PUCL Bulletin, June 1994

The answer to terrorist violence is not state terrorism
By Rajindar Sachar, PUCL President

Apropos of editorial "Still Wrong on Rights' in your paper of 22nd April, 1994. I got the impression that though willing to strike, you are unwilling to wound. You have rightly observed that Human Rights Commission are not there to keep account of the crimes committed by lawless terrorists but to ensure that the State and its agencies do not emulate the terrorists in disregarding the right of citizens and showing contempt for due process of law. You have, however, uncharitably castigated human rights activists are shedding selective tears for the innocent citizens killed by militants. PUCL is one record, both at public statements and by its policy decisions, for condemning killing of innocent citizens in Punjab, Kashmir and anywhere else because these killings are flagrant violation of human rights. But it has always maintained that the answer to terrorist violence is not State terrorism. I am least assured that you accept this proposition. I may in this connection mention that thought the Commission, when it went to Punjab, may not have been able to and decline to hear the complaints of the victims of terrorists - this aspect in reality does not fall within its jurisdiction. In this connection, it may be mentioned that the original Ordinance included in the definition of Human Rights violations "any violation committed under any of the provisions of the Act including the terrorists Act". This definition was challenged and now only the violation by the State and other agencies of the rights given by International Covenants that can be inquired into. This is for the obvious reason that terrorists' killing is a crime and the Police do not require any permission to take any steps to curb this crime.

I must join issue with you when you seem to suggest that there may have been some explanation for giving the immunity to the policemen for custodial torture, extortion in 1992. I am afraid such relativism in rule of law is not permissible. Rule of Law cannot be permitted to be diluted on the ground of expediency. If so permitted it would be a recipe for the lawless acts of the Police and Security Agencies that we are witnessing today - Andhra Pradesh being the most glaring example, where recently a Human Rights Body has given instances of 496 killings in fake encounters.

Just as "limited dictatorship" is a contradiction in terms, similarly concept of relativism in the protection of Human Rights is inconceivable - it is State responsibility, absolute and in all circumstances, to see that citizens' human rights are not violated by the state.

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