[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE Allahabad High Court today took cognizance of a letter written by Bombay High Court 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.
Further, an article in The Telegraph dated December 29, 2019, titled UP police accused of stripping cleric mentioned that the UP Police were alleged to have stripped and tortured a Maulana while also detaining and assaulting his 100 odd students.
“It has become painful for one to note that these reports allege that persons who are being detained are not being produced before a magistrate within the constitutionally mandated time period of 24 hours from their arrest. It needs to be mentioned that one gentleman, a hawker by the name of Noor Mohammed, has died as a result of police firing”, the letter read.
“The report most concerningly notes that the minors detained by the police suffered rectal bleeding, therefore I gravely apprehend that they may have been victims of offences under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act of 2012 and other offences such as offences under Section 377 of the Penal Code of 1860”, Kumar said in his letter.
Speaking to the Leaflet, Kumar said “I am pleased the Court has taken cognizance of my letter and I hope that the rule of law will prevail. I thank the Court for their timely intervention in the matter”.
The High Court has now fixed January 16, 2020, as the next date of hearing.