Guwahati: Justice Arun Mishra, the chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), on Friday said it would be wrong to generalise that human rights get violated due to imposition of AFSPA in some of the northeastern states.
He also pointed out that the NHRC cannot examine or hold a debate on the legality or constitutionality of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
“It cannot be generalised that human rights are violated due to imposition of AFSPA. The government should be reviewing the need for application or withdrawal of the Act,” Justice Mishra told reporters, after the conclusion of a two-day camp here.
He, however, asserted that the commission views custodial deaths or extra-judicial killings “very seriously” and all cases must be reported or it may take suo-moto cognisance.
The human rights body examines the merits of the cases and announces compensation for the family members of the victims, which is then complied with by the state governments, he said.
Referring to the botched counter-insurgency operation in Nagaland’s Oting village which claimed 14 lives of civilians, Justice Mishra said the NHRC had taken up the case suo-moto and issued notices to authorities concerned as the state does not have a unit of the statutory agency.
“We have sought a report from the Union home ministry and the Special Investigation Team (SIT) that has been set up to probe the incident. It will, however, not be proper to comment on the merit of the case at this stage,” he added.
The recent mayhem in Nagaland has led to vociferous demands for withdrawal of the Act from the northeastern states.
In the northeast, AFSPA is in force in Assam, Nagaland, Manipur (excluding the Imphal Municipal Council Area), and parts of Arunachal Pradesh. The law empowers security forces to conduct operations anywhere and arrest anyone without a warrant.
Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphu Rio and his Meghalaya counterpart Conrad Sangma, along with opposition parties, civil society groups and rights activists in the region, have also sought the repeal of AFSPA.
Asked about the series of police encounters that have taken place in Assam since May this year, the NHRC chairperson said that there is “no place for fake encounters in a civilised society. It is barbaric and cannot be allowed. The law must take its own course”.
“At the same time, we cannot allege that all encounters are fake. Some may be fake, but we take up each complaint and examine the merit of each case. There are three aspects that the NHRC looks into in such matters — compensation for the victim or his or her family, registration of criminal cases and initiation of departmental action against the accused,” he explained.
Altogether 32 people have been killed and at least 55 injured in police action since the BJP-led government assumed office in May this year.
To a question about the recent eviction of “illegal settlers” from government land, Justice Mishra said that the case is pending before the Gauhati High Court.
“The matter is sub-judice and we will not interfere in the legal process. We are, however, concerned about the fate of displaced people and have directed the state government to ensure their rehabilitation,” he added.
The Commission took up 40 cases during the hearing, including 23 cases of Assam, 13 cases of Manipur, three cases of Nagaland and one case of Arunachal Pradesh.
NHRC advocates Rs 20.50 lakh as relief in 5 cases of HR violations
The Commission recommended a compensation of Rs 3 lakh to be paid to the next of kin in case of death in police custody in the Tinsukia district of Assam.
It recommended an amount of Rs 3 lakh in case of an encounter death in Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh besides recommending an amount of Rs 5 lakh in case of death in police custody in Imphal (East) district of Manipur.
The Commission further recommended an amount of Rs 4.5 lakh to be paid to the next of kin of the deceased in a case of death in custody in the Mon district of Nagaland.
While dealing with the case of an employee who became handicapped at the workplace and his service was terminated by the employer in Guwahati, the Commission directed that alternative arrangements, as per the Disability Act, be made for his reinstatement to service. It further directed for payment of arrears of his wages.
Besides, while dealing with a case of rape of a tribal woman by GRP personnel of Cachar district of Assam, the commission asked the state authorities for payment of Rs 5 lakh to the victim.
The state authorities have submitted that both the delinquent police personnel have been dismissed from service.
In the remaining cases, including compliance cases, the Commission asked for the compliance reports with proof of payment and requested for submission of action taken reports in such matters from the state authorities for further consideration of the cases.
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