PUCL Bulletin, September 2001

Human rights group condemns the arrest of M. Karunanidhi


The Campaign for Custodial Justice and Abolition of Torture, a State wide network of voluntary organisations and other democratic organisations, condemns the human rights violations amounting to torture inflicted upon the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Mr. M. Karunanidhi as part of his arrest and detention on 30th June 2001 on the instructions of the Government of Tamil Nadu. The police in an alleged corruption case regarding flyovers had no right to arrest and detain a person at mid night, without serving a custody memo and using an unwarranted strength of police for intimidation. We also condemn the illegal detention, alleged torture, and preventive arrest of thousands of DMK cadres in the name of law and order.

We condemn the practice of arresting persons on Friday midnight or early Saturday morning, which prevents judicial remedies. We seek the immediate suspension and initiation of prosecution proceedings for criminal offences and contempt of Supreme Court directives, including the D.K. Basu Custody Memo directive, of all police officers involved in the midnight arrest of the former Chief Minister, Central Ministers, Mr. T.R. Balu and Mr. Murasoli Maran and also those involved in the illegal detention, torture and preventive arrests.
Successive Tamil Nadu Governments and the State apparatus have the unenviable 31-year record of consistently creating and promoting a fascist police establishment to be called upon for use to suppress dissent and right to statement and association. Thousands of examples of police brutality under AIADMK and DMK regimes exist. This brutalisation of police was seen once again in the arrest of Mr. Karunanidhi and 1000's of other DMK cadres.
We also place on record that the DMK Government (1996-2001) presided and promoted this same fascist police.

From Coimbatore bomb blast and victimization of hundreds of innocent Muslims, to the death of 17 persons due to police excesses in Tamiraparani River in Tirunelveli protesting for the rights of tea estate workers, to the brutal attack on hundreds of small tea growers in Nilgiris agitating against government inaction in fall of prices of tea, to the police firing and lathicharged on protesting workers of Pugalur Paper Mills, to the gross human rights violations perpetuated on hundreds of dalits and DPI activists in Cuddalore district who were denied their right to vote in the Parliamentary elections and the death of 9 undertrials in Central Jail Custody due to police firing and death and injuries due to excesses of jail authority on 18 persons in other jails. In all of these and another 163 cases documented by the Campaigns, of police firing, police neglect of duty, custodial violence in police stations and prisons and police destruction of property, the DMK Government did practically nothing to arrest or prosecute police officials and personnel despite numerous petitions from victims and human rights organisations. Even compensation as adhoc relief in most cases was not given.

The DMK Government like its predecessor AIADMK Government refused to open up even a discussion on Sec.197 Cr PC granting immunity to public servants and the demand for scrapping Sec.151 Cr PC that sanctions Preventive Arrest, Sec 7(1) (a) CrPC amendment and Sec.41 of the Police Act.
It was during the same DMK regime that the police implemented its new skills of dealing with peaceful protest - lathi charge, teargas and as people were fleeing; to fire with modern weapons from inside the police van and not return to pick up the injured or dead to admit them in Government hospitals. If the people brought the injured to the Government hospital they were immediately arrested. Besides this, the police were also allowed to specialize in destruction and looting of whole villages / community property and burning of houses and in the name of rapid action force using the deadly 5 to 6 feet lathis for assault. This recently happened at Ammayarkuppam, Pallipat Block, Tiruvallur District on 24.02.2001 on those protesting against high Electricity Charges and Actions by the Electricity Department resulting in the death of two persons and grievous injuries to 7 persons. It also happened at Pudupakkam village, Kancheepuram District on 23.04.2001 when people protesting against toxic pollution of water resources and destruction of their livelihood systems by White House Process Pvt. Ltd., where lathicharged and fired upon.

Human Rights Violations continue because despite numerous petitions to successive governments and appeals by eminent citizens, Governments in Tamil Nadu (including the AIADMK) have refused to implement the reforms recommended in the National Police Commission Reports, the Justice Ismail Report on Jail Reforms, the Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer Report on Reforms in Custodial Institutions for Women, and several other committee reports on reforms in the police and jail system and numerous recommendations from victims of custodial injustice, human rights organisations and voluntary organisations. The DMK government also refused to consider any of these reforms with regard to police and jails despite several appeals.

The same police, the AIADMK Government used to spread fear and perpetuate torture during its regime (1991-1996) was used by the DMK Government to continue human rights violations. What the DMK party and SUN TV received during the last week from the police was the result of this promotion and use of the police establishment as a mafia and agent of the party. It is this combination, of the merging of the party, the state, and the mafia into one, with support from trade and industry that has allowed for the continued flourishing of this barbaric police establishment in Tamil Nadu. SUN - T.V. itself, over the last five years has refused to publicise the voices of victims of gross human rights during the DMK regime.

In the cause of Federal democracy we remain opposed to the use of Article 356 whatever be the circumstances. We will mobilise public opinion if the Central Government decides to use Article 356 to dismiss the AIADMK Government. We hold that there is no Constitutional breakdown in Tamil Nadu as laid down in the Constitutional requirement. We are also shocked and condemn the decision to recall the Governor as biased and non-transparent. Not permitting the Governor to be heard and her alleged report to the Union Cabinet not being made public is a violation of the Federal principles of democratic governance.

We call upon the AIADMK Government to issue a public statement owning responsibility for police excesses and human rights violations perpetuated on the former Chief Minister, M. Karunanidhi, two Central Ministers and hundreds of other DMK party cadres. We demand that the Government immediately suspend and initiate prosecution proceedings against all police officials responsible for these human rights violations. The status quo on suspensions till trial is completed must stay. The Government of Tamil Nadu should issue a Gazette Notification from the Home Department directing the compulsory serving of Custody Memo in all cases of arrest, detention, and preventive arrest as per the Supreme Court directives in D.K. Basu. It should amend the Police Act to achieve the same. We call upon the Union Government, given its interest in human rights now, to insert a separate Chapter or Article in the Constitution, abolishing Torture and detailing the forms of torture that need to be prohibited based on national jurisprudence and International law. Similar amendments need to be introduced in I.P.C. Similarly, we urge the Union Government to take steps for the deletion of Constitution Articles 22 (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) which sanction detention laws like the former TADA, NSA, Goondas Act, Armed Forces Act, etc. We urge the Government of Tamil Nadu to withdraw the (Goondas Act) the Tamil Nadu Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Boot-legers, Drug - offenders, Forest Offenders, Goondas, Immoral Traffic Offenders and Slum-Grabbers Act, 1982 (Act 14 of 1982) as it is a grave violation of human rights standards. In this case, unlike Mr. M. Karunanidhi, thousands are incarcerated in Prison for years without being served a chargesheet and refused bail under this law.

We urge the Government of Tamil Nadu, the DMK Party and all other political parties to pass resolutions calling for the repealing of Sec 151 Cr PC, Cr PC amendment 7(1) (a) and Sec 41 of Police Act which allows for preventive arrest, whereby thousands of innocent trade union workers, journalists, children, dalits, women, party cadres, etc., are arbitrarily arrested. Immediately the Government should stop the practice of preventive arrest in Tamil Nadu. We urge the Government of Tamil Nadu, the DMK party and all other political party leaders to permit public expressions of protest and association at places of their choice. We condemn the police practice of barricading and not giving permission for holding peaceful demonstration before the State Secretariat. The Police Act must be suitably amended.

To eradicate all forms of torture, Government of India (now talking of human rights) must immediately ratify the UN Convention Against Torture and the Optional Protocol I and II of the ICCPR to stop such brutalisation of the State and law enforcement agencies including the military and paramilitary forces. We also demand that Sec.197, CrPC providing for immunity for prosecution to public servants should be repealed. Several brutal forms of police practice in Tamil Nadu, including, looting and destruction of property, using 6 ft police lathis for crowd control, using automatic weapons for peaceful protests, illegal detention and torture in police stations, handcuffing and chaining of under-trials including in hospitals etc., must be prohibited specifically by a government order and amendments in concerned status. Immediately implement the National Police Commission Report on human rights standards, the Justice Ismail Committee Report, the Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer Report, and other directives from the Supreme Court and recommendations of human rights organisations.
Take urgent measures to ensure that police personnel comply with Sec 46 and 49 Cr PC which prohibits avoidable force for arrest including complying with international standards on use of force by the police. We call upon Mr. M. Karunanidhi and other victimised cadres of the DMK to file petitions before the District Human Rights Courts in Tamil Nadu established under the Protection of Human Rights Act to seek justice for human rights violations by the police.

-- S. Pandian, Thiyagu, Ossie Fernandes, Human Rights Advocacy and Research Foundation

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