2019 Jamia violence: HC asks authorities to state action taken after NHRC report

The Delhi High Court on Monday asked the authorities here to state the action taken by them pursuant to a report by the NHRC into the violence that broke out in Jamia Millia Islamia university following protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in December 2019.

The court asked the Delhi government to file a report concerning awarding compensation to the victims and also questioned the police here if it took action against its personnel who allegedly used excessive force on the students.

“Were you able to identify (the police personnel)? Any disciplinary action was taken?,” the bench headed by Justice Suresh Kumar Kait asked the Delhi police counsel while dealing with a batch of petitions concerning the incident of alleged police brutality on students.

The counsel sought time from the court to seek instructions and contended that the petitions were not maintainable as the prayers had already been decided by the NHRC on a plea by one of the petitioners.

He also said the Delhi government was the authority concerned with disbursement of compensation.

“File an affidavit (stating) pursuant to these (NHRC) directions, what action was taken,” the court stated.

Several petitions are pending before the high court seeking directions for setting up a Special Investigation Team (SIT), Commission of Inquiry (CoI) or a fact-finding committee, medical treatment, grant of compensation and registration of FIRs against the erring police officers.

The petitioners before the court are lawyers, students of JMI, residents of south Delhi’s Okhla, where the university is located, and the Imam of Jama Masjid mosque opposite Parliament House.

The NHRC, in its May 2020 report, recommended grant of compensation to the victims and suggested the Centre, Delhi Police and other authorities “identify members of force as seen in CCTV footages involved in damaging CCTV Cameras, unnecessarily caning inside the reading rooms of libraries of JMI and also using tear gas shells inside the close compound of library” and to take “suitable action”.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, representing some petitioners, told the bench, also comprising Justice Manoj Jain, that 91 students were injured in the incident and the NHRC conducted a “poor investigation” into the matter.

Counsel for the police argued that the petitioners before the high court were “interlopers” and the local politicians in the area were using protests in JMI as a “facade” to attack police and cause violence.

The petitioners had earlier said that in the present case, there was a need for an SIT, which was independent of the police and the central government, to probe the alleged brutalities committed upon the students by the police force.

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They have said that such a move would “reassure the public” and restore the people’s faith in the system.

The police have, in their response, opposed the petitions and said that the reliefs sought by the petitioners cannot be granted as charge sheets have been filed in connection with the violence cases and they should have sought whatever relief they want before the subordinate court concerned.

It has opposed setting up the SIT to inquire into the alleged police atrocities as well as transferring the FIRs lodged against the students to an independent agency and argued that a “stranger” cannot seek a judicial enquiry or investigation by any third-party agency.

The police have said that PIL petitioners cannot be permitted to choose the members of SIT for investigating and prosecuting any alleged offence.

It has asserted that in the garb of student agitation, there was a well-planned and orchestrated attempt by some persons with local support to intentionally perpetrate violence in the area and subsequently, the comprehensive investigation has been carried out by the Crime Branch of Delhi Police in several FIRs.

The matter would be heard next on March 14.

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