Sunday, August 24, 2008

People’s Tribunal warns against ‘victimisation of Muslims’

Hyderabad, Aug 24 (IANS) After hearing complaints of victims of police torture in the name of fight against terrorism, national-level People’s Tribunal Sunday warned that that such treatment of Muslim minority could lead to frightful consequences for the nation. The tribunal felt that this was “leading to a a very strong sense of insecurity and alienation which may lead to frightful consequences for the nation”.

“The victimisation and demonisation of Muslims in the guise of investigation of terror offences is having a very serious psychological impact on the minds of not only the families of the victims but also other members of the community,” the jury observed after 40 victims from across the country deposed before it and recorded their statements.

The tribunal, comprising nine jury members including Justice S.N. Bhargava, former chief justice of the Rajasthan High Court and Justice Sardar Ali Khan, former chief justice of the Andhra Pradesh High Court and former chairman of National Minorities Commission, made the interim recommendations.

The tribunal’s report will be submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Union home ministry and international human rights organisations within a month.

“The testimonies show widespread communalisation of the police across states in the country,” observed the tribunal, which was set up by NGOs ANHAD (Act Now for Harmony and Development), Human Rights Law Network and Peace along with dozens of other human rights organisations and Urdu daily Siasat.

The jury also included senior lawyer K.G. Kannabiran, resident editor of Times of India Kingshuk Nag and Desh Bandhu Lalit Surjan, academics Ramy Punyani, Rooprekha Verma and Haragopal.

It expressed shock and dismay that the fight against terrorism had veered more around witch hunting of Muslims rather than curbing of terrorism.

“The testimonies showed that large numbers of innocent young Muslims have been and are being victimised by the police on the charge of being involved in various terrorist acts across the country. This is particularly so in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan though not limited to these states.”

“The states ruled by both the BJP as well as the Congress were witnessing such incidents,” said the report read out by senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan on behalf of the jury.

It also found fault with the attitude of the judiciary and media in dealing with the cases of harassment.

“In most of these cases, the courts are routinely allowing police remand and not granting bail merely on the statement that they are required for further investigations. They do not examine whether there is any evidence against the accused.”

Bhushan said the media had forgotten its basic duty of subjecting the police statements to scrutiny to find out the truth.

“Unfortunately the media too uncritically publicises the charges and allegations levelled by the police. This has resulted in destruction of the lives and reputations of a large number of persons so picked up by the police who have later been found to be innocent.”

The tribunal underlined the need for judicial intervention to put an end to this victimisation of Muslim community and payment of compensation to the victims.

“Whenever any person is released by the police for the want of evidence against him, the courts should award adequate compensation for the destruction of his life and reputation,” it said.

“In such cases the courts should examine if the prosecution was malafide, and if it is so found, the police officials involved must be held accountable and the compensation payable to the victims must recovered from the officers concerned.”

It also demanded that criminal procedure code should be amended to make it obligatory on the part of the centre to award adequate compensation to the innocent victim who is discharged or acquitted due to the lack of evidence of falsely implicated.

It urged the state human rights commission and national human rights commission and state minority commission to take up such matters seriously, look in to them independently and award adequate compensation, taking suo moto action instead waiting for somebody to approach.

The tribunal expressed deep concern over the incidents of lawyers being prevented by other lawyers from representing the suspects and accused of terror cases.

It also demanded action against the Bar Association who were preventing the lawyers from discharging their duty. “Such officials of Bar Associations should be hauled up for contempt of court for interfering with administration of justice.”

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