Rugged Road to Justice, Volume 2


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Rugged Road to Justice, Volume 2, Social Audit of State Human Rights Commission

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Rugged Road to Justice, Volume 2

  1. 1. VOLUME-II EDITED BY HARSH DOBHAL | MATHEW JACOB | Anupam kishore human rights law network new delhi, india
  2. 2. rugged road to justice A Social Audit of State Human Rights Commissions in India Volume-II, April 2013 © Socio Legal Information Centre* ISBN 81-89479-85-7 Edited By Harsh Dobhal Mathew Jacob Anupam Kishore Copy Editing Salina Wilson Pritisha Borah Research and Coordination Chhattisgarh: Alban Toppo, Kishore Narayan, Sudha Bhardawaj, Pravin Patel Manipur: L Rebika Chanu, T Premlata Devi, T Jurmila, Babloo Loitongbam Rajasthan: PL Mimroth, Kavita Srivastav, Sasha Priyo, Gopal Ram Verma Madhya Pradesh: Hari Om Vishwakarma, Mohsin Ali Khan, Milind Wankhede Orissa: Bibhu Prasad Chhual Singh, Hemant Kumar Nayak, Manoj Jena Punjab: Alka Gupta, Yogesh Gupta Design Mahendra Bora Printed at Shivam Sundaram C-9, Green Park Extn., New Delhi, India Published by Human Rights Law Network (A division of Socio Legal Information Centre) 576, Masjid Road, Jangpura, New Delhi – 110014, India Ph: +91-11-24379855/56 Email:, Website: Supported by European Union Dan Church Aid Disclaimer The views and opinions expressed in this publication are not necessarily views of the HRLN. The presentations in this publication have been paraphrased from oral, sometimes impromptu, speeches made by the participants. Every effort has been made to avoid errors, omissions, and inaccuracies. However, for inadvertent errors or discrepancies that may remain nonetheless, the HRLN takes the sole responsibility. *Any section of this volume may be reproduced without prior permission of the HRLN/SLIC for public interest purposes with appropriate acknowledgement.
  3. 3. Acknowledgements A t the outset, we express our deep gratitude to the victims and their family members for reposing their faith in the Independent People’s Tribunal on the functioning of State Human Rights Commissions, and for displaying remarkable courage in coming out in front of the jury to narrate their tales of horror fearlessly. We are grateful to hon’ble jury members, some of whom were contacted at the last minute, who took time off from their busy schedule, travelled all the way to different places, gave patient hearings to victims, studied all the cases meticulously and finally put down their incisive findings and recommendations. The second volume of this series owes everything to members of the HRLN units in Chhattisgarh, Manipur, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Punjab. Despite all odds and busy court schedules, HRLN lawyers and social activists are doggedly pursuing their dream for justice and peace. They have worked tirelessly for days and nights. They were faced with the challenging task to convince the victims’ families to come forth and depose before the tribunal. Their guidance and leadership in each state has been remarkable, before and after the tribunal process. Much thanks to the volunteers and students who have contributed immensely through research, documentation and logistics. We would like to acknowledge the untiring efforts of collaborating organisations in these states. Our special gratitude to Sudha Bhardwaj and Praveen Patel of Chhattisgarh, Babloo Loitongbam of Manipur, P L. Mimroth and Kavita Srivastava of Rajasthan and . Manas Jena of Orissa for their massive support and encouragement in the entire process. These individuals have provided the much-needed strength with all possible help in order to make the tribunals as meaningful forums. We are also thankful to all the following organisations who collaborated with HRLN towards organising the IPTs: Chhattisgarh: Bharat Jan Andolan, Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (Mazdoor Karyakarta Samiti), Chhattisgarh Viklang Manch, Dalit Mukti Morcha, Jan Chetna (Raigarh), Jan Sangharsh Samiti, Tribal Welfare Society, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (Chhatiii
  4. 4. tisgarh). Manipur: Human Rights Alert (HRA); All Manipur Bar Association (AMBA); Centre for Organisation, Research and Education (CORE); Civil Liberties and Human Rights Organisation (CLAHRO); Federation of Regional Indigenous Societies; Manipur Alliance for Child Rights (MACR); Movement for People’s Right to Information (M-PRIM); Threatened Indigenous People’s Society (TIPS); Just Peace Foundation; Women in Governance (WING); Women Action for Development (WAD); Rongmei Lu Phuam Assam, Manipur and Nagaland. Rajasthan: Centre for Dalit Rights, Jaipur; People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Rajasthan; Bodh, Jaipur; Dalit Adivasi Ghumantu Adhikar Abhiyan (DAGAR); Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS). Madhya Pradesh: National Dalit Movement for Justice; Dalit Sangh; Secular Forum; People’s Research Society; Taal, Madhya Pradesh; Rahi Mahila Parishad, Madhya Pradesh. Orissa: Kuidina Forum for Peace and Justice (KFPJ); Human Rights Front (HRF); Committee for Legal Aid to Poor (CLAP); Global Human Rights Communication (GHRC). Punjab: Lawyers for Human Rights International, Punjab Human Rights Organisation (PHRO), Dalit Dastan Virodhi Andolan (DDVA); World Human Rights Council (WHRC); International Human Rights Bodies (IHRB); Law & Justice for Dalit Rights (LJDR). Each state-wise chapter of the social audit report is the cumulative outcome of a prolonged process where a number of individuals have contributed. Conceptualising the IPT process, identifying the cases, approching victims and organisations in the farflung areas, convincing and bringing them to the venue, meticulous documentation of cases and finally drafting the report has been an ardous journeys. We have tried to give credits to as many persons as possible in the following chapters but it is difficult to mention all names here. We are grateful to all of them. We thank Rekha Koli for filing RTIs and follow up in every state, thus contibuting to the background research. Finally, we must thank Saadia Aleem for much required help in copy editing hundreds of pages of the report. Last, but not the least, we thank our colleagues and friends Salina Wilson and Pritisha Borah for painstakingly going through the draft, making corrections and giving final touches to this volume. —Harsh Dobhal, Mathew Jacob & Anupam Kishore iv SHRC: SOCIAL AUDIT REPORT-II
  5. 5. Contents Introduction 1 Chhattisgarh Rajni Soren, Mathew Jacob, Anupam Kishore EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 25 chapter-I patterns of violations and functioning of CGSHRC 36 CHAPTER-II Testimonies 66 Expert comments 100 chapter-III Jury Report 114 manipur Nikhil Narayan, Meihoubam Rakesh, Pritisha Borah | Harsh Dobhal EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 125 chapter-I patterns of violations and functioning of MSHRC 132 CHAPTER-II Testimonies 156 EXPERT comments 182 CHAPTER-III Jury Report 188 SHRC: SOCIAL AUDIT REPORT-II v
  6. 6. Contents Rajasthan Anupam Kishore, Tara Chand Verma, Salina Wilson, Mathew Jacob EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 197 chapter-I patterns of violations and functioning of RSHRC 208 CHAPTER-II Testimonies 236 Expert comments 290 WRITTEN SUBMISSION by MR. mk devarajan, member, rshrc 299 chapter-III jury report 302 Madhya pradesh Saadia Aleem, Shubhra Pachouri, Joel Rodrigues, Mathew Jacob EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 311 chapter-I patterns of violations and functioning of MPSHRC 320 CHAPTER-II Testimonies 348 Expert comments 376 chapter-III jury report vi SHRC: SOCIAL AUDIT REPORT-II 382
  7. 7. Contents orissa Pritisha Borah, Sara Pugh, Sudhakar Senapati, Harsh Dobhal EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 391 chapter-I patterns of violations and functioning of OSHRC 402 CHAPTER-II Testimonies 438 Expert comments 456 CHAPTER-III JURY REPORT 466 punjab Saadia Aleem, Veena Kumari EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 477 chapter-I patterns of violations and functioning of pSHRC 490 CHAPTER-II Testimonies 524 Expert comments 546 CHAPTER-III JURY REPORT 548 conclusion 555 SHRC: SOCIAL AUDIT REPORT-II vii
  8. 8. INTRODUCTION T he need to have independent bodies which will oversee and monitor the State’s protection and promotion of human rights and contribute towards such policies is widely acknowledged and established within the framework of the Constitution of India. The Indian Constitution is a repository of these human rights available to citizens and persons living in India. The majority of these rights are available against the State and it is the duty of the State to guarantee the protection of these rights. The Constitution also sets out the manner in which these rights can be enforced. The establishment of independent institutions is an effort to further the commitment of the Indian State under the Constitution, and to help it fulfill its commitment under several international human rights conventions which mandate the State to respect, protect, promote and fulfill rights. The United Nations emphasises that national human rights institutions (NHRIs) should play a critical role “in promoting and monitoring the effective implementation of international human rights standards at the national level.”1 In order to discharge their functions in an impartial and effective manner, such institutions should be accorded independence and autonomy. They can be created either under the Constitution or a statute. In India, the statutory route has been the preferred mechanism for establishing the majority of the human rights institutions (HRI). Whether such institutions are indeed independent or not has been the subject matter of several evaluations. HRIs are uniquely positioned between the government and civil society organisations. Yet, they have to be independent of the influence of both. This can be compli1. “OHCR and NHRIs” at NHRIMain.aspx INTRODUCTION 1
  9. 9. cated, particularly for the national and state commissions of India, as they are supposed to be constituted by the state as well as funded by them.2 In order to gain credibility and earn the confidence of the people, such institutions will have to discharge their functions without any fear or favour concerning the State. They should be willing to challenge the government and hold it to task for violations of human rights. At the same time these institutions should not be driven by NGOs. Anne Smith describes the complexities: …if an NHRI is seen as being too close to the government or holding an agenda dictated by government departments, especially those who provide the funding, then they will be viewed by NGOs and the civil society at large as simply a puppet of the government and, therefore, damage their credibility. Conversely, if a NHRI allows NGOs to influence its workings such that an overly close relationship develops between the two, a NHRI will simply be seen as another “pro-NGO” ...Notwithstanding, if it is deemed to be pro-NGO, the NHRIs credibility in the eyes of the most powerful group, the government, will be diminished. (Ibid, 209) Unfortunately, HRIs in India are clearly allied with the State. They have effectively become an instrument of the state and have been largely viewed as puppets of the State. One can refer to K.G. Kannabiran for a further understanding of the same. In an article published in the Economic and Political Weekly in 19923, Kannabiran argued that the creation of such institutions was due to international pressure on India. India is constantly criticised for its human rights record, and therefore needs an institution that legitimises the exploitative orders of the inhumane state agencies. India has therefore created bodies which guard and supervise the political system, whilst having no intention of reducing human rights violations. These are bodies with a mandate to protect and promote human rights but which will actually act like a shield for the state by giving the appearance of setting its human rights records straight in front of the international community. ...the government obviously doesn’t propose to give up its present policy. Then the present proposal is one of those familiar political sleight of hand devices like the appointment of commissions of enquiry under the ineffective and over-worked Commissions of Inquiry Act 1956. A human rights commission is not going to resolve the political crises. Until these are resolved, violence by the State is bound to continue ... If the government is really concerned about setting right its human rights record it has to take serious steps to rebuild the existing institutions, namely, the courts, instead of merely multiplying institutions. In fact it is more the responsibility of persons who regularly interact with these institutions, such as lawyers, public interest and human rights groups, jurists and academics to exert pressure on these institutions. The human rights record can never improve by the setting up of a commission without changing the existing social order. The debate on the setting up of a human rights commission should lead to a review of the functioning of the justice system and attempts have to be made to rebuild these institutions. The setting up of a human rights commission as a response to criticism of the government’s human rights record will at best be a formal act. This will not reduce human rights violations, but may be used to cover up such violations. (ibid, 2093) What Kannabiran argued in 1992 is still valid two decades later. Despite the creation of 23 state 2. Anne Smith, “The Unique Position of National Human Rights Institutions: A Mixed Blessing?, Human Rights Quarterly, 28 (2006), 904-946, at 909 3. Kannabiran, KG, “Why a Human Rights Commision?” Economic and Political Weekly, September 26, 1992, (Commentary). Page 2092-2094 2 SHRC: SOCIAL AUDIT REPORT-II
  10. 10. human rights commissions and a National Human Rights Commission, a National Commission for Minorities, a National Commission for Scheduled Castes, a National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, a National Commission for Women, a National Commission for Protection of Child Rights etc, the human rights record of the State has actually worsened. However, India has attained a high level of legitimacy and acceptance through the establishment of these commissions. These commissions have seldom been successful in promoting and protecting human rights. Be it the cases of disappearances in Assam, killings by army and paramilitary forces in Kashmir, Manipur, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh, farmer suicides in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, land acquisitions and mining in Orrisa and Jharkhand, droughts in Rajasthan and the rotting of food grains in the Haryana, atrocities against dalits and tribals, crime against women or the Batla House encounter in New Delhi, all that the commissions have done is seek a report from the Government of India or respective state government concerned. In some cases, they have carried out investigations and issued recommendations but these are seldom abided by. ‘Paper Tigers’ or ‘Toothless Tigers’ are the words that came up somewhat rampantly during the consultation meetings held with various human rights groups across India. With mere recommendatory powers can we expect any more from these commissions? The images of human rights activists protesting in front of the NHRC during the Batla House encounter are still fresh. Can justice be expected from an institution which is another organ of the perpetrator, i.e., the State? Or, in the struggle for justice, will approaching human rights institutions simply result in re-victimisation from the same forces that are accused of the violation. The NHRC, being insensitive to the human rights issues, has asked the same accused to carry out the investigation into the issues. In other words, the NHRC has asked the police to investigate themselves, and then submit a report. There is no doubt that there is a clear lack of political will amongst the commission members. This can clearly be correlated with the political appointments in the commissions which will be discussed later in this section of the report. The action taken by the NHRC under the leadership of Justice J.S. Verma during the Gujarat riots was exemplary. But there are not many success stories to count and mention with regard to the interventions made by the NHRC and SHRCs. During various meetings and Independent People’s Tribunals (IPTs) held on the functioning of the SHRCs across the country, a mixed feeling came to the fore concerning these institutions. The participants in these meetings were various civil society groups, human rights organisations and individuals, lawyers, members of the media, retired judges of high courts and the Supreme Court and other eminent civil society members such as academics and individuals from other professions. While one part of civil society condemned the current functioning of the commissions and asked for their closure for reasons of huge investments, political appointment and wastage of tax payers’ money, the other group, though understanding and condemning the current functioning of the commissions, proposed strengthening and streamlining of the commissions. That there is a need for human rights commissions cannot be denied. One of the prime reasons is that they are quasi-judicial bodies with powers enshrined through the Constitution of India. They act as an accessible justice mechanism, an alternative to court proceedings which in India are very lengthy, time-consuming and unimaginably expensive. The NHRC and SHRCs have the power of a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. The commissions also have the power to move the high courts and the Supreme Court. The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 (PHRA) specifically mentions the establishment of a human rights court in each district. In some states they have been notified but are not yet working, whilst in other states they are yet to be notified and not much information is available in the public domain with regard to their functioning. These human rights courts mostly exist just on paper, as revealed by a number of civil society groups during the IPT process. INTRODUCTION 3
  11. 11. Globally, HRIs have gained enormous acceptability. They are a recent phenomenon and their establishment can be easily dated back two decades to the early 1990s. The international community had constantly moved for the establishment of national infrastructures for the protection and promotion of human rights, for bodies which would be constant watch dogs on matters related to human rights. This much was apparent at the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights in 1993. Later in December 1993, the UN General Assembly adopted the principles relating to the status and functioning of national institutions for the protection and promotion of human rights, famously known as the Paris Principles. The Paris Principles are the benchmarks which clearly lay down procedures for the establishment and functioning of national human rights institutions. In the early 1990s, India was transitioning itself into the global market through newly adopted policies of liberalisation, privatisation, and globalisation. At the same time India was under enormous international pressure concerning its human rights records. In a neo-liberal framework, it was of the utmost importance for India to be accepted as a potential market and partner, and to have the adequate infrastructure that promotes and protects human rights. The first mention of the potential establishment of a human rights commission in India was in the election manifesto of both the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party in 1991. The Congress party came to power in 1991 and in the year 1992 started having discussions on establishing human rights commissions. On March 16, 1992, speaking in the Rajya Sabha, the then Home Minister, Mr. S.B. Chavan, mentioned that the proposed commission was to counter the false and politically motivated propaganda being spread by foreign and Indian civil rights agencies. On April 24, 1992, Mr. V Gadgil, the of.N. ficial spokesperson of Congress, stated that the commission’s findings would act as correctives to the biased and one-sided NGO reports and would be an effective answer to politically motivated international criticism.4 The above statements by the home minister and the spokesperson of the ruling party make evident the international pressure under which the Act was passed, and the fact that the Indian State had no real interest in providing the institution with sufficient powers, resources and autonomy. The purpose of the establishment of the commissions and the enactment of the PHRA 1993 seems to have been driven by international pressure and to showcase India’s pro-human rights image to the international community. The State, in the meanwhile, has appeared to be continuing with the rights violations. There were hardly any discussions held before the enactment of the Act. Almost all the major civil society organisations were excluded from the seminars and consultations that took place. The government’s background note on the establishment of the commissions was not made public and placed before the Parliament. The government didn’t even follow normal parliamentary procedures of first referring a bill to the Parliamentary Standing Committee for scrutiny, but instead rushed the bill to be adopted.5 It was later referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee where it faded from notice. The NHRC was established on September 28, 1993 by a Presidential Ordinance. Two months later, a fresh bill was submitted to Parliament and on January 8, 1994, after a relatively indifferent parliamentary discussion, the “Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993” won Presidential approval and came into effect.6 4. South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre (2001), “Judgement Reserved: The Case of the National Human Rights Commission of India”, pages 2-3, SAHRDC, New Delhi 5. Nierhoff, S (2006), “From Hope to Despair: The Complaints Handling Mechanism of the National Human Rights Commission of India”, page 2-3, People’s Watch, Madurai 6. South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre (2001), “Judgement Reserved: The Case of the National 4 SHRC: SOCIAL AUDIT REPORT-II
  12. 12. Since the inception of the PHRA 1993, there have been talks about its amendment. The Act clearly contradicts the Paris Principles, which will be discussed in detail in the later sections of this report. In 1996, the Kerala High Court submitted a draft proposal for amendments to the NHRC’s procedural regulations after conducting a spot study of various sections of the NHRC’s Law Division. A year and a half later, McKinsey & Co. prepared a report highlighting what it found to be the commission’s main problem – a severe backlog of pending cases – and suggesting solutions. In May 1999, the Staff Inspection Unit (SIU) conducted a staff study of the commission, the first since its inception, at the request of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Unfortunately, few, if any, of the extensive recommendations made in these reports have been implemented.7 Minor amendments were made in the year 2000 and 2006. It’s now almost two decades since the inception of the commission. To date, 23 SHRCs and an NHRC have been created. Article 21 of the Act states, “A state government may constitute a body to be known as the...” In other words, it is not binding on states to establish an SHRC. The states of Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh still don’t have SHRCs. Furthermore, the SHRCs in many states are defunct and dormant for several reasons; for example, no appointments being made for long periods of time, no infrastructure by the government etc. Examples of this can be seen in the SHRCs of Manipur and Himachal Pradesh. Many SHRCs came into existence as a result of civil society movements and public interest litigations. When the NHRC was contacted in this regard, it claimed that it had already requested the state governments to establish SHRCs. The NHRC and SHRCs are parallel bodies and the NHRC is not an appellate body for the SHRC. The following report is the second volume of social audit of the functioning of six SHRCs in Chhattisgarh, Manipur, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Punjab. The objective and methodology of undertaking the social audit is mentioned below. This section will also give a critical understanding of the PHRA 1993 vis-à-vis the Paris Principles with examples from the above mentioned six states. A social audit of all the SHRCs and the NHRC is being conducted by the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) in collaboration with several civil society groups across India. The social audit reports of the remaining six SHRCs and the NHRC will be published in subsequent volumes. OBJECTIVE The NHRC and SHRCs were constituted following the PHRA 1993, with an aim to provide access to justice to a number of people who find it difficult and expensive to approach Indian courts. However, despite this mechanism being in place, these commissions have not been able to achieve desirable results, and the human rights situation has continued to deteriorate. Most of the violations reported to these commissions are committed by the country’s law enforcement agencies and security forces. The commissions suffer from a number of handicaps, such as a lack of autonomy, politically made appointments, inadequate resources and no independent investigative mechanism, thus making them incapable of effectively addressing violations. Over the years, there has been a huge trust deficit between these commissions and the people in general, and rights groups in particular. The country’s image as a vibrant democracy will be at stake if such institutions fail to live up to people’s expectations. The study of the institutions, which protect and promote human rights, specifically the interests of marginalised sections of society, is important, given that there is limited information available on the Human Rights Commission of India”, pages 2-3, SAHRDC, New Delhi 7. South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre (2001), “Judgement Reserved: The Case of the National Human Rights Commission of India”, page 3, SAHRDC, New Delhi INTRODUCTION 5
  13. 13. actual functioning of these institutions and the positive gains obtained. With the growing number of incursions on human rights, these statutory institutions assume a lot of importance in the state. Such commissions play a significant role in evaluating existing safeguards, recommending amendments to strengthen the safeguards, inquiring into violations of rights by the State, and developing human rights literacy amongst the general public. Given the recent records of violations and of State complicity, we felt it was imperative to study this independent quasi-judicial body in each state, and to evaluate their work, results, function, powers and people’s assessment of these institutions in light of the statutory law and the international principles on human rights institutions. It is with this backdrop that we conceptualised the plan to engage with these institutions (by filing complaints and following them up, building a network of civil society closely working with the commissions, conducting IPTs and social audits, and disseminating awareness material), and convince lawmakers, government officials, the judiciary and media to strengthen these commissions, to build and change public opinion, to strengthen civil society’s capacity and partner with groups to engage with commissions, and to press for desired amendments to the Act through campaigns, lobbying and advocacy. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY For the purpose of our study, we are examining the working of all the functioning SHRCs across India. What are the benchmarks against which we can judge the SHRCs across 18 diverse states? What is the perception of the people and civil society organisations concerning the commissions and their work? What changes to the law are necessary for their effective functioning? These are some of the questions the final report will seek to answer. We believe that the key ingredient that determines the success or failure of a human rights institution is independence. The commissions should have the foundational, functional, operational, and financial independence to conduct their affairs and discharge their functions. We have attempted to assess whether the commissions are truly independent in their working, whether they are meeting their statutory objectives and whether the legislation itself is in compliance with the Paris Principles8 and other international standards such as the Commonwealth Secretariat’s National Human Rights Institutions Best Practice (2001), the ICHRP & OHCHR’s Assessing the Effectiveness of National Human Rights Institutions (2005) and Amnesty International’s National Human Rights Institutions: Recommendations On Effective Protection and Promotion of Human Rights (2001). The research methodology adopted for the purpose of the report included collecting data on the work of the commissions, like annual reports, cases and orders/recommendations passed by the commissions. Additionally, we interviewed staff, members and chairpersons of the commissions and civil society organisations, and gathered media reports on the work of the commissions. We approached legal experts and former members and chairpersons of the SHRCs to throw light on the working of the commissions. In cases where we were denied access to information, RTI applications were filed under the Right to Information Act, 2005. The information collected was tested against the set standards and objective of the parent statute, the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 and the International Guidelines. 8. In 1993, the UN General Assembly adopted Principles relating to the Status of National Institutions (The Paris Principles) which laid down the core minimum standards on competence, composition, responsibilities, and methods of operation. There is a definite need to assess whether the Commissions are working in compliance with the Paris Principles 6 SHRC: SOCIAL AUDIT REPORT-II
  14. 14. A. Document Analysis Primary data from the states of Chhattisgarh, Manipur, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Punjab was gathered; this included cases, complaints, orders/recommendations passed and annual reports of the last five years. We gathered information about the administrative set-up, complaints received and disposed of, significant work done, budgets, and details of staff from the annual reports of the SHRCs. B. Applications under the Right to Information Act, 2005 We also obtained information about the total number of complaints received and disposed of, and the details of the staff working at the SHRCs through RTI applications. We have requested information on annual budgets, action taken reports, and recommendations passed by the SHRCs in certain cases. The SHRCs have denied us information on specific reports and recommendations on the grounds that these are confidential. Inspections were requested under RTI Section 2(J) and a large volume of data was analysed. C. Media Reports We tracked media reports on the commissions from 2006-2011 so as to assess the nature of their interventions in matters concerning human rights issues. D. Independent People’s Tribunal In each state, to start the process of participatory analysis of the functioning of the SHRCs, a consultation meeting was held. This meeting has the representation of people who have constantly engaged with the SHRCs through complaints and research, and also a set of lawyers and activists from various districts within the state that are trained in the procedures of approaching the commissions. This meeting helps by providing a detailed situational analysis of the commission’s functioning, capacity building of the people and the formation of a civil society working group which will engage with the commission at various stages of the campaign and work towards strengthening and streamlining it. For the purpose of this study a format was developed and was sent to civil society organisations, legal experts, and the chairperson, members, secretary and staff of the commissions. The questions ranged from constitution of the commission, knowledge of the staff on laws pertaining to human rights, initiatives in the last two years, powers, complaint mechanisms and relationship between the commission and civil society organisations. The questions were framed to assess the independence, function, transparency and accessibility of the commissions. Samples of representative complaints were documented with all the available information in the testimony format. The objective of organising the IPTs is to engage with and look at the functioning of these commissions critically through the eyes of the victims, experts and human rights activists, thus to catalyse the SHRCs to function as effective, efficient, transparent and accountable institutions that address human rights violations. The IPT exercise aims at putting together evidence dispassionately and comprehensively, so that cases of human rights violations not addressed adequately by the SHRC mechanism can be brought before the courts and orders can be obtained to address specific failures and problems. IPTs were held in all the six states. The cases deposed before the jury in the IPTs pertained to diverse sections of people covering most part of the states. Thus the effort was made to select cases from as many parts of the state as possible that represent a certain pattern of vioaltion. The selection process meticulosly ensured that cases of all vulnerable sections like women, dalits, tribals, children and INTRODUCTION 7
  15. 15. members of minority communities were taken up in the IPTs. Similary, it was ensured that the different and diverse patterns of violations such as custodial torture, extrajudicial killings, rape, violence against women and children, dalits and tribals, matters related to land rights, etc were represented in the IPT. Further, these cases were deposed before a jury panel comprising retired high court judges, senior advocates, academicians and other renowned civil society members. Along with the victims, experts who have thorough knowledge and experience of the functioning of the SHRCs also deposed before the jury. After listening to the victims and experts, each jury passed its observations and recommendations with regard to the functioning of the commission and suggested ways of strengthening the instituion. PARIS PRINCIPLES The Paris Principles are the principal source of normative standards for HRIs. In 1991, the United Nations organised an international workshop, which resulted in the formulation and adoption of these principles. They are a detailed set of guiding principles for establishing and maintaining strong and effective HRIs. The Paris Principles were subsequently endorsed by both the UN Commission on Human Rights and the UN General Assembly.9 They started the process of serious international cooperation and standardisation of HRIs. The Paris Principles are broad and general. They apply to all HRIs, regardless of structure or type. They provide that a national institution should be established in the national constitution or by a law that clearly sets out its role and powers and that its mandate should be as broad as possible.10 They lay down four factors needed to establish and monitor the HRIs, namely independence through legal and operational autonomy, independence through financial autonomy, independence through appointment and dismissal procedures and independence through pluralism of composition.11 The first principle under the head ‘Composition and Guarantees of Independence and Pluralism’, clearly states that the HRIs should be pluralistic and should co-operate with a range of social and political groups and institutions, including non-governmental organisations, judicial institutions, professional bodies and government departments. It clearly mentions the involvement of HRIs with all stakeholders in civil society. It also clearly mentions the role of government departments as ‘advisors’. The composition of the national institution and the appointment of its members, whether by means of an election or otherwise, shall be established in accordance with a procedure which affords all necessary guarantees to ensure the pluralist representation of the social forces (of civilian society) involved in the protection and promotion of human rights, particularly by powers which will enable effective cooperation to be established with, or through the presence of, representatives of: (a)  Non-governmental organisations responsible for human rights and efforts to combat racial discrimination, trade unions, concerned social and professional organisations, for example, associations of lawyers, doctors, journalists and eminent scientists; (b) Trends in philosophical or religious thought; (c) Universities and qualified experts; (d) Parliament; 9. General Assembly Resolution 48, U.N. GAOR, 85th meeting, U.N. Doc. A/Res/48/134(1993) 10. Assessing the Effectiveness of National Human Rights Institutions, 2005. International Council on Human Rights Policy, OHCHR 11. South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre (2001), “Judgement Reserved: The Case of the National Human Rights Commission of India”, page 21, SAHRDC, New Delhi 8 SHRC: SOCIAL AUDIT REPORT-II
  16. 16. (e) Government departments (if these are included, their representatives should participate in the deliberations only in an advisory capacity).12 The third principle under this heading mentions the independence through legal and operational autonomy of the HRIs. While it is important to have an HRI, it is equally important to empower it with constitutional powers to carry out and enforce its mandate. In order to ensure a stable mandate for the members of the national institution, without which there can be no real independence, their appointment shall be effected by an official act which shall establish the specific duration of the mandate. This mandate may be renewable, provided that the pluralism of the institution’s membership is ensured.13 It has to be noted that the idea of pluralism, or diversity, in the membership of a human rights commission figures strongly in the Paris Principles. Pluralism, through the participation of people from a variety of professions across of civil society and from members of different marginalized groups, ensures a diversity of viewpoints within the commission and helps legitimize the roles of these commissions. Maintaining pluralism is one of the most important factors in guaranteeing the efficacy of an HRI. It fosters independence from the government, and helps an HRI deal with complaints against the State with a reduced worry that the HRI will be improperly influenced by the State. The second principle under the heading ‘Composition and Guarantees of Independence and Pluralism’, states that the HRIs should have an infrastructure that allows them to carry out their functions. Particular importance is attached to the need for adequate funding to allow the institution to be functionally and financially autonomous. The national institution shall have an infrastructure which is suited to the smooth conduct of its activities, in particular adequate funding. The purpose of this funding should be to enable it to have its own staff and premises, in order to be independent of the government and not be subject to financial control which might affect its independence.14 The Paris Principles clearly lay down the factors that should be involved in the establishment and monitoring of the HRIs, with special emphasis on plurality and independence. The principles also mention the functioning of the HRIs. The various functions of the HRIs are described in the principles as “responsibilities”, suggesting that these are the things that institutions are obliged to do.15 The functioning of the HRIs can be broadly categorised beneath the headings of recommendations and proposals to the government, the protection and promotion of human rights, acting as a human rights monitoring agency, the promotion of international cooperation, and compliance of the state with regard to various human rights statutes and treaties, human rights education, and functioning as a quasi-judicial body (not a compulsion). The third clause, under the heading ‘Competence and Responsibilities’, clearly lays down the responsibilities of the HRIs. “ (a) To submit to the Government, Parliament and any other competent body, on an advisory basis either at the request of the authorities concerned or through the exercise of its power to hear a matter without higher referral, opinions, recommendations, proposals and reports on any matters concerning the promotion and protection of human rights; the national institution may decide to publicise them; these opinions, recommendations, proposals and reports, as well as any prerogative of the national institution, shall relate to the following areas: (i) Any legislative or administrative provisions, as well as provisions relating to judicial organisa12. Paris Principles 13. Paris Principles 14. Paris Principles 15. Assessing the Effectiveness of National Human Rights Institutions, 2005. International Council on Human Rights Policy, OHCHR INTRODUCTION 9
  17. 17. tions, intended to preserve and extend the protection of human rights; in that connection, the national institution shall examine the legislation and administrative provisions in force, as well as bills and proposals, and shall make such recommendations as it deems appropriate in order to ensure that these provisions conform to the fundamental principles of human rights; it shall, if necessary, recommend the adoption of new legislation, the amendment of legislation in force and the adoption or amendment of administrative measures; (ii) Any situation of violation of human rights which it decides to take up; (iii) The preparation of reports on the national situation with regard to human rights in general, and on more specific matters; (iv) Drawing the attention of the government to situations in any part of the country where human rights are violated and making proposals to it for initiatives to put an end to such situations and, where necessary, expressing an opinion on the positions and reactions of the government; (b) To promote and ensure the harmonisation of national legislation, regulations and practices with the international human rights instruments to which the state is a party, and their effective implementation; (c) To encourage ratification of the above-mentioned instruments or accession to those instruments, and to ensure their implementation; (d) To contribute to the reports which states are required to submit to United Nations bodies and committees, and to regional institutions, pursuant to their treaty obligations and, where necessary, to express an opinion on the subject, with due respect for their independence; (e) To cooperate with the United Nations and any other organisation in the United Nations system, the regional institutions and the national institutions of other countries that are competent in the areas of the protection and promotion of human rights; (f) To assist in the formulation of programmes for the teaching of, and research into, human rights and to take part in their execution in schools, universities and professional circles; (g) To publicise human rights and efforts to combat all forms of discrimination, in particular racial discrimination, by increasing public awareness, especially through information and education and by making use of all press organs.”16 The Principles provide that HRIs should make recommendations and proposals to governments on various matters relating to human rights, including existing and proposed laws, human rights violations and the national human rights situation in general. They require national institutions to promote teaching and research on human rights and organise public awareness and education programmes. The Paris Principles also address methods of operation and by implication, the powers of national institutions. They are entitled to consider any issue falling within their competence without authorisation from any higher authority. They are entitled to hear any person or gather any evidence needed to consider matters falling within their competence. Furthermore, HRIs are called on to publicise their decisions and concerns, as well as to meet regularly.17 “(a) Freely consider any questions falling within its competence, whether they are submitted by the Government or taken up by it without referral to a higher authority, on the proposal of its members or of any petitioner, 16. Paris Principles 17. Assessing the Effectiveness of National Human Rights Institutions, 2005. International Council on Human Rights Policy, OHCHR 10 SHRC: SOCIAL AUDIT REPORT-II
  18. 18. (b) Hear any person and obtain any information and any documents necessary for assessing situations falling within its competence; (c) Address public opinion directly or through any press organ, particularly in order to publicise its opinions and recommendations; (d) Meet on a regular basis and whenever necessary in the presence of all its members after they have been duly concerned; (e)  Establish working groups from among its members as necessary, and set up local or regional sections to assist it in discharging its functions; (f)  Maintain consultation with the other bodies, whether jurisdictional or otherwise, responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights (in particular, ombudsmen, mediators and similar institutions); (g)   In view of the fundamental role played by the non-governmental organisations in expanding the work of the national institutions, develop relations with the non-governmental organisations devoted to promoting and protecting human rights, to economic and social development, to combating racism, to protecting particularly vulnerable groups (especially children, migrant workers, refugees, physically and mentally disabled persons) or to specialised areas.”18 The Paris Principles do not require HRIs to have a ‘quasi-jurisdictional’ function – that is, to handle complaints or petitions from people whose human rights are alleged to have been violated. However, where HRIs do have this function, the Paris Principles list particular obligations: — To seek an amicable settlement through conciliation, a binding decision or on the basis of confidentiality; — To inform petitioners of their rights, and available remedies, and promote access to them; — To hear complaints and transmit them to competent authorities; and — To make recommendations to competent authorities.19 The Indian NHRC and SHRCs have quasi-jurisdictional functions. This will be discussed in detail later in this section. A complaint can be brought to the notice of a commission by individuals, their representatives, third parties, non-governmental organisations, associations of trade unions or any other representative organisations. In such situations, the HRIs need to abide by the above mentioned four points. From the discussion above, it can be easily established that the Paris Principles clearly lay down the framework for HRIs. It can be said that the Paris Principles are the first systematic effort to enumerate the role and functions of HRIs. While it can be called an ideal document with regard to the establishment of HRIs, it clearly lacks guidelines highlighting the functioning of the HRIs. For example, the Principles are silent with regard to cases against armed forces. The Paris Principles are a good starting point for discussion with regard to HRIs. The role of the Indian State is much larger than what has been prescribed for in the Principles for an effective and strong HRI. PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS ACT 1993 The narrative on the inception of the PHRA 1993 has already been dealt with in the earlier sections. While some practitioners call it a token and a toothless act, others are of the belief that whatever limited 18. Paris Principle 19. Assessing the Effectiveness of National Human Rights Institutions, 2005. International Council on Human Rights Policy, OHCHR INTRODUCTION 11
  19. 19. provisions are prescribed for in the Act, if utilised to the fullest, they can lead towards the protection and promotion of human rights. This section is an attempt to glance through the Act and get an understanding with regards to the powers and functioning of the commissions. The definition of human rights20 as per the Act is very clear. It reflects the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of India and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It refers to rights relating to the life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual. The underlying objective of the Act, as the name suggests, is to protect human rights in India. The Constitution of India is a repository of human rights available to citizens and persons living in India. The majority of these rights are available against the state, in that, it is the duty of the State to guarantee the protection of these rights. The Constitution also sets out the manner in which these rights can be enforced against the State. The NHRC and several SHRCs have been established through the PHRA 1993.21 Section 21 of the PHRA 1993, with regard to the establishment of SHRCs, has stated that, “A state government may constitute a body to be known as...” Legally it is not binding for states to have SHRCs. Many states like Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh have seen Public Interest Litigations (PILs) filed by civil society groups for the establishment of a commission. Higher judiciary, on various instances, have asked state governments to establish the SHRCs. The NHRC ought to consist of a chairperson who has been a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, one member who is, or has been, a judge of the Supreme Court, one member who is, or has been, a judge of a high court and two members who have practical knowledge and experience of human rights.22 The members of other national commissions are deemed to be the members of the NHRC.23 The chief executive officer of the commission is a secretary general.24 Similarly, the SHRCs ought to consist of a chairperson who has been a chief justice of a high court, one member who is, or has been a judge of a high court or district judge with a minimum of seven years of experience, and one member having practical knowledge and experience of human rights.25 Similar to the NHRC, the chief executive officer of the state commission is a secretary general.26 The appointment of chairperson and the members of NHRC is done by a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, Speaker of Lok Sabha, Minister of Home Affairs, Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha and Deputy Chairperson of Rajya Sabha.27 The duration of the term of the chairperson and the members is five years.28 Similarly, the appointment of the chairperson and members of the SHRCs is done by a committee consisting of the Chief Minister, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Minister in-charge of the Department of Home Affairs and the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly.29 The duration of the term of the chairperson and the members is five years.30 20. Section 2 Definitions of PHRA 1993 21. Sections 3 and 21 of PHRA 1993 22. Section 3 (2) of PHRA 1993 23. Section 3 (3) of PHRA 1993 24. Section 3 (4) of PHRA 1993 25. Section 21 (2) of PHRA 1993 26. Section 21 (3) of PHRA 1993 27. Section 4 (1) of PHRA 1993 28. Section 6 (1 and 2) of PHRA 1993 29. Section 22 (1) of PHRA 1993 30. Section 24 (1 and 2) of PHRA 1993 12 SHRC: SOCIAL AUDIT REPORT-II
  20. 20. With regard to the functions and powers of the commissions, they have the power to look into any matter of human rights brought before them through the victim or on behalf of the victim by a complainant.31 Though it is largely argued that the commissions can only look into complaints against public servants as mentioned in Section 12 (a) (ii), Section 12 (a) (i) clearly says that it has the obligation to look into any complaint of violations of human rights. It also has the power to carry out suo moto inquiries.32 The commissions have dismissed a large number of matters stating that they are sub judice. They have the power to intervene in any proceeding involving any allegation of violation of human rights pending before a court with the approval of such court.33 The commissions have the power to review and study the safeguards provided by the constitution, treaties and other international instruments on human rights and institutions and make necessary recommendations to the government.34 The commissions should involve and encourage the efforts of non-governmental organisations and institutions and spread human rights literacy among various sections of the civil society.35 The commissions, while enquiring into a complaint, have the power of a civil court.36 Every proceeding before a commission is deemed to be a judicial proceeding.37 A commission, for the purpose of investigation into a matter, can utilise the service of any officer or agency.38 The appointed officer or the agency needs to submit a report before the commission within a stipulated time and on that report the commission, after satisfying itself with the facts (cross verifying and asking for replies from different parties) will issue recommendations.39 The recommendations can direct the concerned for payments of damages, initiate proceedings for prosecution, and/or move the high court or the Supreme Court.40 The recommendation issued by the commission has to be supplemented with a compliance report by the government normally within a period of one month.41 However, in dealing with the complaints against armed forces, the commission can only seek a report from the central government. Obtaining the report, the commission can either proceed with it or make its recommendations to the central government which is duty bound to furnish the action-taken report normally within a period of three months. The commission should then publish its report together with the recommendations and action taken. It has to be noted that other sections of this law are not applicable with regard to complaints against the armed forces.42 The commissions are duty bound to furnish annual reports, and special reports if needed. The reports have to be tabled on the floor of the house by the government along with the action taken report. If any recommendation has not been accepted by the government, the reason has to be mentioned.43 One of the ground-breaking sections under the PHRA 1993 is the establishment of Human Rights Courts (HRCs). The HRCs were envisaged for a speedy trial in cases of human rights violations. In 31. Section 12 (a) of PHRA 1993 32. Ibid 33. Section 12 (b) of PHRA 1993 34. Section 12 (c), (d), (e) and (f) of PHRA 1993 35. Sections 12 (h) and (i) of PHRA 1993 36. Section 13 of PHRA 1993 37. Section 13 (5) of PHRA 1993 38. Section 14 (1) of PHRA 1993 39. Section 14 (2), (3), (4) and (5) of PHRA 1993 40. Section 18 of PHRA 1993 41. Section 18 (f) of PHRA 1993 42. Section19 of PHRA 1993 43. Section 20 of PHRA 1993 INTRODUCTION 13
  21. 21. each district a court of session may be specified as a human rights court. For each human rights court, there should be a specified public prosecutor or an advocate with not less than seven years of practice.44 The above sections have clearly laid out the broad understanding of the Paris Principles and the PHRA 1993. Based on the Paris Principles and the PHRA 1993, the following section tries to understand the functioning of six State Human Rights Commissions of Chhattisgarh, Manipur, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Punjab. While looking into the functioning of the commissions, an attempt is also made to refer to the powers of the PHRA 1993 vis-à-vis the Paris Principles. For the same purpose the indicators used are Establishment, Independence, Appointments and Composition, Infrastructure, Relationship with Civil Society, and Accessibility.45 Examples from the above-mentioned SHRCs will be quoted wherever deemed fit for a clearer understanding. ESTABLISHMENT The Paris Principles clearly state that for the establishment of the HRIs, they should be part of the law and entrenched in the Constitution. This legitimises the independence of a commission and enshrines it with legal powers. Following this, the NHRC and SHRCs were established under the PHRA 1993. The reasons for the Act, and how it came into existence have already been discussed in earlier sections of this report. Although the PHRA 1993 lays the ground for the establishment of the commissions, it contains many flaws contradicting the Paris Principles, in terms of independence, appointments, engaging with civil society etc. Civil society groups lobbied for amendments to be made to the PHRA 1993, and for it to be in accordance with the Paris Principles but, to date, they have been ignored. There has been a clear decline in the way the commissions function over the years if we look at the nature of complaints taken up and action taken hitherto. As mentioned, the social audit process brings out that the commissions’ failures are not only because of the weak PHRA 1993, but also because of the lack of political will of the commissions. Positive clauses with regard to the effective powers of the commissions have not been put into practice. While the Act refers to engagement with civil society organisations and encourages human rights work in the country, the commissions appear to be happy to ignore civil society and be content being an extension of the State. The PHRA and the establishment of the commissions serve as mere showpieces to portray a positive image to the rest of the world. It has been an extremely sad state of affairs. India has yet to make its National Human Rights Plans of Action, an action it committed to at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna. The lack of will to uphold its own mandate has affected the entire state of affairs, and people who held great hopes for the commissions now tend to take the old route to justice back with the courts. There are visible gaps in the jurisdictions of the national and state commissions. The complainant is unaware of whom to approach in which case. Sometimes cases have been addressed by the NHRC whilst in other instances similar cases have been transferred to a SHRC. It also has to be noted that transfer of a case means closure at the NHRC’s end and is shown as a disposed of case, while in reality the complainant is still seeking justice. 44. Sections 30 and 31of PHRA 1993 45. The following indicators are part of the Benchmarks as prescribed by the OHCHR through its publication; Assessing the Effectiveness of National Human Rights Institutions, 2005. International Council on Human Rights Policy 14 SHRC: SOCIAL AUDIT REPORT-II
  22. 22. INDEPENDENCE A commission’s independence reflects its effectiveness. It establishes its legitimacy and credibility. Independence from the government and any other private interest is the strong foundation on which a commission needs to be established. The indicators of independence are appointment mechanisms, terms of office, mandate, powers, funding, investigation etc. The PHRA 1993 clearly violates the Paris Principles when it comes to independence. The NHRC and SHRCs have been established by the PHRA 1993 and are answerable to the Parliament. The line between the legislative and the executive is very thin. Instead of answering to an independent authority, the NHRC and SHRCs are responding to the government of the day. The NHRC and SHRCs report to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the same ministry which also oversees the work of the police, immigration, communal harmony, border management, special laws for terrorism and insurgency etc. Although most complaints lodged with the commissions are made against these departments, the NHRC and SHRCs appear to be bound by restrictions to move against them. This makes the commissions totally ineffective and allows a huge scope for government invasion into the commissions’ functioning. The PHRA 1993 fails to make the NHRC and SHRCs independent bodies. They receive instructions from government ministers, since they are required to report to them by virtue of their appointments having been made by them. There has been no recorded evidence of the NHRC and SHRCs taking suitable action against the government of the day or of moving a court to action. In most of the complaints of grave human rights violations, in which state parties are perpetrators, matters are closed by simply recommending petty compensations. The commissions’ silence on the issues of armed killings and torture in various states, arbitrary arrests, sedition laws etc., are clear examples of the same. While the NHRC did brilliant work to take suo-moto action in the Gujarat carnage and conducted the investigation, its silence in the court was evident of government pressure. In the report from Manipur, it can be seen that the NHRC and SHRCs have been quiet observers of extrajudicial killings, torture by armed forces and disappearances. The first appointments made to the commission included a human rights activist as member and the whole commission looked into these violations seriously and took necessary actions. The state government and the army, frustrated with the proactive work of the commission, replaced them after their tenure, with an armed forces officer. Since then the commission has not only stopped rendering justice, the people also have stopped approaching them as it famously seen as an extended hand of the state and army. At present there is no chairperson or members in the commission since 2010. There are similar examples from the state of Chhattisgarh, where the Chhattisgarh SHRC has not moved an inch to protect the victims of fake encounters and killings in the name of Salwa Judum. Attacks and arrests under false cases of human rights defenders have become a common occurrence in the state. The commission in Chhattisgarh is scared to move against the state forces. It has to be noted that a member of Chhattisgarh Commission was a serving police officer. He was also the acting chairperson of the commission. In a state, where most of the human rights violations are done by the police and paramilitary forces, with a policeman as acting chairperson makes the commission not only defunct but also more threatening for the people who approach them. The story is no different in other states. In Madhya Pradesh the commission has 29 active police officers in its investigation wing. The testimonies from Rajasthan, Orissa and Punjab proves the same loud and clear. Because commissions are not guaranteed their independence, they remain mere showpieces of the State. Payment of compensation is, on principle, not accepted by many civil society organisations. For an INTRODUCTION 15
  23. 23. act of crime by State forces, tax payers’ money is wasted, while the State forces and agencies continue to operate in the same way. There are no recorded instances available which prove that departmental proceedings or criminal charges have been initiated against the accused. The State and the commission are hand in glove when it comes to the protection of the accused fellow from their department. The commissions have zero independence when it comes to investigation into a matter of human rights violation. The investigation mechanism of the commissions is completely flawled in nature. In the reports from various states compiled in this edition, one can find several instances where the perpetrators of the crime and the accused were asked by a commission to clarify the charges against them and furnish a report. Upon receiving a complaint of police torture, a commission has asked the same police to investigate the matter, and based on the report has closed the matter. Or, upon receiving a complaint of negligence by a government department leading to violation of human rights of the victims, the commission has asked the same department to conduct the investigation and furnish the report. It has been very shocking to learn that commissions seldom conduct independent investigations. This results not only in biased investigation and manipulations of facts, but in many instances in the form of a re-abuse of the victims for having approached the commission to file a complaint against the accused. Investigations of complaints concerning human rights violations are different to criminal investigations. Even in criminal matters, human rights violations can be investigated independently of the criminal charges. In such cases we need not have the police doing all the investigation. It can be conducted by a team comprising of doctors, academicians, psychologists, human rights activists etc. Financial autonomy of a commission guarantees its overall freedom. This also means an independent way of operating, and no commitment to the government. But the commissions in India depend solely upon the Ministry of Home Affairs. The commissions don’t raise their funds on their own. The commissions should determine their budget and channel funds for the same. In the national plan, a separate fund is to be kept for the commissions to operate on. Financial independence will ensure the commissions are not accountable to the government but rather to the people. The financial situation of the commissions is very disappointing. The commissions in Manipur and Rajasthan have constantly written to the state government for more funds and staff with no success. The situation of other commissions is no better. The staff members are also appointed after requests to the government, and are sent to these commissions on deputation, more often on punishment posting. The staff at the commission seldom get any training in human rights. In brief, the commissions are completely under the control of the government of the day. Be it with regards to appointment, investigation, finance or their functioning. The idea of the Paris Principles, for an independent autonomous commission, has been defeated in the past two decades. APPOINTMENT AND COMPOSITION The composition and appointment process of the commissions is the most crucial element in determining the independence and adequate functioning of a commission. The PHRA 1993 contradicts the Paris Principles on the appointments to and composition of the commissions. It has legitimised the appointments in such a way that is always in favour of the ruling government. While the Paris Principles mention the diversity in the composition of the commissions, keeping it positioned between the government and civil society, the PHRA 1993 has given all the power to the government with regards to the appointments to the commissions. The provisions laid down by the Paris Principles have already been discussed in the earlier sections of this report. According to the PHRA 16 SHRC: SOCIAL AUDIT REPORT-II
  24. 24. 1993, the appointment of members to the commissions is to be conducted by a committee comprising of the Prime Minister, Speaker of Lok Sabha, Minister of Home Affairs, Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha and Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha. If we look critically at the appointment committee, four out of six members are from the ruling government. It is evident that a person not acceptable to the ruling government can’t become a member or Chairperson of the NHRC. The story is the same for the SHRCs. With the current provisions, the bias in appointment can’t be dismissed. Most civil society groups see the appointments to the commissions as post retirement benefits for government friendly bureaucrats and judges. The commissions have turned out to be parking lots and means of welfare for the retired bureaucrats and judges. There has been no representation of members of civil society in the existing commissions. Human rights activists are not welcomed onto the boards of the commissions. Members of State forces, who in most instances have been party to or guilty of the crimes investigated, have been in the commissions. Representation of women in the commissions has been a serious worry. No woman has ever been appointed as a member or chairperson of a commission. Representation of the marginalised, such as dalits and tribals is also seldom seen. While the commissions deal with a large volume of complaints involving women, dalit and tribal cases, the lack of representation of these sections of society makes them equally vulnerable and marginalised in front of the commissions too. Though the Act mentions the appointment of one member who has knowledge and experience of human rights work, this provision is generally not adhered to. To ensure diversity in the appointment process, there needs to be an engagement between the government and civil society. There need to be nominations for the commissions which can then be elected by the committee, which again needs to be comprised of members who are independent of the government. While the government argues that there are retired judges in the commissions who provide legitimacy, these judges need to act like advisors for the commissions which should be represented by people who have expertise in human rights and have carried on such work for a considerable amount of time. The composition of the commissions is also not adequate to deal with a large volume of cases. With only a chairperson and a few members, it is impossible to do justice to the complaints that come before the commissions. The commissions now need to move out from the national and state capitals and have offices at the district level. It is extremely difficult for a person from a far-off village to continuously come to the state capital in order to deal with their case. The complainant incurs a huge amount of expenses in this way. Operating in each district would ensure that the workload of national and state commissions is more appropriately distributed, and hence they would be more able to reach out to everyone approaching them for justice. The narrative from the six states that we are looking at specifically is not encouraging. The commissions have constantly struggled to have a full board as per the current provisions of the PHRA 1993. States like Manipur, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have run for years without a chairperson. When we approached these commisisons, there was no chairperson, and members also seldom turned up. With the current situation, it is evident that the commissions are actually at the mercy of the ruling government, whilst civil society, in all regards, is kept at the periphery of the operations. Out of a whole pool of civil rights activists in India, none has ever made it to the NHRC. The international community concerned with the functioning of human rights institutions should look into the matter, the reasons for this are loud and clear. In such a situation commissions are not doing anything but justifying the horrendous acts of the state. INTRODUCTION 17
  25. 25. The criteria for appointment mentioned are in favour of the ruling government. Appointment to a commission has been laid out in such a way that an entire section of society, people who have been fighting for rights for several decades, have been excluded from the operations of the commissions. For the appointments to be transparent and pluralist in nature there need to be amendments to the existing PHRA 1993. The powers with regard to the appointment and composition have to shift to an autonomous body which looks into the functioning of the commissions. The direct appointment by the executive and the legislative is not desirable and the records of the last two decades show that they have failed to protect and promote human right in India. The commissions, as they stand, don’t reflect the social and political diversity of India. INFRASTRUCTURE Proper infrastructure remains a concern for the commissions in India. They are at the mercy of the government for everything with regard to their operations. Most of the SHRCs operate from the buildings allotted to them by the state governments. Despite several years of existence none of them have managed to obtain their own buildings. Most of them are located among other government offices and share an inadequate amount of space. The NHRC, despite having been operational for the past two decades, and despite having a huge building, lacks financial resources and proper knowledge of human rights. This is the case with state commissions too. Very few commissions have a operational website. Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Chhattisgarh have websites which provide the required information. Rajasthan and Manipur are clearly behind in this case. For those commissions who do have a operational website, there is hardly any information available with regard to the commission. The most operational website of all the commissions is that of the NHRC. It has to be mentioned that all these commissions are not disabled-friendly. Their presence amongst other state offices makes it difficult for victims to approach them. In some commissions, even to get a RTI reply, paper has to be furnished by the other party. RELATIONSHIP WITH CIVIL SOCIETY From the above discussions it is quite evident that the commissions are allied with the governments. They have been set up to be just another government department. While their mandate is for the protection and promotion of human rights, they are just engaged in giving a clean chit to the government and upholding its human rights record. The commissions’ relationship with civil society is very limited and restricted, if in fact there is any relationship at all. There is no membership of representatives of civil society in the commissions in any capacity. While conducting the IPTs, the commissions stayed away from the proceedings and in most cases we were told that the commissions are not answerable to civil society and that they are constitutional bodies answerable only to the government. Such is the attitude of these commissions that they seldom engage in any concrete manner with civil society organisaitons and human rights groups. Only in Rajasthan, the member sent his opinion through mail which is published as part of the Rajasthan report in this volume. The commissions need to engage in human rights education programmes and build awareness amongst the general public concerning their rights. No commission seems to be carrying out these activities. It was surprising to discover that even some lawyers and human rights activists don’t know the 18 SHRC: SOCIAL AUDIT REPORT-II
  26. 26. commission’s address in their state. Over the years, the commissions have just fulfilled the bare minimum of their mandate, by being in existence, and they have never reached beyond this. The impression of these commissions being just another government department is validated by the fact that they never involve themselves with civil society. For members of civil society, the only way they can engage with the commissions is by way of being a complainant. As mentioned before, the websites are not functional in most cases. Furthermore, the websites are mostly in English, thus making it difficult for the local people to understand them. The attitude of the commission members, and their view that they are supreme authorities, alienates them from the people. Even the most urgent of human rights violations, instead of being immediately investigated by the commission, are simply transferred from desk to desk. ACCESSIBILITY Commissions mandated with protecting and promoting human rights ought to be accessible to the people, especially to those belonging to various marginalised communities. The commissions should give special importance to hearing the complaints of such groups. Also, public information should be available and shared with a larger group through various mediums. The commissions in India operate from the state capitals. None of the commissions have shown any intent to move out from the comfort zone of the capital in order to be at district level. For people living in different districts in the state it is increasingly difficult and expensive to come to the state capital again and again for their complaints. There is not a single individual present representing the commissions in the districts. The commissions are not accessible to people with disabilities or to elderly citizens. The commissions in all the states have failed to equip themselves with a diverse staff. Most of the appointments are made by the government and most of the members are men belonging to the higher socio-economic strata of society. It is very difficult for a woman or individual from the marginalised sections to approach the commissions and seek justice. In grave cases of custodial rape and torture, a woman victim has to address her case to the exclusively male members of the commission. Sensitivity and compassion amongst the members is clearly lacking. Also the commissions have seldom conducted any activities in the past, whereby the people in far off districts can learn about the existence of the commissions and their powers. For most people, the commissions remain an unknown entity. There is a clear lack of awareness among the common people about the commissions, and therefore most of the complaints lodged with the commissions are sent by civil society groups on behalf of the victims. In accordance with the PHRA 1993, for the commissions to be more accessible, it is important that human rights education programmes are conducted in each district by the commissions along with civil society groups. Also, the commissions need to have representatives at district level, making it easier for people to approach them and follow up their cases. The establishment and proper functioning of the human rights courts will also help in this process. CONCLUSION The NHRC and SHRCs in India are currently in a grave state of disarray. The hopes of the millions of people who were advocating for these commissions have been turned into despair. While many have alINTRODUCTION 19
  27. 27. ready given up the hope of any improvement in the functioning of these commissions and do not want to engage with these institutions, there are yet a large number of activists, lawyers and social workers who for years have constantly engaged themselves with the commissions in an attempt to seek justice, work and campaign towards streamline their functioning and to help make them more effective. The idea of the IPT has been the same; to monitor and strengthen the functioning of the commissions. These IPTs clearly depict a representative sample from each state of the voices of victims of human rights violation and the responses of the commissions. Examining the testimonies of victims from each state will give a clear idea of the functioning of these commissions. The jury reports are also indicative of the fact that reforms are needed in the functioning of these commissions by the way of amendment to the Act and by the way of proper compliance with the current provisions in the Act. With this attempt, we are hopeful that the idea of a strong commission is possible, whereby the commissions take strong cognisance of their current state of affairs and take necessary actions to protect and promote human rights effectively and efficiently. 20 SHRC: SOCIAL AUDIT REPORT-II
  28. 28. Chhattisgarh Manipur Rajasthan Madhya Pradesh Orissa Punjab
  29. 29. chhattisgarh Rajni Soren | Mathew Jacob | Anupam Kishore SL.No. 01 City Raipur Total Cases before Jury 18 Date February 26, 2013 Jury: Dr. K.S. Subramaniam - Retd. Indian Police Service; Mr. Anand Mishra - Senior Social Activist; Prof. Anuradha Chenoy - School of International Studies, JNU Delhi; Ms. Namrata Chadha - former Member, Orissa State Women Commission and Social Activist; Networking Groups Bharat Jan Andolan, Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (Mazdoor Karyakarta Samiti), Chhattisgarh Viklang Manch, Dalit Mukti Morcha, Jan Chetna (Raigarh), Jan Sangharsh Samiti, Tribal Welfare Society, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (Chhattisgarh)
  30. 30. The independent people’s tribunal on the fuctioning of chhattisgarh state human rights commission
  31. 31. executive summary CHHATTISGARH STATE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION With a view to provide easy and immediate access to the needy victims of human rights violations, the State Human Rights Commission was constituted in the state of Chhattisgarh on April 16, 2001 after its division from the state of Madhya Pradesh on November 1, 2000.  Background The judicial system in India is very old, complicated and lengthy. It takes several years to reach a resoluton. Because of slow nature of trial and absence of legal aid facilities, an accused person may languish in jail for years. In many cases, undertrials may remain in jail for durations which exceeds the maximum sentence for which that person has been booked. Furthermore, most of these cases involve poor and vulnerable people belonging to deprived and marginalised communities. So, for the prompt and effective justice delivery, an alternative mechanism was put into place for the formation of SHRC in the states and NHRC at the centre, under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, so that it can be of help to the people who cannot afford court expenses The SHRC in the states and NHRC are statutory bodies constituted under the provisions of the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA) which was enacted in the year 1993. CONSTITUTION OF THE CGSHRC The chairperson and members of the commission are appointed by the governor on the basis of recommendations of a committee comprising the chief minister as the chairperson and the speaker of the legislative assembly, the minister-in-charge of the home department and the leader of opposition in the legislative assembly as members. There have been only acting chairpersons in the commission, since the first chairperson of CGSHRC Justice K. M. Aggarwal left on August 2, 2002. In CGSHRC, a full time chairperson was appointed, as per the statute, only after more than a decade had elapsed. On November 19, 2012, Justice Rajeev Gupta (retired Chief Justice of Chhattisgarh High Court) took over as CGSHRC head. The secretary of the commission is entrusted to act as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the state commission. Though an important position, this post has rechhattisgarh 25
  32. 32. mained vacant for approximately ten years in total. It was occupied for a short durations by Mr. L. N. Nag and Mr. M.D. Diwan respectively, but is now again vacant. Joint Secretary Mr. Dilip Bhatt has been discharging the secretary’s responsibilities. The CGSHRC has the following setup currently1: • Justice Rajeev Gupta (retired Chief Justice of Chhattisgarh High Court) Chairperson, CGSHRC (November 19, 2012 – till date2) • Mr. Y K S Thakur, retired IPS, became a Member on July 6, 2010. He was the Acting Chairperson from July 26, 2010 to November 18, 2012. • Mr. R.K. Behar, (retired District and Sessions Judge) assumed charge as Member and retaining the post w.e.f. September 18, 2010 • Mr. Dilip Bhatt, Joint Secretary, CGSHRC • Mr. G S Verma, Deputy Secretary, CGSHRC • Mr. Vivek Kumar Tiwari, Law Officer, CGSHRC • Mr. J P Tiwari, Accounts Officer, CGSHRC • Mr. Manish Mishra, Public Information Officer, CGSHRC Functioning Law Division The law division is headed by Registrar. The law division is responsible for maintaining files and orders of the cases passed by the commission that are adjudicated by the commission. The law division communicates the order passed by the commission to the concerned authority. Further, all action-taken reports are also received by the law division and forwarded to the chairperson and members of the commission. Currently, this post is being held by Mr. Vivek Kumar Tiwari.3 Investigation Division Investigation division is to be headed by an officer not below the rank of Inspector General of Police (IGP). But that has hardly been the case in CGSHRC as the IGP post has remained vacant for around ten years. Sometimes the investigation division has been handled by an acting head, who is usually only a lower level officer. For example, in the year 2006-07, a police inspector handled the invesigation division4. In total 26 positions have been sanctioned in the investigation unit to be deputed to the commission. Not more than half the posts remains occupied at a time. Considering the vastness of the Chhattisgarh geographically as well as demographically, the number of posts is very meagre. Two thousand complaints come into the commission every year. Overall, the ratio of complaints to the personnel currently available to handle such cases presents a sorry state of affairs at the commission. There seems to be a complete lack of parity between the resources and the amount of work. Indeed, the number of complaints coming to the commission sometimes 1. As on November 29, 2012 2. accessed on November 29, 2012 3. As on November 29, 2012 4. CGSHRC Annual Report 2006-07 26 SHRC: SOCIAL AUDIT REPORT-II
  33. 33. exceeds beyond 3000 in a year, as so was the case in the year 2006-07 and 2007-085. Further, the lack of human resource at the commission increases the possibility of piling up of pending cases, as happened in 2007-08, 2008-09 and again 2009-10 when the number of cases exceeded 50006. It also increases the commission’s over-reliance on the government departments especially on police, to investigate the cases as it is very clear that with the meagre amount of human resource at its disposal, the commission cannot handle so many cases coming to it. More often than not, the same police officer ends up either investigating or influencing the case against whom the complaint was filed initially, and thus starts the cycle of revictimisation. There is a clear conflict of interest as far as the investigation mechanism of the commission is concerned, and this affects the functioning of the commission. Composition The state government has sanctioned 98 temporary posts in the CGSHRC. Initially when the commission was constituted, it was 97. It was increased to 98 in the year 2010-11. More than half of those posts have remained vacant since the commisson’s formation. There has never been a full working commission. As per the information given in the annual report, 52 posts remained vacant in the year 2010117. Currently, the commission has about 40 posts filled out of the total posts sanctioned8. This reflects the non-serious attitude of the commission and the state government towards human rights matters. INDEPENDENCE The independence of the commission is curbed through the finances as it is at the mercy of the state government for the grants provided by it. Section 33 (1) of the Act empowers the state government to sanction the amount for the SHRC as it so deems fit and the SHRC has no say in this regard. Hence, the financial dependence really hampers the independence of the commission, as a large number of complaints are against the state machinery and a subtle perceived threat always looms over the functioning of the commission. When it comes to investigating the case impartially, the bias invariably comes in favour of the state machinery in matters of human rights violations committed by the state. The independence of the commission is further undermined from the fact that it is not free to make its own appointment of staffs and is depended on the state government for that. The Government of Chhattisgarh appoints the members and chairperson of CGSHRC as per Section 22 of the Act, by the committee chaired by chief minister, minister in charge of home department, speaker of the legislative assembly, and leader of opposition. Also, Section 27 of the Act assigns complete power to the Chhattisgarh government regarding appointments, salaries, allowances and condition of services of the CGSHRC staffs and officers. Thus, CGSHRC functioning is getting adversely affected and is hampering its independence. Relationship with Civil Society One of the important tasks of the CGSHRC is to promote the NGOs working towards the protection 5. CGSHRC Annual Reports 2006-07, 2007-08 6. CGSHRC Annual Reports 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10 7. CGSHRC Annual Report 2010-11 8. In an interview with CGSHRC Public information Officer Mr. Manish Mishra on Novemeber 29, 2012. chhattisgarh 27
  34. 34. of human rights9 as also enshrined in the Act10. But, ironically the website of the CGSHRC specifically mentions that “There is no provision for membership / registration / affiliation / enrolment of NGOs and individuals with the CGSHRC. Hence no request on these issues will be entertained by the Commission11.” The above statement on the website of the commission shows a hostile attitude of the commission towards working with NGOs on human rights issues. Section 12 of the Act states that the commission shall (i) “encourage the efforts of non-governmental organisations and institutions working in the field of human rights” but as is quite visible from the CGSHRC website message, it is hardly the case. Further, this shows the commission’s reluctance and apathy towards the civil society organisations working for the cause of the people. The commission also mentions in its annual report that under Section 18(b) of the Act, it will approach the Supreme Court or high court, “for such directions, orders or writs as that court may deem necessary”. Unfortunately, the CGSHRC is yet to exercise this power. Changing Roles: From Human Rights Defender to Human Rights Violator A human rights activist of Chhattisgarh, Mr. Subash Mohapatra was beaten inside the CGSHRC office premises itself, by and with the help of the police, at the behest of the officials of the commission. Even a false case was registered against him, as a way to distract from its’ own non-functioning status, for disrupting a public servant from performing its duties, even though he was at the commission to inquire and seek status of the complaints that he has filed in the commission. Mr. Mohapatra had filed hundreds of cases in the CGSHRC on the behalf of the victims. Thereafter, he was continuously harassed by the police that he decided to leave Chhattisgarh. He now lives in Orissa. So, this is a state of affairs of the working of the CGSHRC, where even a human rights activist is not safe, let aside the common people. Relationship with Chhattisgarh Government Even in matters where the commission showed some activeness and sought reports from different government entities regarding complaints related to human rights violations, the government’s indifferent response, or to say no response at all, reflects the non-seriousness and complacency of the government towards this very important issue. The CGSHRC sent about 28 letters to different government departments in the year 2005-06. The commission received no reply. These letters were regarding cases which were under consideration by the commission and about which reply was sought from the respective government departments. Amongst these letters, one was sent to the secretary of a government department, five were sent to the different district collectors, and 11 to SPs, and the rest to other government departments. Most of these matters were against the government agencies only. Similarly, this trend continued in 2006-07 28 letters, in 2007-08 60 letters, and in 2008-09 14 letters, which were sent to different government departments, did not receive any reply. These non-replies from different government departments, secretary of different departments, chief 9. CGSHRC Annual Report 2005-06, page 4 10. Section 12 (i) of PHRA, 1993 11. accessed on May 31, 2012 28 SHRC: SOCIAL AUDIT REPORT-II
  35. 35. secretary, SPs and the district collectors are a clear reflection of the callous attitude of the Government of Chhattisgarh towards matters of human rights as well as towards the commission The CGSHRC is generally considered a big nuisance by the Government of Chhattisgarh with which they have to live with. The apathy of the government institutions notwithstanding, the CGSHRC itself has not approached any court regarding non-compliance of its orders or about the non-replies from the different government departments. PATTERN OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN CHHATTISGARH Human Rights Violations by Security Forces It becomes doubly dangerous as far as protection of human rights is concerned when the forces, which are supposed to be the protector of the people, start inflicting pain on them. There have been many incidences (i.e. Singavaram, Nayapara and Santoshpur encounter killings of tribals alleged to be naxals and mentioned in detail in testimonials in this report) in Chhattisgarh where the security forces have killed innocent village people under the garb of encounter, and later termed the deceased as either naxals or naxal supporters/sympathisers. One such news of killing by security forces was reported in the national newspaper The Hindu, on January 9, 200912. It stated that “the security forces shot dead 15 Maoist rebels in a fierce gun battle in the forest areas of Gollapalli in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada District on Thursday evening. Three special officers were critically injured.” On January 10, 2009, The Hindu newspaper published a news raising doubts on who killed 17 tribals.13 In this report it was stated, “Who killed the 17 tribal youths at Singavaram, a forest village of Dantewada district, that were they really the naxalities?” The report further mentions, “But the tribal communities attributed the killings to the anti naxalite campaigners of Salwa Judum. Some 250 persons carrying firearms stormed Singavaram and three other neighbouring villages; Korasigudem, Mailur and Chanchalguda. Seventeen tribal youths including four women were killed. Thirteen others of the Gothikoya tribe were reported missing.” These media reports point towards killing of seventeen tribals at Singavaram, a forest village of Dantewada district by the SPOs and Chhattisgarh State Police, for the only fault that they denied to desert the village and take shelter at the state run relief camps. While the police labelled them as dreaded naxalites killed in encounter, the villagers say that none of them had any links with naxalites and were poor villagers who have been picked up by the salwa judum forces and killed at a distance of about one kilometre from the village. Custodial death The use of torture resulting in death in Indian penal institutions is escalating. In a report by the International Human Rights Organisation (IHRO) on custodial deaths, they claimed that “In recent years, third degree torture and custodial deaths have become an intrinsic part of police investigations and the injury inflicted on the prisoners is sometimes unbearable” (IHRO, 2011). But even the commission seems non-serious in granting justice to such victims of human rights violation committed by the state authorities. Looking at one case of a custodial death by police in which 12.; accessed on February 2, 2012 13. article371758.ece?css=print ; accessed on February 2, 2012 chhattisgarh 29
  36. 36. the CGSHRC passed an order in the year 2005, the deceased Anant Ganda’s wife Anita Ganda was granted a compensation of Rs. 1 lakh, but more importantly no action was taken against the policemen who committed this heinous crime. This is just a mere reflection of the insensitivity and callousness of the CGSHRC towards such gross violation of human rights.14 Extrajudicial Killings by Police As with custodial deaths, extrajudicial killings are disturbingly common in Chhattisgarh If police, security forces and the army, ‘who are regarded as the custodian and guardian of law’, take issues of law and order into their own hands, including the ‘right to kill’, serious human rights issues are being violated (PUCL, 2010). One such incident of a fake encounter killing was presented in the IPT held on February 26, 2012, on the functioning of CGSHRC. On July 6, 2011, the newspapers reported the killing of Meena Xalxo, a sixteen year old tribal girl in village Karcha, Sarguja district. Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan (CBA) did a fact-finding into the serious allegations after repeated media coverage. In their investigation the girl’s parents and the people of the Karcha village clearly stated that she was not a naxalite. According to the media report15, Chhattisgarh Police claimed that 24 policemen of Chando police station exchanged fire with a large group of maoists at around 3am on July 6, 2011, near Nawadih village in Sarguja district. When the encounter ended, the police found a girl. She revealed her name as Meena Xalxo, her village as Karcha, and confessed to being a maoist. The police also claimed that a weapon and empty cartridges were found on the spot. However, the findings of the experts give ample reason to doubt the police’s version of the encounter story. For starters, the ballistic experts who visited the site have noted that the girl was in an ‘upright position’ when two bullets pierced her body. An expert (on condition of anonymity) said, “Generally when people are shot while exchanging fire, they are usually found crouching and taking positions, not standing upright, facing the spray of oncoming bullets16.” Till now no FIR has been registered against the police who killed the girl, and no arrests have been made regarding this. This is yet another story of the impunity enjoyed by the police in alleged encounter incidences, and the commissions continues to slumber over such cases of gross violation of human rights. Handcuffing Those being arrested or detained by the authorities are often frightened, confused and vulnerable. The use of handcuffs, especially in public, can be humiliating and intimidating and may exacerbate their already fragile mental state. One complaint of handcuffing was sent to CGSHRC, and was deposed in the IPT too. The complaint was based on the newspaper reports of undertrial prisoners being taken to hospitals handcuffed. The case of an environmental activist Ramesh Aggarwal, and of a tribal woman Soni Sori, who were handcuffed and chained in the bed during the course of their treatment at the Ambedkar Hospital, Raipur, was put into the complaint. 14. CGSHRC annual report 2005-06, page 10 15.; accessed February 20, 2012 16. 30 SHRC: SOCIAL AUDIT REPORT-II