[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE Allahabad High Court yesterday while hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) registered by it suo-motu on the basis of a letter received from Bombay High Court lawyer-Ajay Kumar, directed the Uttar Pradesh Government to furnish the following details before the court:
All necessary details relating to the persons killed in police action in different parts of the State of Uttar Pradesh on December 20, 2019, while protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019.
The post mortem reports of all the persons killed while participating in the protest on December 20, 2019.
The details of the injured persons and their injury reports pertaining to the injuries suffered by them while participating in the protest on December 20, 2019.
The details relating to all the persons arrested by the police so far in relation to the incidents occurred on December 20, 2019
The details of all the complaints and first information reports filed against police officials and other State authorities pertaining to alleged police access in police action on December 20, 2019, or subsequent thereto.
The details of the steps taken on the reports or the complaints referred in the paragraph above.
The details of the medical aid given to the protesters and other persons who received injuries in police action on December 20, 2019.
The steps taken by the State so far to examine the genuineness of the facts stated in the news reports referred in the E-mail sent to this Court -4- by the petitioner.
During the hearing, the UP government told the High Court that no cognizance of the averments contained in the letter could have been taken as the facts stated therein are not supported by an affidavit and that had not been done as the facts stated were not in personal knowledge of the petitioner. It was also contended that reports published in the newspapers annexed with the letter were having no evidentiary value hence, those could not be a foundation to maintain the writ petition.
On the other hand, on behalf of the petitioner, it was stated that the State agencies acted in the most barbaric manner to crush a democratic protest lodge by the people at large. The police in the name of maintenance of law and order fired gunshots by aiming the people and that caused loss of 23 lives. A big number of people also suffered serious injuries. The State agencies also not accepted the complaints and the first information reports sought to be lodged against the police personnel, who targeted the people with a violent approach to crush the protesters.
Further, according to the petitioner, police also not supplied the copies of the post mortem reports and the injury reports pertaining to the injured persons. No medical aid was also given to the persons injured due to the police action. It is pointed out that most of the persons died had gunshot injuries on the upper part of their body and that reflects the intention of the police to kill the protesters and not to disburse them. The police, as per learned counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioner, made efforts only to create a fear among the people to keep away themselves from lodging protests otherwise there was no issue of causing any injury to the law and order. The demonstration was quite peaceful.
On being asked by the High Court, Additional Advocate General showed his inability to provide the details relating to the reports and complaints said to be submitted by the individuals or their groups or organizations against alleged police atrocities or alleged criminal acts or the use of disproportionate and excessive force.
A division bench of the High Court comprising the Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Siddhartha Varma, however, opined that the State must disclose certain facts to the Court which are necessary not only for adjudication of this matter but also to maintain the faith of people in rule of law.
The Court has fixed February 17, 2020, as next date of hearing.
On January 7, 2020, Allahabad High Court had taken cognizance of a letter written by lawyer Ajay Kumar wherein while referring certain news items and details published in New York Times, in its Edition dated January 2, 2020, and The Telegraph dated December 29, 2019, he alleged that the situation in the State of Uttar Pradesh was antithetical to core constitutional values and warranted interference of the Court.
According to the letter, as per the report published on January 2, 2020, in the New York Times titled As India Violence Gets Worse, Police Are Accused of Abusing Muslims alleged that there had been grave breaches of law by the law enforcement machinery in the State of Uttar Pradesh. Particularly, these relate to actions taken by the UP Police against demonstrators and protestors who were in opposition to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, the constitutionality of which is presently the subject matter of various petitions pending before the Supreme Court,
Kumar, in his letter dated January 3, 2019, had, thus, requested the Chief Justice to intervene in order to –
Direct an independent inquiry chaired by a retired High Court Judge to inquire into the allegations made in the two articles and to direct prosecutions if necessary;
Direct a police force, other, than the UP Police to assist the inquiry referenced in paragraph a);
Direct a review of the detention of protestors and demonstrators by the Law Enforcement in Uttar Pradesh;
Issue appropriate directions to Magistrates to ensure that the police treat detainees in accordance with law;
Consequential orders and directions to meet the ends of justice.
A division bench comprising the Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Vivek Varma noted-
“Having considered the contents of the letter and the documents annexed thereto, we considered it appropriate to treat the letter as a petition for writ. The Registry has accordingly registered this public interest litigation. During the course of hearing, Mr.S.F.A. Naqvi, Senior Advocate of this Court, has also brought into notice a news report published in The Indian Express, Lucknow Edition, dated 7th January 2020. The same be also taken on record”,
The Court then issued a notice to the State of Uttar Pradesh as to why necessary directions as prayed be not issued. Court has also appointed advocate of the High Court Ramesh Kumara as Amicus Curiae in the matter to assist the Court.
The article in the New York Times made allegations that the UP Police had engaged in systemic torture of minors as part of their operations in controlling any disturbances that may have arisen during these protests. These allegations include the fact that minors as young as fourteen years of age, were detained by the UP Police and subject to torture while in custody.
“It is an established and settled position of law, that law enforcement must deal with all minors in conflict with the law under the strict terms of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000”, Kumar said in his letter.