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'False' action against top activists: Why is NHRC condoning errand cops? PUCL

SRP Kalluri, Nandini Sundar
Counterview Desk
Welcoming the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) direction to the Chhattisgarh government ordering Rs 1 lakh compensation to 13 members of two fact-finding teams -- lawyers, academics, writers and activists -- were wrongly booked and illegally arrested in 2016, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has regretted that even a month later, the state government is yet to act.
At the same time, PUCL regretted, NHRC has let the “errant police officials of Chhattisgarh police” go scot free and escape criminal prosecution for malicious use of power. “The NHRC has thereby condoned egregious abuse of power and brazen violation of rule of law and constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights of citizens by the security forces”, it said, particularly naming Inspector General of Police, Bastar, SRP Kalluri, who had initiated the cases.

Text:

The PUCL welcomes the decision of the NHRC against the State of Chhattisgarh on its complaint number 667/33/20/2016 filed in 2016, which directs the Government of Chhattisgarh to pay compensation of Rs 1 lakh each, to 13 members of two fact-finding teams, who were maliciously prosecuted under various false and fabricated FIRs by the Chhattisgarh police.
Acknowledging that these FIRs against the human rights defenders were indeed false and fabricated, and therefore malicious, the NHRC has also held that mental trauma constitutes a serious human rights abuse, and that these 13 lawyers, academics, writers, activists, who were subjected to police highhandedness, harassment and loss of their liberty need reparation.
The NHRC case was registered at the instance of a PUCL complaint in November 2016, decrying the patently false FIR that had been registered against six academics and rights activists implicating them for various offences including murder.
Investigation against Prof Nandini Sundar, Dr Archana Prasad, Vineet Tiwari, Sanjay Parate, Manju and Mangla Ram Karma in this FIR was dropped in 2019, after a change in the state government. During the hearing in Feb/March 2020, the Chhattisgarh DGP reported to the NHRC that there was no evidence at all against any of them.
Other cases of false FIRs registered at the instance of the Chhattisgarh police against Human Rights Defenders were added by the NHRC to this complaint later – including that of seven members of a fact-finding team from the Telangana Democratic Front, namely CH Prabhakar, B Durga Prasad, B Rabindranath, D. Prabhakar, Lakshimaya, Mohd. Nazir and K Rajendra Prasad, who were illegally arrested and charged under the draconian Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act.
They were granted bail after seven months in prison, and after trial, later acquitted by the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Sukma. The NHRC has also recommended the State Government to pay compensation of Rs 1 lakh each to the 7 members of this fact-finding team noting that the case against them was based on a “false FIR” and they would definitely have undergone “mental trauma”.
We are dismayed to note that four weeks have passed since the order was issued on July 7, 2020, but till now the State government appears to have taken no further steps to comply with the NHRC’s order and actually grant this compensation. We request the NHRC to take note of this and ensure that its recommendations are complied with by the State government forthwith.
We also urge the State government to honour and comply with the recommendations of the NHRC in this matter thereby setting a new precedent that the Government will not permit egregious and brazen violation of law and human rights by its police forces, whatever the circumstances.
While the PUCL applauds this unprecedented step of compensating human rights defenders for facing false charges foisted against them by the police, we are disappointed that the NHRC was not inclined to consider two other cases of fake FIRs under its purview: that of the Bastar journalist Santosh Yadav, and of Dr Lakhan Singh, the former President of PUCL Chhattisgarh, now deceased. Santosh Yadav spent nearly 18 months in prison, and has also since been acquitted by the Bastar courts in what was a blatantly false case aimed at silencing him.  
NHRC has condoned egregious abuse of power and brazen violation of rule of law and  fundamental rights of citizens by the security forces
The FIR against Lakhan Singh, which was registered by a member of the police-sponsored vigilante group, Agni, was withdrawn only after the local Bastar police officials were shuffled at the instance of the NHRC and the Agni group was disbanded. Both of these individuals and their families were subjected to anxiety and trauma, and we hope that the NHRC will review its order in these cases and ensure the payment of Rs 1 lakh of reparation / compensation to Santosh Yadav and Dr Lakhan Singh’s legal heir.
While complimenting the NHRC for recognizing the legal principle of awarding `reparation’ to people falsely implicated by the police, PUCL would equally like to record our strongest regret that the NHRC after coming to a finding and conclusion that the 2 FIRs filed in the case against the 13 academics, rights activists and lawyers were “false” did not go to the next logical conclusion – to order criminal prosecution of the police officials concerned.
By not doing so the NHRC has let the errant police officials of Chhattisgarh police named in our complaint go scot free and escape criminal prosecution for malicious use of power. The NHRC has thereby condoned egregious abuse of power and brazen violation of rule of law and constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights of citizens by the security forces.
It has been the consistent stand of the PUCL that the then Inspector General of Police, Bastar, SRP Kalluri, was clearly involved in lodging these false cases, and had also openly threatened and intimidated the human rights defenders, as indicated in the original PUCL complaint. 
We are dismayed to note that the Government of Chhattisgarh has not taken, nor has it been directed by the NHRC to take, any punitive criminal action against SRP Kalluri or any other police officer involved in these criminal actions of malicious prosecution, which are evidently meant to punish those speaking out against atrocities committed by the Chhattisgarh police and other armed forces. 
 Till such actions are not recommended by the NHRC, the impunity of the Police force in the name of combating insurgency in the state of Chhattisgarh and other states will continue unabated.
We also urge the Government of Chhattisgarh to proactively pursue these cases of malicious prosecution and send a strong message to the public that it will not hesitate to take action against its officials, howsoever senior the officer, if they are found to violate the law of the land.
---
Issued by: Ravi Kiran Jain, President, PUCL; Dr V Suresh, General Secretary, PUCL

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