SC castigates Punjab, Bihar cops for violation of rights
Dhananjay Mahapatra, TNN | Mar 7, 2013,
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday took suo motu cognizance of Punjab police assaulting a woman in Tarn Taran and Bihar police caning contractual teachers in Patna saying the governments had failed to safeguard people’s right to life and dignity from “wholly unwarranted” police action
On February 4, television channels showed two Punjab policemen abusing, slapping and caning a 25-year-old dalit woman and her ex-serviceman father in Tarn Taran. The woman was complaining to police against some taxi drivers who allegedly molested her. Though Punjab government ordered a magisterial inquiry, state police chief Sumedh Singh Saini defended non-registration of FIR against the two cops involved in the incident.
The other incident related to lathi-charge and tear gas firing by Bihar police on February 5 against contractual teachers who were demanding wages. Referring to news reports, the bench said, “Contents of the news items revealed that members of Punjab police and Patna police have mercilessly beaten an unarmed woman and teachers. Both the incidents have shocked the conscience of the entire nation.”
The bench faulted the Prakash Singh Badal and the Nitish Kumar governments for failure to take “adequate steps for protecting the people against the wholly unwarranted action taken by the police at Tarn Taran and Patna”.
“These incidents raise important constitutional issues relating to Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution and dignity of individual,” the bench said and sought assistance of attorney general G E Vahanvati and senior advocates Harish Salve and U U Lalit to help the court as amicus curiae in the matter. It posted further hearing for March 11.
Long before the Justice J S Verma panel, appointed in the aftermath of Nirbhaya’s gang-rape, suggested that judiciary must initiate suo motu action against blatant violations of fundamental rights of citizens, the Supreme Court and high courts have from time to time initiated proceedings on their own, taking cognizance of reports of gross violation of human rights.
The Supreme Court of India may not match its counterpart in Pakistan, which has in the last five years initiated 86 suo motu actions, but it did not remain a mute spectator when citizens’ rights were targeted by those tasked to protect it.
Justice Verma panel had in its January 23 report to the government said, “The judiciary has the primary responsibility of enforcing fundamental rights through constitutional remedies. The judiciary can take suo motu cognizance of such issues being deeply concerned with them both in the Supreme Court and the high courts. An all-India strategy to deal with this issue would be advisable.”
Last year, the Supreme Court had initiated suo motu proceedings in a number of cases, including VVIPs flaunting red beacons on their vehicles and travelling with a large security detail, inconveniencing citizens.
On November 21, the court had taken suo motu cognizance of private guards using firearms, as was alleged in the shootout at a farmhouse killing liquor baron Ponty Chadha and his brother, and asked the Union government to frame a regulatory mechanism for private security agencies.
In another PIL which sought an end to discrimination of women and their protection by police, the apex court had on January 2 suo motu made all states a party to the petition and sought response in four weeks.