami Kosa and Santosh Dahriya. The State government “gracefully agreed” to pay compensation in all the cases, said the statement.


  • NHRC had sent a two-member team to Jagdalpur jail to know Sori’s condition
  • ‘Sori informed that she has been treated better since the NHRC’s last visit

    SONISORICOLLAGE

There is no “clean chit” to the Chhattisgarh government.

On 28 July 2012, Soni Sori wrote a letter to the Supreme Court Judge saying that she is being subjected to humiliating treatment inside the Raipur jail:

“Your Honour, at this time, I am in great mental turmoil and suffering.
1. I am being made to sit naked on the ground.
2. I am suffering from hunger
3. Each part of my body is touched as I am searched.
I am being labelled as a “traitor” and “naxalite” and tortured. My clothes, soap, detergent have all been confiscated and all kinds of accusations are heaped upon me. All my belongings are searched after I am taken for a hearing.”

This formed the basis of an NHRC complaint, and it was to investigate this complaint that the NHRC visited Soni Sori in the Raipur Central Jail on 19 Nov 2012.  The visiting NHRC team confirmed that Soni Sori was being mistreated inside the jail.  The NHRC’s summary page says:

“The report of the Commission’s team shows that there are grounds to believe that Soni Sori has on several occasions beensingled out for harsh and humiliating ill-treatment. Even as a prisoner, she has a right to personal dignity and the right not to be subjected to physical or psychological abuse. It appears that these rights have sometimes been violated. The Commission expects the Government of Chhattisgarh to ensure that the traumatic ordeals and the odious practices to which Soni Sori has been subjected more than once are immediately stopped and do not recur.”

 

The visiting NHRC team reportedly reprimanded the Raipur jail staff, following which Soni has reported, that these daily harassments stopped.
Subsequently, Soni Sori was shifted out of the Raipur Central Jail on 24 Jan 2013 and taken to Jadgalpur Central Jail.  Now, on 10 April 2013, another 2 member team of the NHRC visited Soni Sori in Jagdalpur Jail and inquired whether the mistreatment of which she had complained was continuing, and she has reportedly told them (as she has told us) that she is no longer being singled out for harassment on a daily basis inside the jail.
This is hardly a clean chit to the Chhattisgarh Government!  The findings of the Commission still remain – and the findings are that Soni Sori was being subjected to “traumatic ordeals and odious practices” inside the Raipur Central Jail. Just because the ill-treatment stopped after a reprimand doesn’t erase the fact that gross ill-treatment existed at all!
As has  been pointed out earlier — the NHRC is NOT looking into the complaint of sexual torture in police custody — that complaint is before the Supreme Court (and has been stuck there forever).  To my knowledge, the complaint of this unnecessary “psychiatric evaluation” has also not been made before the NHRC (since the focus was on getting the NCW to move). So the NHRC has validated the limited complaint that was before it — of mistreatment inside Raipur Jail –and has NOT given the govt a clean chit.  This would be like giving a wife-beater a clean chit for every day that he does not beat his wife.
[That the NHRC has not done more — like take punitive action against jail staff, order compensation for Soni Sori etc. — are of course issues that still need to be taken up with the NHRC.]

 

Press Release- NHRC recommends 20 lakhs as monetary relief to the victims of human rights violations in Chhattisgarh


NHRC concludes its two day Camp Sitting at Raipur; Recommends 20 lakhs as monetary relief to the victims of human rights violations

New Delhi, April, 12, 2013, NHRC PR

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) today concluded its two day camp sitting at Raipur, Chattisgarh. On the opening day i.e. 11.04.2013, the Commission took up 27 cases for hearing in the Full Commission and Division Bench Sittings. Six cases were closed after satisfactory replies from the State Government. The Commission recommended about rupees 20 lakhs as monetary relief in different cases of human rights violations.

In a case in which it was alleged that 7000 hysterectomies – uterus removal surgeries had been carried out by unscrupulous doctors in 169 hospitals in Chattisgarh, to claim money under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna (RSBY), the Commission has asked the State Government to submit a detailed report within four weeks. The Health Secretary informed that the licenses of nine doctors in Raipur have already been suspended to carry out such operations. On being asked whether the State Government has made an inquiry about such incidents in other parts of the State, the Chief Secretary assured the Commission that random checking would be made in other districts of the State and if any case of unethical practice is found, stringent action would be taken against the offenders.

In the matter of malnutrition of children and pregnant woman, the Commission has asked the State Govt. to monitor the situation and make efforts to ensure that cases of malnutrition are minimized in the State.

In the case of gang rape of 11 minor tribal girls by the teacher and chowkidar of a Govt. tribal hostel in Narharpur in Kanker district, the Commission was informed that all the victims have been paid a compensation of Rs. Two lakhs each from the CM’s Relief Fund and a number of steps have been taken for their rehabilitation. The Commission was informed of the preventive steps taken by the State Govt. to curb such incidents. These include restrictions on the entry of men in girls hostels. If needed to enter, men would be accompanied by a female staff. Monthly medical check-ups are carried out on all residents. The Commission has asked the State Govt. to submit a detailed report about the steps taken by the State Government for rehabilitation of the victim girls so that they could be considered by the Commission for adoption by other states.

In another case of gang rape of minor girl in the Govt. run Amandula Tribal Hostel in Balod District, the Commission has asked the State Govt. to pay compensation of Rs. 1,25,000 in addition to Rs. 25,000 already paid to the victim under the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules. The Commission has also asked the State to bear cost of her school/college education and her rehabilitation.

In the case of death of 25 year old under trial prisoner Kunjami Kosa who was lodged in the Central Jail, Jagdalpur, the Commission held the jail authorities responsible for not providing proper medical treatment to the deceased prisoner and recommended to the State Government to pay Rs. Three lakhs as monetary relief to the next of kin of the deceased for violation of his human rights.

In a case of medical negligence in the tubectomy operation of a woman, named Sunita Bai Kashyap in the Govt. Hospital in Kawardha town, the Commission has directed the State Govt. to pay compensation of Rs.2.5 lakhs in addition to the compensation of Rs. 50000 already paid to the next of kin of the deceased. A bundle of cotton gauze, left in the stomach of the victim during the surgery conducted by an ENT specialist, caused infection which led to her death.

In the matter of torture of Soni Sori in police custody, the Commission had sent its two member team to Jagdalpur Jail on 10.04.2013 to meet her to know her condition. Soni Sori informed the team that she has been treated better since the NHRC’s last visit. The Commission has expressed the hope that jail authorities would continue to give proper treatment to Soni Sori in the jail.

The Commission also took up the case of custodial death of one Santosh Dahriya, an accused of kidnapping and raping a minor girl. The victim died due to alleged torture during police custody in Raipur on 19/2/2012. Upon consideration of the reports, the Commission was of the view that it is a case of gross violation of human rights of a jail inmate – violation of the most precious human right i.e.right to life. The Commission found it to be a fit case for granting monetary relief to the next of kin of the deceased. The State Govt. gracefully agreed to comply with the recommendation, if any made by the Commission to grant monetary relief in the case. Accordingly, the Commission recommended to the State Government to pay Rs. Three lakhs as monetary relief to the next of kin of the deceased Santosh Dahriya.

In the cases of death in police action taken up in sitting of the Division Bench, the Commission was not satisfied with the reports submitted by the SP, SIB, Police Headquarters, Raipur in the matter of alleged killing of seventeen tribals including four women in an alleged encounter between a group of naxalites and a police party on 08.01.2009 near village Singaram in Dantewada district. The Commission observed that there were several serious shortcomings in the police investigation, coupled with the evidence of autopsies, they raised serious doubts about the encounter. The Commission directed the DGP, Chattisgarh to seek an explanation of the officer who conducted investigation in the case. The DGP has assured the Commission to get the matter investigated thoroughly and submit a detailed report.

In the case of death of Kunjami Joga in an alleged fake encounter in Kurtrem, Dantewada, the Commission held that the victim was an innocent villager who was killed, perhaps not intentionally, by the police and therefore it would be appropriate for the State to offer some relief to the next of the kin of the deceased. In response to the Show Cause Notice issued by the Commission, the Chief Secretary submitted that the State would abide by the recommendations made by the Commission for award of monetary relief in the matter. Hence, the Commission recommended monetary relief of Rs. Five Lakhs to the next of kin of the deceased.

In the case of death of a naxalite Ramesh Barumana during encounter with police on 13.5.2009, the Commission on consideration of the reports received from concerned authorities, found it to not to be a genuine encounter and had issued notice to the Govt. of Chattisgarh to show cause as to why it should not recommend monetary relief to the next of kin of the deceased. The State Govt. gracefully agreed that recommendations of the Commission would be carried out by them. Accordingly, the Commission recommended to the State Government to pay Rs. Five lakhs as monetary relief to the next of kin of the deceased.

On the concluding day of the camp sitting, the Commission had an interaction with non-governmental organizations. The points raised by them include harassment of human rights defenders, non-registration or delay in registration of FIR, lack of care of mentally challenged people, non-adherence to the guidelines of the NHRC in the matters of custodial violence and extra judicial killings, delay in issue of caste certificates to tribals etc.

After meeting NGOs, the Commission held discussions with the senior officers of the State Government including the Chief Secretary, DGP, Secretaries of various departments, DMs, SPs and other senior civil, police and jail officers on points 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; PDS system in the State; Prison Reforms including over-crowding in jails; 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.

The Chief Secretary presented the stand of the State Government on these issues and assured to look into the issues raised by the Commission and take necessary steps to comply with the recommendations of the Commission.

Before the meetings in Raipur, on 9th and 10th April, 2013, a seven member delegation of the National Human Rights Commission comprising Hon’ble Members Justice Shri B.C. Patel and Shri Satyabrata Pal, Smt. S. Jalaja, Spl. Rapporteur, NHRC, Shri A.K. Parashar, Joint Registrar (Law), Shri Pupul Dutta Prasad, SSP, Shri Khwaja A. Hafeez, Assistant Registrar (Law) and Shri Rajveer, Inspector visited Dantewada and a relief camp near Dantewada to assess the relief and rehabilitation measures undertaken by the State Government for the affected persons.The delegation met the inmates of the camp to know about their living condition in the camps. The inmates of the camp expressed satisfaction over the facilities being given to them in the camps. They requested the delegation to impress upon the State Government to take steps to check naxalism in the state so that they could return to their houses. The delegation also visited Aastha Gurukul Vidyala, a residential school in the Education City where free quality education is being provided to children of families affected by naxal violence in the State. The delegation also visited Ajeevika Mahavidyalaya/Livelihood College, Dantewada, where students from Primary to Graduate level are provided vocational training in different disciplines. The delegation also met the NGOs who raised issues like lack of education and health facilities, lack of development of roads and bridges, lack of protection from naxalites to the people working for the betterment of masses. The delegation also met the senior officers who gave an overview of the situation in the area and the work being done by the State Government to improve situation in the area.

The Commission has organized this camp sitting as part of a series of such sessions in different parts of the country, to take up important cases with the State. In the past, the NHRC has held Camp Sittings in U.P., Bihar, Bengaluru (for four southern States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu), Odisha, Gujarat, Assam and Meghalaya.

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.

#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

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