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NHRC issues notice to Rajasthan over ‘illegal’ detention of Dalit leaders

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The apex rights’ body also made note of news reports that spoke of alleged police brutality against Dalit activists and leaders during the 2 April bandh.

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notice to Rajasthan’s chief secretary over the continued incarceration of Dalit activists who protested on 2 April against the Supreme Court decision regarding the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

The apex rights’ body also made note of news reports that spoke of alleged police brutality against these social activists and leaders.

The NHRC has taken suo motu cognizance of Dalits who have allegedly been falsely implicated in criminal cases and are languishing in Rajasthan’s jails without bail six weeks after a bandh was called in April.

“The Commission has observed that the allegations of illegal arrest, physical torture and implication of people in false criminal cases, if true, raise serious issue of violation of human rights of the victims and is a matter of concern,” the NHRC said.

The NHRC has also expressed its concern over news reports mentioning several incidents of police abuse in which even the women and children were not spared.

The Rajasthan director general of police (DGP) has been directed to prepare an action-taken report about the alleged police brutality and submit the same within six weeks.

On 2 April, the Dalit community called for a nationwide bandh to put pressure on the Centre on taking a concrete stand against the 20 March apex court judgment that ruled out automatic arrests in the face of a complaint under the SC/ST Act.

The apex court in its judgment had observed that a law which was enacted to protect the disenfranchised has now become a tool to “blackmail” innocent people and public servants. A bench of justices A.K. Goel and U.U. Lalit said the SC/ST Act that was enacted to protect the marginalised is now being used to exact “vengeance.”

The Supreme Court observed, “Innocent citizens are termed as accused, which is not intended by the legislature. The legislature never intended to use the Atrocities Act as an instrument to blackmail or to wreak personal vengeance.”

Even as union minister Ram Vilas Paswan has asked the Centre to bring in an ordinance to counter the top court’s judgment, the apex court defended its order when it observed that no parliament could allow the arrest of an individual without a fair procedure.

“Article21 (right to life and personal liberty) has to be read into every provision of law; that’s implicit and that is what the court has done. That’s the mandate. The right cannot be denied even by Parliament. We are not living in a civilized society if a person can be simply arrested without reasonableness,” justice A.K. Goel said on 17 May. He added that anybody’s liberty could not be taken away without any scrutiny.

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