A People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) statement on the arrest of human rights team in Telangana and Chhattisgarh:
The PUCL strongly condemns the illegal, unprovoked and malicious arrest by the Telangana police of a 7-member team of lawyers, journalists and human rights activists belonging to the Telangana Democratic Forum and other organisations on 25th December, 2016 at Dummagudam village of Bhadrachalam District of Telangana who were planning to visit Chhattisgarh to enquire into complaints of human rights violations suffered by adivasis villagers of Chhattisgarh at the hands of security forces.
The seven members of the team are:
- Balla Ravindranath, Advocate.High Court, AP and Telangana.
- Chikkudu Prabhaker, Advocate
- Durga Prasad, Journalist Hyderabad
- Duddu Prabhaker, President, AP Kula Nirmulana Poratta Samiti
- Rajendra Prasad, Telangana Vidhyarthi Vedika
- Nazeer, Telangana Vidhyarthi Vedika
- Ramananda Lakshmay
It is reported that after holding them under arrest till about 6:00 pm or thereabouts on 25th December, the Telangana police took the 7 arrested persons across the border and handed them over to Chhattisgarh police at Kunta Police Station on the same day, i.e. 25th December, 2016.
It is learnt that on 26.12.2016 in the morning, all the 7 persons were produced before the remanding Court in Sukma and remanded to custody under sections 8(1), (2) and (3) of the Chhattisgarh State Public Security Act. At the time of production before the remand court, the Chhattisgarh police is reported to have informed the court that the 7 persons were arrested in Chhattisgarh state.
PUCL expresses shock at the brazen abuse of the law committed by both Telangana state police and the Chhattisgarh police.
- Firstly, there was no reason to arrest the Fact Finding Team members in Dummagudam in Telangana state.
- Secondly, when they were arrested in Telangana by the Telangana police, the courts in Chattisgarh have no jurisdiction and they should have been produced before a Court in Telangana alone.
- Thirdly, the SC has clarified the law on numerous occasions, that if the persons shown as arrested will not escape or evade justice or threaten witnesses or destroy evidence, there is no reason to remand them to custody and they can be released and asked to appear as and when required.
It should be noted that the arrested persons include a lawyers of the High Courts, journalists and others. So there was no need to remand them, if at all the police wanted to prosecute them.
The brazen disregard for the law has been reportedly compounded by the Chhattisgarh police reportedly misleading the remanding court in Sukma that the 7 persons were arrested within Chhattisgarh state itself.
PUCL strongly condemns the illegal and unlawful actions of both the Telangana and Chhattisgarh police. Such acts of highhandedness and flagrant abuse of law is only possible when the State promises the police total impunity and protection from any prosecution for abuse of law.
The actions of the police of both states is violative of the fundamental rights to free movement, freedom of speech and expression and the fundamental duty to protect the fundamental rights of adivasis and other local people in Bastar area who are victims of a severely repressive state police. It also needs to be pointed out that the FFT was seeking to visit villages in Bastar affected by human rights violations in areas which are not declared to be closed for movement of people.
Such actions of the police are therefore deliberate acts meant to thwart bringing to the attention of the people of India the harsh situation prevailing in the villages of Bastar region in Chhattisgarh state. It is also to scare others in the future from daring to visit the conflict hut areas.
The open abuse of the law by the Chhattisgarh police will have to be seen against the backdrop of the remarks passed recently by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) which remarked that the complaints about widespread abuse of law and unleashing of violence by security forces in Chhattisgarh cannot be ignored or taken lightly. The NHRC had in fact summoned the Chief Secretary of Chhattisgarh government and the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Kalluri, who is accused of masterminding the repressive actions of the police, to appear before the Commission.
PUCL demands that the Chhattisgarh police immediately drops all charges against the 7 member team and release them from custody. PUCL also demands that the NHRC should immediately intervene in the issue, ascertain facts, especially the reported untruths about the arrest of the 7-member Fact Finding Team who were arrested in Telangana but claimed to have been arrested in Chhattisgarh, and to initiate criminal prosecution against the Police officials of both states, if there found to have abused the law.
Signed by Dr. V. Suresh, National General Secretary, PUCL , and Ravi Kiran Jain, National President, PUCL