Posts Tagged ‘Guwahati’

NHRC pulls up Assam over hunger deaths and rights violations

May 29, 2012

Guwahati, 29 May 2012: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) pulled up the government of Assam over hunger deaths of tea labourers and other cases of human rights violations. In its camp sitting in Guwahati held on 28 May 2012 the NHRC heard about 50 pending cases relating to Assam state of North East India.

’Out of 17 cases, which the full commission heard, at least 6 cases were closed after the commission got satisfactory answers from the state authorities. In the other cases, the commission has given time to the authorities to respond to its recommendations. The commission recommended about rupees (Indian currency) 1.8 million (18 lakh) as monetary relief in different cases of human rights violations’, NHRC said in a release to the press.

‘In the matter relating to starvation deaths in the Bhuvan valley tea estate in Cachar district, the commission has asked the state government to pay rupees 0.2 million each to the two tea garden workers and rupees 0.1 million (1 lakh) each to about 13 dependents of the workers who died due to starvation. The Commission has also directed the state government to inquire whether the Tea Association of India (TAI) was distributing the food grains properly among the workers or not’ said the NHRC. The government provides the tea workers with food items from the Public Distribution System (PDS) through the TAI which is not favorably seen by the commission.

The NHRC release further stated that in a case relating to rehabilitation of children rendered orphan or destitute in communal riots in upper Assam districts, the commission asked the state government to identify the child victims without any further delay and give financial assistance to them and sent compliance report along with proof of payment within eight weeks. The Commission observed that it is the negligence of officers that led to orphaned children not getting timely assistance despite the fact that so many years have past since the riots.

In the cases relating to force prostitution of three women in Cachar district, the commission asked the state government to pay rupees one lakh each to the three victims. The government was also asked to inquire whether there was any organized activity going on in the state ofAssamto bring girls from Meghalaya to Cachar and Silchar and forced them into prostitution. The authorities have been asked to take action against the guilty.

On the issue of witch hunting, the state authorities admitted that this practice is prevalent in backward and distantly located places. During last five years, about 88 women and over 40 men  became victims of such incidents. The commission has asked the state authorities to create awareness among people and strive for fast investigation and speedy trial in incidents of witch hunting to at the deterrent.

The commission also heard encounter and custodial death cases in its two division benches and asked the police authorities to scrupulously adhere to its guidelines and submit all the reports to the commission timely for early disposal of such cases.

The Assam based human rights group Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC), the group that has been reporting the starvation deaths of tea workers and fighting for their cause and complainant in several other cases, said that this move of the NHRC to dispose of pending cases expediently and to reach out to the remote areas in a bid to sensitize the government officials and talk with the civil society groups are great steps and have been long overdue. This will go a long to protect rights of the people encouraging the independent human rights defenders and the recommendations and observations of the NHRC will work as strong disincentive to the potential violators among the officials.

NHRC to hear starvation deaths and rights violation cases in North East India

May 27, 2012


Guwahati, 27 May 2012: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) will hear cases of human rights violations concerning Assam and Meghalaya including the cases of starvation deaths of the tea workers in Cachar district in camp sitting in Guwahati and Shillong from 28 May to 30 May 2012.

In the Assam sitting at North-Eastern Development Finance Corporation (NEDFi) house,G.S. Road, Guwahati on 28 May about 50 pending cases will be heard and disposed of. Alongside the hunger deaths in the Bhuvan valley tea estate, other important cases to be considered include land-grabbing and deprivation of sources of livelihood of 300 families who face eviction in Karimganj district, alleged eviction of about 6000 adivasis by forest officials from Lungsun forest area in Kokrajhar district, rehabilitation of children rendered orphan or destitute in communal riots in upper Assam districts, denial of basic facilities to the residents of 22 villages in Kamrup district, witch hunting, sexual exploitation of women, illegal coal mining in Tinsukia district, deaths in encounter and custody.

The starvation deaths case and the case of land-grabbing have been filed by the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC).

In the former case the BHRPC has alleged that so far 15 people died in the Bhuvan valley tea estate, a tea garden owned by a Kolkata-based private company, due to starvation, malnutrition and lack of proper health care since 8 October 2011.

In the case of land-grabbing it has been alleged that around 300 families of traditional forest dwellers in and around Patharia forest reserve in Karimganj district have forcibly been deprived of their sources of livelihood and now living under severe threat of imminent eviction from their dwelling houses by some businessmen who reportedly grabbed lands measuring approximately 130 hectares (330 acres) allegedly for rubber plantation in a village where the families of the forest dwellers have been living for generations depending on the forest produces for livelihood.

In both the cases the NHRC has already issued notices to the chief secretary ofAssamcalling for action taken reports.

In a release to the press the NHRC said that a delegation headed by its chairperson Mr. Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and comprising of members, director general (nvestigation), registrar (law) and other senior officers will be in Guwahati, Assam from 28 to 29 May, 2012 and on 30 May, 2012 in Shillong, Meghalaya for its camp sittings.

The cases of Assam will be considered for disposal with necessary directions to the public authorities during the camp sitting at in NEDFi house. Out of the 50 cases, 17 cases will be heard at the full commission sitting chaired by Mr. Justice K G Balakrishnan. 12 cases will be taken up by the division bench comprising of Mr. Justice G.P. Mathur and Mr. P.C. Sharma. 21 cases will be taken up by the division bench comprising of Mr. Justice B.C. Patel and Mr. Satyabrata Pal.

The NHRC in the brief further stated that on 29 May, 2012 the commission will hold discussions with the chief secretary, district magistrates and concerned officers on the progress made by the state government on its recommendations relating to different human rights issues. These will include silicosis, mental health, manual scavenging, prison matters, labour issues, child marriage, prenatal sex selection, population policy etc. A meeting with local NGOs on human rights issues will also be held later in the day.

Cases relating to Meghalaya will be heard in the camp sitting at Hotel Pinewood, Shillong from on 30 May, 2012. The commission will take up nine pending cases, which will be heard by the full fommission and the two division benches respectively. These will include issues of child labour in coalmines, dead male foetus found in several parts in the state, deaths in police firing, torture of labourers at West Garo Hills by Border Security Force (BSF) personnel and ostracization of 17 families facing denial of food grains for 72 months.

In the afternoon session the commission will hold discussions, with senior officers on the progress made by the state government on its recommendations relating to different human rights issues. These issues will include mental health, 28 district programmes, labour issues, manual scavenging, child marriage, prenatal sex selection, population policy and custodial death cases among others.

NAPM demands release of anti-dam protesters and scrapping of all big dams

December 27, 2011

‘NAPM condemns arrest and harassment of anti-dam protesters in Assam’

DECEMBER 27, 2011

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) forwards this statement issued on 26 December by the NATIONAL ALLIANCE FOR PEOPLE’S MOVEMENTS on ‘arrest and harassment of anti-dam protesters in Assam’.

New Delhi, December 26: Tonight at 2:15 am Assam Police in collusion with other security forces swooped down on the protesters at Ranganadi who have been blockading the Highway since December 16 and thwarting state’s attempt to carry turbines and dam materials to project site of Lower Subansiri Dam. Nearly 200 people have been arrested and earlier also security forces have been harassing the ptotestors. In past too, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti fighting against the big dams on Brhamaputra have faced government’s ire and often been attacked and jailed. NAPM stands in solidarity with KMSS and other students groups of the region who have been consistently opposed to the Big dams in highly sensitive seismic zone. We condemn the sustained action and harassment of KMSS and their activists and targeting of Akhil Gogoi for constantly opposing the destructive development policies and corruption of the government machinery.

For past few weeks there been a serious agitation going on against theAssamgovernment and NHPC. Thousands and thousands of people daily wage earners, farmers, school teachers, students, and others from middle class have been gathering at the protest site at Lakhimpur town.

The dam on river Subansiri at Gerukamukh is for the 2010MW Lower Subansiri Hydro Electric Project (LSHEP) under the National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC). The project is scheduled to be completed by 2015, but a series of questions need to be answered about the big dams, like impact on agriculture, fishes, ecology, earthquakes etc.

The Assamese farmers have joined this movement spontaneously because they have learned from their experiences. Small hydro-projects have already taught them a lesson. For past several years, they have no cultivation as sand siltation had damaged their fields, sudden floods caused by the water released by the hydro-projects have led them to nowhere.

Even though a report by an expert committee comprising scientists from IIT Guwahati and universities in Assam have advised the government against mega dams in a tectonically unstable region, NHPC and Assam Government is hell bent on implementing the project. Arunachal Pradesh has at least 140 hydroelectric projects, big and small, in various stages of construction, together they will endanger the life of residents of people not only in downstream but in upstream as well.

NAPM urges the State and Union government to seriously look at the dam building in country in light of the ongoing controversy over the Mullaperiyar Dam, ongoing agitations against the big dams inAssam, Vishungadh-Pipalkoti HEP in Uttarakhand, Polavaram in Andhra Pradesh, and various dams inNarmadaValley. Dams as a technological tool for development, irrigation, flood control have been exposed. It is high time serious thought was given towards decommissioning of the dams rather than building more big dams.

We demand fromAssamgovernment that the protesters be released immediately and big dams inBrhmaputraRiverValley, Subasniri rivers be all together scrapped. Ministry of Water Resources in this regard should take the lead and stop planning dams in different states of North East in a highly active seismic zone.

Medha Patkar, Sandeep Pandey, Prafulla Samantara, Ramakrishna Raju, Vimal Bhai, Rajendra Ravi, Anand Mazgaonkar, Madhuresh Kumar

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

For and on behalf of BHRPC

Concerns over civil and political rights in Assam

October 4, 2011

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar[1]

 I am asked to make a brief presentation on issues relating to civil and political rights in terms of the requirement of ratification of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment (CAT) and its Optional Protocol, ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and other challenges relating to civil and political rights. I will try to present my views on the issues very briefly as an activist working in Assam in the field of human rights.

Ratification of the Convention Against Torture and Its Optional Protocol

Though torture is absolutely prohibited now, throughout history, it has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, coercion and punishment. Deliberately painful methods of execution for severe crimes were taken for granted as part of justice until the development of Humanism in 17th century philosophy, and “cruel and unusual punishment” came to be denounced in the English Bill of Rights of 1689. The Age of Enlightenment in the western world further developed the idea of universal human rights. The adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 marks the recognition at least nominally of a general ban of torture by all United Nations member states[2]. Now in the 21st century the prohibition of torture has been recognized as a peremptory norm of international law and a number of international, regional and domestic courts have held the prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment to be customary international law. [3] Some other legally binding international treatises, to which India is a state party, prohibits torture which include Geneva Conventions[4], International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.[5]

Though the constitution of India does not expressly prohibit torture, the constitutional jurisprudence prohibits torture absolutely. According to the Supreme Court, any form of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment fall within the ambit of Article 21[6] of the Constitution – whether be it during interrogation, investigation or otherwise. A person does not shed his fundamental right to life when he is arrested. Article 21 cannot be denied to arrested persons or prisoners in custody (D K Basu v State of West Bengal[7]).

Despite such constitutional and judicial denunciation of torture, it is routinely practiced by law enforcement officials and security forces in India. However, there is no accurate data on the use of torture in the country since the Government does not have an unambiguous and strong policy against torture. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) gathers figures on custodial deaths. Based on these figures, the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) estimated that between 2002 and 2008, over four people per day died while in police custody, with “hundreds” of those deaths being due to police use of torture.[8]

Over the days, with the war on terror, practice of torture is becoming more wide spread and there is no legal instrument and mechanism to combat it in India. The CAT and its Optional Protocol provide such mechanism at the international level. The convention was adopted on 10 December, 1984 and came into force on 26 June, 1987. It has 78 signatories and 149 States Parties.[9] India signed the CAT on 14 October 1997, but is yet to ratify it. Advocacy and lobbying from all quarters including NHRC has succeeded and India decided to ratify CAT. The Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on April 26, 2010 and was passed by that house on May 6, 2010 without referring it to the Standing Committee. It was a misnomer to call it the Prevention Torture Bill. It appeared to have been designed to promote torture. The definition of torture (a) was inconsistent with the definition of torture in the Convention against Torture, (b) it required the intention of the accused to be proved, (c) did not include mental pain or suffering, and (d) did not include some acts which may constitute torture. The Bill diluted existing laws by imposing a time limit of six months and requiring prior government sanction for trying those accused of torture. Existing laws do not have such requirements. There was no independent authority to investigate complaints of torture, and no provision for granting compensation to torture victims has been made.[10]  When it was introduced in the Rajya Sabha fortunately the house referred it to the Select Committee and which came up with fairly sensible suggestions and submitted its report on 6 December, 2010.[11] It changed the definition of torture to make it consistent with the definition given in the CAT. The Committee suggested that the limitation period should be two years and not six months as it was in the bill. It suggested dilution of requirement of prior approval for prosecution. The Committee also talked of witness protection which is very sensible. Overall, it can be said that the suggestions of the Committee, if incorporated in the bill in toto, will make the law a pragmatic and preventive tool, though there are much to be desired. For example, 1. requirement of prior sanction for prosecution is a question mark on the wisdom of the judiciary. Courts can deal appropriately with malicious, vexatious or frivolous complaints; 2. persons other than victim and his/her relatives should also be authorized by law to file complaint on his/her behalf without authorization by him/her as provided in the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993;[12] 3.  an independent mechanism both at national and state level should be established to torture cases and situations in detention places.

Optional Protocol

Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (Optional Protocol) aims to create a global system of inspection of places of detention as a way of preventing torture and ill-treatment. A Sub-Committee of the Committee Against Torture, composed of 10 independent and impartial members working in their individual capacity, will be empowered to carry out missions to any State that ratifies the Optional Protocol. On the basis of its visits, the Sub-Committee will write a confidential report for the State Party, including practical recommendations. It will initiate a dialogue with the State Party on measures to improve the conditions of persons in custody with the aim of preventing torture.

The second important element of the Protocol is the requirement to put in place national preventive mechanisms. Article 3 of the Protocol requires ratifying States to “set up, designate or maintain at the domestic level one or several visiting bodies for the prevention of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

The emphasis of the Protocol is on prevention and being transparent to the world. Refusal to ratify it means refusal to be transparent which belies India’s claims to democracy and the primacy of the rule of law.

India should ratify both the CAT and its Optional Protocol and also extend invitation to the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and provide facilities to interact freely with survivors of torture and human rights defenders from North East.

Ratification of the Convention on Enforced Disappearance

Enforced Disappearance is abduction or kidnapping, carried out by State agents, or organized groups and individuals who act with State support or tolerance, in which the victim “disappears”. Authorities neither accept responsibility for the dead, nor account for the whereabouts of the victim. Legal recourse including petitions of habeas corpus, remain ineffective. Enforced Disappearance is a serious violation of fundamental human rights: the right to security and dignity of person; the right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; the right to humane conditions of detention; the right to a legal personality; as well as rights related to fair trial and family life. Ultimately, it can violate the right to life, as victims of enforced disappearance are often killed. Increasingly the international community considers Enforced Involuntary Disappearance as a specific human rights violation and a crime against humanity. This culminated in the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. On February 6, 2007 the Convention was opened for signatures and signed by 57 States. The convention clearly states: – No one shall be subjected to Enforced Disappearance. – No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for Enforced Disappearance.[13]

India signed the International Convention for Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances in February 2007, but has failed to ratify the convention. The crime of Enforced Involuntary Disappearances is not codified as a distinct offence in Indian penal laws. Police either have to make an entry in the general diary as a missing case or register a case under provisions for kidnap or abduction.[14] These provision do not contemplate a situation which is contemplated in the Convention.

Apart from Jammu and Kashmir, the cases of enforced disappearances are routine in North East India, particularly in Manipur. The infamous secret killings in Assam during 1998–2001 also fall within the ambit of enforced disappearances. Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) also documented cases of enforced disappearances. BHRPC wrote to the Prime Minister of India on July 18, 2009 about the disappearance of Paresh Das (55) and Dilip Das (45) of Nandan Kanan Tea Garden area under Jirighat Police Station in Cachar district, Assam, on May 25, 2009 from Tamenlong in Manipur and the PMO in turn wrote to the Chief secretary of Assam requesting him to take appropriate actions.[15]

Lack of substantive and procedural laws as to with the problem is one of the factor that crippled the state in terms of effective prevention and placing deterrence. Ratification of the Convention along with incorporation of the provisions in domestic laws is the need of the hour.

Other Challenges Relating to Civil and Political Rights

There are so many other challenges in exercising and enjoying civil and political rights. One of them is the challenge of policing while respecting rights of the people adhering to the human rights norms.

Policing

The police, in a sense, is the most empowered group of human rights defenders.[16] But sadly enough, after 64 years of independence, the institution remains and functions more or less all over the country as it was designed by the British colonial rulers in the Police Act of 1861.

After decades of public pressure, lack of political will and continued poor policing, a police reform process is finally underway in India. On 22 September 2006, the Supreme Court delivered a historic judgment in Prakash Singh and Others vs. Union of India and Others[17] instructing central and state governments to comply with a set of seven directives laying down practical mechanisms to kick-start reform.[18]

The directives were aimed to ensure functional autonomy of the police and their accountability to the law. For ensuring functional autonomy the Supreme Court directed 1. to establish a State Security Commission to i. ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police; lay down broad policy guidelines aimed at promoting efficient, effective, responsive and accountable policing, in accordance with the law; give directions for the performance of the preventive tasks and service oriented functions of the police; evaluate the performance of the state police and prepare a report on police performance to be placed before the state legislature.

2. The second directive was aimed at ensuring fair selection of Director General of Police (DGP) and guarantee of his tenure.[19]

3. Security of tenure is similarly important for other police officers on operational duties in the field. In order to help them withstand undue political interference, have time to properly understand the needs of their jurisdictions and do justice to their jobs, the Supreme Court provides for a minimum tenure of two years for the following categories of officers:           – Inspector General of Police (in charge of a Zone)

– Deputy Inspector General of Police (in charge of a Range)

– Superintendent of Police (in charge of a District)

– Station House Officer (in charge of a Police Station)[20]

4. To counter the prevailing practice of subjective appointments, transfers and promotions, the Supreme Court provides for the creation of a Police Establishment Board. In effect, the Board brings these crucial service related matters largely under police control. Notably, a trend in international best practice is that government has a role in appointing and managing senior police leadership, but service related matters of other ranks remain internal matters. Experience in India shows that this statutory demarcation is absolutely required in order to decrease corruption and undue patronage, given the prevailing illegitimate political interference in decisions regarding police appointments, transfers and promotions.[21]

5. the Supreme Court directed the Central Government to establish a National Security Commission for Central Police Organisations and Central Cara-Military Forces.

For ensuring accountability the Supreme Court directed the governments to set up:

6. Police Complaints Authority[22] and

7. To separate investigation and law and order function of police.[23]

The Government of Assam passed the Assam Police Act, 2007 purportedly to comply with the Supreme Court directives. But in reality it does not comply with the judgment fully. The Commonwealth Initiative for Human Rights (CHRI), a regional human rights organization which was also one of the interveners in the Prakash Shingh case, after an analysis of the Act says that the Act only partially complies with the directives:

  1. State Security Commission was established but the composition is not as per the Supreme Court directive.[24] The Act has also weakened the mandate of the commission and has made its recommendation non-binding.
  2. The second directive regarding selection process of the DGP and guarantee of his tenure not complied.
  3. Directive regarding guarantee of tenure of the police officers on the field are also not complied. Only one year of tenure is guaranteed to the Superintendent of Police in charge of a district and Officer-in-Charge of a police station with  vague grounds for premature removal.[25]
  4. Police Establishment Board was set up but the mandate was not adhered to.[26] DGP has also been given the power to transfer any officer up to the rank of Inspector “as deemed appropriate to meet any contingency”, contrary to the directive.
  5. The Central Government did not establish National Security Commission in utter contempt of the judgment.
  6. The Assam Police Act, 2007 establishes Police Accountability Commission to enquire into public complaints supported by sworn statement against the police personnel for serious misconduct and perform such other functions[27]. But the Chairperson and members of the Commission are appointed directly by the government.[28] This can, at best, be called partial compliance.
  7. Half hearted attempts can also be seen regarding separation of investigation from law and order function of the police. Special Crime Investigation Unit has been set up in urban police stations but there is no specific section on separation of between law and order and crime investigation.

This deliberate attempt to bypass the Supreme Court directives prompted the petitioner in the case former Assam director-general of police Prakash Singh to describe the Assam Police Act, 2007, as a fraud on the people of the state. He was speaking at a seminar  jointly organised by the commission and the Assam State Legal Services Authority at the Assam Administrative Staff College, Guwahati. According to him, the government had violated the letter and spirit of the apex court guidelines by passing the act without conforming to these guidelines.[29]

The Act needs drastic amendment to be brought in conformity with the Supreme Court guidelines and to be compatible with International Human Rights Standards. More importantly the role of the police needs to be redefined “taking into account the emerging challenges of policing and security of the State, the imperatives of good governance, and respect for human rights”.[30]

Implementation of the Laws

Another huge challenge to the civil and political rights is the no-adherence and non-implementation of laws and other instruments that are meant to protect such rights. The Supreme Court guidelines in DK Basu, and NHRPC guidelines regarding arrest, custodial deaths have the potential to drastically reduce the number of torture and disappearance cases if implemented properly. The DK Basu guidelines are only implemented in papers. In rural police stations the guidelines are not even hung in a language eligible to the public at a conspicuous place.

BHRPC has documented many cases of fake encounters and custodial deaths where no magisterial inquiry was conducted in contravention of the statutory mandate of section 176, of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973[31]. In other two cases where the executive magistrates conducted the inquiry the accused police personnel have been found guilty of murder. [32] The reports are dated 28 March 2007 and 9 April 2008 but till the date neither prosecution has been started nor has any compensation been provided to the kins of the deceased. Apart from legal immunity provided by security legislations such as the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958, the Assam Disturbed Areas Act, 1955 there is a regime of de facto impunity guaranteed to the violators which responsible for the increase of the incidents of torture, custodial deaths and other extrajudicial killings.

Anomalies in the Legal Regime

Such gap between good laws on papers and their implementation on the ground may have been facilitated by the mindset that has been created among the law enforcement officials and security forces by the blanket power that has been given them to carry out their operations, once an area is declared disturbed under the AFSPA and ADAA. Even a non-commissioned officer in case AFSPA and a Havildar in case ADAA is granted the right to torture and to shoot to kill based on mere suspicion that it is necessary to do so in order to “maintain the public order” with full guarantee that he will never be required to answer in a court of law. If they are exempted from answering in a regular court of law, one may wonder, what the use of a magisterial inquiry is whether by judicial magistrate or executive magistrate.

Repeal Draconian Laws

Passing of the Prevention of Torture Bill, enactment of laws incorporating provisions of the Convention on Enforced Disappearance, carrying out the police reform as per the Supreme Court directives, ratification of CAT and its Optional Protocol and ratification of the Convention on Enforced Disappearance envisage a sea change in the human rights regime in the country. As a logical corollary to these steps repeal of the AFSPA, ADAA, repeal or amendment to the National Security Act, 1980, the Assam Preventive Detention Act, 1980 and other such laws must be carried out to bring the entire human rights regime in India in conformity with the international human rights standards.

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC)

Silchar, Assam


[1] This is a little modified version of the presentation made in the North East Consultation for  Universal Periodic Review of India at the UN Human Rights Council in 2012 held at NEDFi House Dispur, Guwahati on 23 September, 2011.
[2] Article 5 states, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
[3]  The United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution 8/8 on Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
[4] The four Geneva Conventions provide protection for people who fall into enemy hands.
The third (GCIII) and fourth (GCIV) Geneva Conventions are the two most relevant for the treatment of the victims of conflicts. Both treaties state in Article 3, in similar wording, that in a non-international armed conflict, “Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms… shall in all circumstances be treated humanely.” The treaty also states that there must not be any “violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture” or “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment”.
GCIV covers most civilians in an international armed conflict, and says they are usually “Protected Persons” (see exemptions section immediately after this for those who are not). Under Article 32, protected persons have the right to protection from “murder, torture, corporal punishments, mutilation and medical or scientific experiments…but also to any other measures of brutality whether applied by non-combatant or military agents”.
GCIII covers the treatment of prisoners of war (POWs) in an international armed conflict. In particular, Article 17 says that “No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.” POW status under GCIII has far fewer exemptions than “Protected Person” status under GCIV. Captured enemy combatants in an international armed conflict automatically have the protection of GCIII and are POWs under GCIII unless they are determined by a competent tribunal to not be a POW (GCIII Article 5).
[5] Article 7: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In particular, no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation.”
[6] Article 21 of the Constitution of India provides that “[n]o person shall be deprived of his life and liberty except according to procedure established by law”. The right to life in Article 21 of the Constitution of India does not mean mere survival or existence. It encompasses the right to live with dignity. Torture is inflicted with the aim of degrading a person and involves the violation of dignity. It therefore falls within the ambit of Article 21.
Further safeguards are provided under other articles of the Constitution. Under Article 20(3), no person accused of any offence can be compelled to be a witness against himself. Article 22 (1) and (2) provide that a person who is arrested must be informed as soon as may be of the grounds of his arrest. The person also has the right to consult a lawyer of his choice. An arrested person must be produced before the nearest magistrate within 24 hours of his arrest.
The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) also requires the production of accused before court within 24 hours. Section 54 of the CrPC gives the arrestee the right to be medically examined. No statement of a witness recorded by a police officer, according to Section 162 of the CrPC, can be used for any purpose other than contradicting such a statement. Thus admission of guilt before a police officer is not admissible in a court of law. Section 164 of the CrPC requires that the magistrate must ensure that a confession by the accused is voluntary. Sections 330 and 331 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) make it a penal offence to cause hurt to a person in order to extract a confession. (Human Rights Feature (Voice of the Asia Pacific Human Rights Network), Optional Protocol to CAT: India can’t see the consensus accessed at http://www.hrdc.net/sahrdc/hrfeatures/HRF59.htm on 22 September, 2011.
[7] AIR 1997 SC 610, 1997 CriLJ 743, 1996 (4) Crimes 233 (SC), (1997) 2 GLR 1631, JT 1997 (1) SC 1, RLW 1997 (1) SC 94, 1996 (9) SCALE 298, (1997) 1 SCC 416, [1996] Supp 10 SCR 284
[8] “Hundreds die of torture in India every year – report”. Reuters. 2008-06-25.
[9] United Nations Treaty Collection, accessed at http://treaties.un.org/pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-9&chapter=4&lang=en on 22 September, 2011.
[10] PRS Legislative Research, Legislative Brief: The Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010
[11] The Report is summarized as: 1. The Bill seeks to provide punishment for torture committed by public servants or with their consent. It was introduced to enable India to ratify the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Committee added a number of amendments to the Bill.
2. The Bill defines “torture” as grievous hurt or danger to life, limb and health. It adds that an act is torture only if it is done intentionally and with the purpose of getting information or confession. The Committee recommended that the definition of torture should be suitably expanded so as to make it consistent with the UN Convention and include offences under the Indian Penal Code. Torture of women and children should be given special consideration and attempt to torture should also be made an offence. The definition of public servant should include any government companies or institutions.
3. The Bill states that a person shall be liable to a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine. The Committee suggested that a minimum punishment of three years be given to make the law more of a deterrent. Also, the torturer should be fined a minimum of Rs 1 lakh.
4. The Committee was of the opinion that the Bill should include guidelines for arriving at a fair compensation to the victim or to his dependents on his death.
5. The Committee stated that the limitation period for filing a complaint should be two years so that complainants have sufficient time to initiate proceedings. It added that there should be a specific provision in the Bill to ensure that complaints of disadvantaged victims are registered according to the law.
6. The Bill states that approval of the central or state government is required before courts can admit complaints against a public servant. While there is a need to protect honest officials, the Committee was of the view that this provision should not be used to shield guilty officials and deny justice to victims. Therefore, it suggested that if requested sanction is not given within three months, it would be deemed to have been granted. Trial for every offence under this law should be concluded within one year.
7. Since victims and witnesses face threats from accused persons, the Committee recommended that adequate provisions for the protection of victims and witnesses should be included in the Bill. A medical examination of the victim should be mandatory while he is lodged in jail. The report should be sent to the trial court.
8. The Committee observed that this law should be in addition to and not in derogation of any other law in force.
9. The Committee stated that the appropriate government would need to frame Rules for implementation of the Bill. Such a provision should be included in the Bill.
10. In view of the importance of the Bill, the Committee recommended that the period of notification be specified in the Bill itself. It suggested that the Bill should be notified within 120th day of its enactment.
[12] Section 12 reads  “Functions of the Commission: The Commission shall perform all or any of the following functions, namely : (a) inquire, suo motu or on a petition presented to it by a victim or any person on his behalf, into complaint of (i) violation of human rights or abetment thereof or (ii) negligence in the prevention of such violation, by a public servant; “
[13] Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights, International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, accessed at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/disappearance-convention.htm on 22 September, 2011.
[14] The sections of the Indian Penal Code that deal with kidnap and abduction are :359. Kidnapping; 360. Kidnapping from India; 361. Kidnapping from lawful guardianship; 362. Abduction 363.     Punishment for kidnapping; 363A. Kidnapping or maiming a minor for purposes of begging; 364. Kidnapping or abducting in order to murder; 364A.  Kidnapping for ransom, etc.; 365. Kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person; 366. Kidnapping, abducting or inducing woman to compel her marriage, etc.; 366A. Procreation of minor girl; 366B.       Importation of girl from foreign country; 367. Kidnapping or abducting in order to subject person to grievous hurt, slavery, etc.; 368.       Wrongfully concealing or keeping in confinement, kidnapped or abducted person.
[15] Vide PMO Letter No. vide No. 13/3/2009-PMP3/75979 dated August 6, 2009
[16] The Preamble of the Assam Police Act, 2007 says that “it is expedient to redefine the role of the police taking into account the emerging challenges of policing and security of the State, the imperatives of good governance, and respect for human rights”
[17] Writ Petition (civil) 310 of 1996
[18] Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), Prakash Singh and Others vs. Union of India and Others: Analysis of the Supreme Court Directives on Police Reforms
[19] The Supreme court says, the Director General of Police of the State shall be selected by the State Government from amongst the three senior-most officers of the Department who have been empanelled for promotion to that rank by the Union Public Service Commission on the basis of their length of service, very good record and range of experience for heading the police force. And, once he has been selected for the job, he should have a minimum tenure of at least two years irrespective of his date of superannuation. The DGP may, however, be relieved of his responsibilities by the State Government acting in consultation with the State Security Commission consequent upon any action taken against him under the All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules or following his conviction in a court of law in a criminal offence or in a case of corruption, or if he is otherwise incapacitated from discharging his duties.”
[20] The Supreme Court says, Police Officers on operational duties in the field like the Inspector General of Police incharge Zone, Deputy Inspector General of Police in-charge Range, Superintendent of Police in-charge district and Station House Officer in-charge of a Police Station shall also have a prescribed minimum tenure of two years unless it is found necessary to remove them prematurely following disciplinary proceedings against them or their conviction in a criminal offence or in a case of corruption or if the incumbent is otherwise incapacitated from discharging his responsibilities. This would be subject to promotion and retirement of the officer.”
[21] CHRI:
[22] There shall be a Police Complaints Authority at the district level to look into complaints against police officers of and up to the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police. Similarly, there should be another Police Complaints Authority at the State level to look into complaints against officers of the rank of Superintendent of Police and above. The district level Authority may be headed by a retired District Judge while the State level Authority may be headed by a retired Judge of the High Court/Supreme Court. The head of the State level Complaints Authority shall be chosen by the State Government out of a panel of names proposed by the Chief Justice; the head of the district level Complaints Authority may also be chosen out of a panel of names proposed by the Chief Justice or a Judge of the High Court nominated by him. These Authorities may be assisted by three to five members depending upon the volume of complaints in different States/districts, and they shall be selected by the State Government from a panel prepared by the State Human Rights Commission/Lok Ayukta/State Public Service Commission. The panel may include members from amongst retired civil servants, police officers or officers from any other department, or from the civil society. They would work whole time for the Authority and would have to be suitably remunerated for the services rendered by them.
The Authority may also need the services of regular staff to conduct field inquiries. For this purpose, they may utilize the services of retired investigators from the CID, Intelligence, Vigilance or any other organization. The State level Complaints Authority would take cognizance of only allegations of serious misconduct by the police personnel, which would include incidents involving death, grievous hurt or rape in police custody. The district level Complaints Authority would, apart from above cases, may also inquire into allegations of extortion, land/house grabbing or any incident involving serious abuse of authority. The recommendations of the Complaints Authority, both at the district and State levels, for any action, departmental or criminal, against a delinquent police officer shall be binding on the concerned authority.”
[23] The investigating police shall be separated from the law and order police to ensure speedier investigation, better expertise and improved rapport with the people. It must, however, be ensured that there is full coordination between the two wings. The separation, to start with, may be effected in towns/urban areas which have a population of ten lakhs or more, and gradually extended to smaller towns/urban areas also.”
[24] Section 35 lays down the composition :(1) The State Security Commission shall have as its members :-
(a) the Chief minister as the Chairperson;
(b) a retired high Court judge;
(c) the Chief Secretary;
(d) the Secretary in charge of the Home Department as its Member
Secretary;
(e) the Director General of Police of the State; and
(f) three non-political persons (hereinafter referred to as Independent Members”) of high integrity, expertise and competence in administration, law enforcement and security related matters nominated by the State Government. Out of these one shall be police officer superannuated in the rank not below Director general of Police, another a retired civil service officer not below the rank of Commissioner and Secretary to the State Government with experience in public administration, and the third member will be from the fields of public service, legal profession or social organization with at least fifteen years experience in the field.
Where as the Supreme Court approved Model Police Act in addition to the Chair and the Secretary, provides for the following composition:
(a) Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly
(b) Retired High Court Judge nominated by the Chief Justice of the High Court
(c) Home Secretary3
(d) Five non-political persons of proven reputation for integrity and competence from the fields of academia, law, public administration, media or non-government organisations to be appointed on the recommendation of a Selection Panel composed of:
(i) A retired Chief Justice of a High Court to be nominated by the Chief Justice of the High Court;
(ii) The Chairperson of the State Human Rights Commission; in the absence of a state Commission, a person nominated by the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission; and
(iii) The Chairperson of the State Public Service Commission.
[25] Sub-section 3 of section 12 provides: (3) Following officers on operational duties in the field shall have a term of minimum one year —
(i) Superintendent of Police in charge of District;
(ii) Officer in charge of Police Station :
Provided that such officer may be transferred from his post before the expiry of the minimum tenure of one year consequent upon,–
(a) promotion to a higher post; or
(b) conviction or charges having been framed, by a court of law in a criminal offence; or
(c) punishment of dismissal, removal, discharge or compulsory retirement from service or of reduction to a lower rank, or imposition of any other penalty other than censure awarded the relevant Acts and Rules; or
(d) suspension from service in accordance with the provisions of the Rules; or
(e) incapacitation by physical or mental illness or otherwise becoming unable to discharge his functions and duties; or
(f) the need to fill up a vacancy caused by promotion, transfer, or retirement; or
(g) on deputation with the consent of the officer concerned; or
(h) inefficiency or negligence or misdemeanor prima facie establishment after preliminary enquiry :
Provided that in the public interest the State Government may transfer the Superintendent of Police of the District as may be deemed appropriate to meet any contingency :
Provided further that in the public interest the Director General of Police of the State may transfer Officers in charge of Police Station of the rank of Inspector and District Superintendent of Police may transfer the Officer in charge of Police Station of the rank of Sub-Inspector of Police within the district as deemed appropriate to meet any contingency.
[26] See section 44 and 45 of the Assam Police Act, 2007
[27] See section 70
[28] See section 71
[29] The Telegraph, Monday, May 31, 2011: Ex-DGP dubs act ‘fraud’ – Govt faces flak over Assam Police Act, accessed at http://www.telegraphindia.com/1110530/jsp/northeast/story_14045156.jsp on 22 September 2011.
[30] Preamble to the Assam Police Act, 2007
[31] The Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act, 2005 [NO. 25 OF 2005] incorporates sub-section (1-A) to the section 176 which reads
“(1-A) Where,—
(a) any person dies or disappears, or
(b) rape is alleged to have been committed on any woman,
while such person or woman is in the custody of the police or in any other custody authorised by the Magistrate or the court, under this Code in addition to the inquiry or investigation held by the police, an inquiry shall be held by the Judicial Magistrate or the Metropolitan Magistrate, as the case may be, within whose local jurisdiction the offence has been committed.”;

[32] See Magisterial Inquiry Report vide NO. MISC. CASE. 1/2007/28 Dated Silchar, the 9th April, 2008 and Memo No. KCL22/2007-08/242 dated Katigorah, 28 March 2007.

Illegal Detention and Harassment of a Senior Citizen

January 18, 2011

Illegal Detention and Harassment of a Senior Citizen

A senior citizen named Hussain Ahmed Laskar, S/o Late Twahir Ali Laskar of village Neairgram Pt.-I under Silchar Sadar Police Station in Cachar district in Assam was detained by the Officer-In-charge of the said police station at 3 Pm on 7/10/06.

After some time, when he was contacted and informed of the fact, the Secretary General of Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) visited the police station and came to know that the detainee had come to the Police Station to enquire about the charges of offences against one Habibullah Laskar and others.

Mr. H A Laskar is a retired head master and a respectable person in his village. However, the Secretary General came to know that there is a police case against him vide Silchar Police Station Case No. 1208/06, although, the Hon’ble Gauhati High Court had accorded him pre-arrest bail regarding the case vide BA No. 2401 / 2006 dtd. 27-09-06. As the Secretary General smelt foul play in the offing on the part of the police against the detainee he guarded him physically till 2 AM. The senior citizen was kept sitting and standing and meted out rude behavior the whole night.

Next morning a team from BHRPC led by Advocate Imad Uddin Bulbul, legal adviser to BHRPC visited the police station and rescued the detainee. He was detained illegally for about 23 hours by the police without following the required procedure of arresting persons established by law. The detainee informed that before the visit of Secretary General, police were pressing him hard for Rs. 10,000.00 (Ten thousand) only as the price for his release.