PUCL, November 2003

Complaint to the NHRC -
Police raid on People's Watch premises

-- By Henri Tiphagne

People's Watch - Tamil Nadu
No.6, Vallabai Road, Chokkikulam, Madurai - 625 002.
Phone: 0452-2531874 & 2539520 Fax: 0452- 2531874
E.mail: henritiphagne@eth.net , henri@satyam.net.in

Police Search
Police search People's Watch office


November 05, 2003

Justice Dr. A.S.Anand,
Hon’ble Chairperson,
National Human Rights Commission,
Sardar Patel Bhavan, Sansad Marg,
New Delhi 110 001.

Respected Sir,

Sub: “Search” of premises of People’s Watch – Tamil Nadu by police under a “letter” from Judicial Magistrate, Sivakasi – Non adherence to statutory procedures - Allegation of veiled threat – Urge protection and action - Regarding.

I serve as the Executive Director of People’s Watch – Tamil Nadu (PW-TN), a program unit of the Centre for Promotion of Social Concerns. I also serve the National Human Rights Commission of India as a member of its National Core Group on NGOs constituted two years ago. PW-TN particularly works in the State of Tamil Nadu in the field of Human Rights Monitoring, Intervention and Education. Its activities often demands it to deal with a number of cases involving police excesses. On 27th and 28th October 2003the organisation was instrumental in processing several cases indicating very serious human rights violations and gross negligence of duty on the part of the Tamil Nadu Police in 2 of the 3 historic public hearings conducted under the aegis of the National Commission for Women and the Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women – on 27th October 2003 at Virudhunagar and on 28th October 2003 at Madurai I was personally warned by some very senior police officers who were present because of our efforts to present such gruesome cases of police excess, sometimes even involving custodial rape, oral sex, kidnapping of children of witnesses, etc.

Against this background of a Public Hearing which saw over 150 policemen present from all ranks upto the rank of ADGP, this morning (5th November 2003) there has been a very serious “search” that has taken place in our office. I was present in the office at 5.00 a.m. this morning having come to complete a lot of pending work. Around 7.30 a.m. my receptionist (ours is a 24 hours office so that any telephone calls and petitions from public can be received throughout the day and night) informed me that a few policemen had entered the compound. Sitting in my room, I asked him to kindly request them to come to my room. In a minute he came back stating that he was able to see several police vans and several police men and women in uniform descending into the compound and running in various directions. I identified an officer who should have been a DSP, but who identified himself on two different occasions with two different names, namely Sivaraman and Saravanan, stating that they were authorised by an order of the Judicial Magistrate, Sivakasi to search our premises for some accused involved in an offence U/S. 397 in Crime No. 129/2003 of M.Pudupatti police station within the jurisdiction of Sivakasi taluk of Virudhunagar district in Tamil Nadu.

I asked him to produce a copy of the same to me which he promised, but he did not. Before I could continue to ask for the formal production of any legal papers such a search warrant, the police placed themselves in the compound and in various parts of the building claiming to look for the accused that they were allegedly “searching” for. I therefore had no other go but accompany this DSP who did not have a name tag on himself – Almost all the police, men and women, from the rank of DSP to Constables who were present were in uniform with their rank identities but without their name tags or their numbers. They also refused to mention their names. The whole “search” of the building was accompanied by very intensive “videography” involving 2 police videographers who were more interested in capturing everything in the office through their videographic expedition. The whole process was witnessed by one Mr. Mohan, Tahsildar, Madurai South Taluk who is known to me and who categorically informed me that he was not informed that he was coming to these premises. Having completed their “search” they requested me to sign on the magazar, a copy of which they refused to provide me, which I signed at 9.11 a.m., wherein I endorsed that no accused was found in the premises.

I also made an endorsement in the little space provided that many of the policemen did not have their name tags. I then received the unsigned magazar without getting a copy of the letter from the Judicial Magistrate duly attested by the person to whom it was addressed. Both the DSPs present, categorically refused to give me the attested copy and it took me a long time to convince Mr. A.C. Vellaiyan, the Inspector of Police, Thiruthangal police station to formally attest and provide me a xerox copy of a letter from Mr. Abraham Lincoln, Judicial Magistrate, Sivakasi under D. no. nil dated 05,.11.2003 (the search was being carried out on 05.11.2003 between 7.30 a.m. and 9.11 a.m.) and hand it over to me.

While their search was coming continuing the DSP conducting the “search” claimed (DSP, Sivakasi) (the other DSP present being the Sattur DSP) that they were on the look out for one Mr. Muthukumar and Ms. Rajalakshmi in connection with the above mentioned cases. After their departure and once my office staff had arrived at 10.00 a.m., I was informed by my human rights monitoring staff that the previous day on 4th November 2003 one Mr. K.Muthukumar giving an address in Rajapalayam of Virudhunagar district had sent a fax around noon from Chennai, alleging that some persons were being detained illegally in Sivakasi gown police station. Having received this fax, our Zonal Monitoring Associate Mr. Arumugam had been urged to intervene immediately in the matter and he in turn had directed our Regional Monitoring Associate Mr. Pandian, a Post Graduate in Social Work to look into the matter. The said Pandian has also met Mr. Vellaiyan, the Inspector of Police, Thiruthangal police station on 4th who was the only Inspector with a name tag during the “search” this morning. From the above facts, it becomes evidence that this “search” is likely to be an attempt to thwart any attempts by PW-TN in this case.

While the search did not bear any fruit whatsoever, the night staff also informed me that at 1.30 a.m. in the night, a person wearing a lungi and brown colour shirt (who also accompanied the police search party this morning and claimed himself to be a Sub-Inspector of Police – no names were identified) knocked at the gate of PW-TN in the night asking for the Director (myself). The staff who did not know the identity of the person asked him to come in the morning or if it was urgent to speak to me over telephone. The same person accompanied the search party during the “search”.

PW-TN would like to place these facts before this Hon’ble Commission as they stand and is pleased to send enclosed a copy of the letter from the Judicial Magistrate as well as the communication it has received as fax yesterday in the morning. We however wish also to point out that the said letter from the Judicial Magistrate is dated 05.11.2003 while police entered PW-TN around 7.30 a.m. which indicates that this letter which bears no D.No., but is dated 05.11.2003 should have, if authentic, have been issued by the Judicial Magistrate, before 5.30 a.m. this morning.

PW-TN would not like to rush to any conclusion at this stage but however, as a Human Rights Defender governed by the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders of 1998 would like to place on record the above facts so that the Hon’ble Commission may take necessary steps to ensure that the genuine efforts of Human Rights Defenders and Human Rights Organisations are not thwarted whenever such organisations and Defenders take necessary steps to uphold the rule of law. The several cases that PW-TN has undertaken in Courts at the district level, at the High Court, in the Supreme Court, before State/National Human Rights Institutions and the UN have been very badly received by law enforcement officials who do not respect the rule of law. We therefore appeal to take necessary action upon this communication to ensure that we continue to be provided the due protection of law and no interference from law enforcement officials under the guise of such “searches”

We thank you for this opportunity of patiently going through this long representation and assure your goodself that I on my personal behalf and PW-TN as a Human Rights Organisation will continue to uphold the sanctity of Human Rights in its true spirit and never let down the thousands of victims who have benefited and continue to benefit from our unrelenting actions on their behalf. We however recognise who we are, in the scenario of violations that we live and therefore appeal to you to provide us the protection that you can within the parameters of law so that we continue within the mandate that the Constitution has provided us, unhindered and unhesitant. We are also providing you as attachment, a typed copy of the letter from the Judicial Magistrate, a true copy of which was provided to us and the English translation of the fax that was received by our office on 04.11.2003 and a few photographs that we have managed to capture during the “search” of the premises.

We look forward to hearing from you in this regard.

Thanking you,
Yours faithfully,

Executive Director, People’s Watch – Tamil Nadu and
Member, National Core Group on NGOs of NHRC

1. Copy of letter dt. 05.11.2003 issued by the Judicial Magistrate, Sivakasi

2. Fax received from Mr. K. Muthukumar on 04.11.2003

3. Photos of the “Search”. (See at top)

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