Handling of a harassment case by Kerala
State Human Rights Commission is questioned
The actions of Kerala State Human Rights Commission in case of Suryanelli
girl are contradictory. The Commission has refused to entertain the complaint
of Suryanelli girl and her mother against CBI harassment, which is a part
of Abhaya case probe. However, the Commission has recorded its acceptance
for future action Shobana George's complaint alleging crime branch harassment.
The "fake document" case is still under investigations. The
case has already created a lot of confusions amongst human rights activists
and the general public.
On Suryanelli girl's complaint against CBI, the Commission version was
that it couldn't interfere in a case under investigation by the police.
As against this, the Commission has to explain the criteria under which
it adopted a diametrically opposite stand on Shobana George's complaint
of harassment against Crime Branch, which was not raised by others from
whom the Crime Branch collected "evidence" as part of their
ongoing investigation in the "fake document" case.
In the name of Abhaya case probe, the Suryanelli girl and her mother were
subjected to 'custodial interrogation'. The interrogation was carried
out by the CBI in a guesthouse that too in the presence of Mary. Mary
is the same person, who was convicted by the Kottayam Special Court after
it found her guilty in the Suryanelli case. But in the case of Shobana
George, the crime branch team headed by a top lady officer just collected
"evidence" from her, after her return from a week-long holiday
to Bangalore and Chennai. The Crime Branch dealt with her 'decently'.
The fact that Shobana George was not subjected to "custodial interrogation"
by Crime Branch, unlike the trauma faced by Suryanelli girl and her mother
from CBI, make the contradictory stands adopted by Human Rights Commission
in these two cases questionable.
Shobana George could have complained to the Assembly Speaker if at all
her rights as an MLA was violated; as a house-wife she could have approached
the State Women's Commission; against the alleged news campaign, she could
have complained to the Press Council of India; and if her harassment was
from her own party colleagues, she should have complained to her party
bosses in KPCC/AICC. Since Shobana George has not done any of these, her
opting to lodge complaint before the Human Rights Commission makes it
all the more suspicious.
At the same time, it was Anil Nambiar, Chief Reporter of Surya TV, who
was arrested, imprisoned and released on conditional bail.
He was the actual
victim of Crime Branch harassment in the "fake document" case.
The only "crime" that he had committed was filing of a report
based upon a police document, which he considered as genuine in full confidence
and true belief. Neither the Crime Branch, nor the Chief Minister, had
so far accused that Anil Nambiar or Surya TV had artificially created
such a document for the sake of news. If so, the Crime Branch investigation
would have concluded after Anil Nambiar's arrest. This first ever arrest
of a media person in Kerala for merely filing a news report constitutes
a clear violation of Press Freedom.
The Human Rights Commission
should, therefore, have questioned as to why the Crime Branch has not
arrested anybody even after one month of Anil Nambiar's arrest, and despite
his disclosing the source from where he got the "fake document".
The Commission, who used to initiate suo-motu cases based upon news reports,
kept silent on this issue while, after rejecting the Suryanelli girl's
complaint, it showed excessive interest in Shobana George's complaint.
These actions of the Commission have brought into doubt its own credibility
in public eye.
We sincerely urge the Commission, which could have acted as an effective
institution within the parameters of the 1993 Human Rights Protection
Act, to avoid adopting such objectionable, suspicious and unjustifiable
actions at least in future.
-- Mukundan C.
Menon, Secretary General, Confederation of Human rights Organisations
(Keralam), September 10, 2002