The Gujarat High Court on Monday admitted a public interest litigation seeking action against policemen allegedly involved in the public flogging of Muslim men in Junagadh town following a stone-pelting incident.
Apart from beating eight to 10 men from the minority community in public, the PIL alleged that the local police had ransacked their houses “to take revenge”, as some policemen were injured in the stone pelting.
After admitting the PIL, a division bench of Acting Chief Justice AJ Desai and Justice Biren Vaishnav asked the petitioners to provide a copy of the petition to the public prosecutor and kept further hearing on June 28.
The PIL has been jointly filed by NGOs Lok Adhikar Sangh and Minority Coordination Committee.
On the night of June 16, a clash erupted when a team of civic body officials served a demolition notice to a dargah in Junagadh town. According to the police, one person was killed in the stone pelting by members of the minority community, who were against the demolition.
The petition stated that eight to 10 persons belonging from the Muslim community were detained by Junagadh police, made to stand in front of ‘Geban Shah Masjid’, a dargah or shrine, in Majevadi Gate area, and were mercilessly flogged in public.
According to the police and the FIR, these persons were part of the mob involved in stone pelting and injuring police including a deputy superintendent of police, the petition said.
A video of the incident also went viral on social media platforms. These men seen in the video along with others were arrested later on and they are still behind bars, petitioners informed the court.
“Such police brutality of punishing citizens of India without any due process of law and without a competent court holding them guilty is a worst form of human rights violation by the law and enforcement agency itself,” the PIL stated.
The petitioners further stated that the plea is not filed to justify rioting, stone pelting, or any form of violence by the rioters.
“After the arrest of the victims, the Junagadh police have visited their homes and caused havoc besides ransacking the houses. Moveable property has been destroyed by the Junagadh police to take revenge for alleged stone pelting and injury sustained by some of the police personnel” the plea claimed.
According to the petitioners, public flogging is illegal and violates Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India pertaining to right to equality, freedom, life and liberty, and it attracts contempt of court proceedings.
Through the PIL, the petitioners urged the high court to direct the Gujarat government to take appropriate action, including registration of an FIR, against police personnel and officers involved in the flogging and custodial violence.
The plea also sought an inquiry into the incident by the principal district and sessions judge of Junagadh or any other senior judicial officer.
As an alternative, the petitioners proposed that a team of IPS officers, not connected with Junagadh range or district, be constituted to inquire into the incident of public flogging and other incidents of custodial violence by the Junagadh police and ransacking and destruction of moveable properties of the accused.
It urged the high court to direct the government to pay “exemplary compensation under the public law remedy to the victims of public flogging and other forms of custodial violence” in Junagadh.