Noting that the the very identity of the alleged accused persons is unknown, the Telangana High Court last week disposed off a PIL on the basis of a report in 'The Hindu' that that certain persons were made to move barricades under scorching summer sun by the police.
Based on a news item, published in 'The Hindu', English daily news paper, on May 10 entitled as "Police, not Judges, award punishment", an advocate, Baglekar Akash Kumar, wrote a letter to the Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan with regard to the incident reported, based on which, a suo motu Writ Petition was registered. According to the petitioner, to force the accused persons to move barricades in the hot summer tantamounts to torture inflicted by the police. Therefore, necessary action should be taken against the erring police personnel.
Before the bench of the Chief Justice and Justice B. Vijaysen Reddy, the Advocate General for the State of Telangana submitted that a large number of statements of villagers recorded by the police belonging to different villages, to this Court on 27.08.2020. According to all these witnesses, migrant workers were stopped at the barricade of Wadapally check-post. The villagers volunteered to shift the barricades in order to help migrant workers on the way to their homes. According to these witnesses, no one was forced to carry out any work, and their work was entirely voluntary in nature. Based on these statements, the Advocate General submits that the news item appearing in "The Hindu" is incorrect one as the people had volunteered to help out the migrant workers, who were moving across the State at the relevant time.
The division bench noted that though the present petition is based on a news item published in 'The Hindu', even the reporter, who has given the said news item, is not in a position to reveal the identity of the alleged accused persons. "Therefore, it is very difficult to find out the actual identity of the alleged accused persons, who were allegedly forced to move barricades in hot summer days", it said.
It opined that in the absence of concrete evidence and facts, it would be a futile exercise to appoint a Judicial Commission. For, Judicial Commission cannot be asked to go on a "wild goose chase". The appointment of Judicial Commission is a serious step, and it cannot be taken lightly, said the bench.
Moreover, the bench differentiated the instant case from the landmark Supreme Court decision in Sheela Barse.
It noted that the latter case dealt with custodial violence meted out to women while they were in the police lock-up in Bombay. "The women were imprisoned, and their identity was well known. Therefore, taking the issue of custodial violence with women under-trial prisoners as a serious issue, and where the identity was well known, the Hon'ble Supreme Court had directed that a report be prepared and submitted", said the bench. However, it proceeded to observe that in the present case, the very identity of the alleged accused persons is unknown.
Moreover, it observed that since all the witnesses and the participants have clearly stated that they had helped the police voluntarily, there is no reason to disbelieve their statements. "After all the persons whose statements have been recorded and submitted before this Court are all independent witnesses. Therefore, these statements cannot be brushed aside", said the court, expressing that it is not inclined to appoint a
Judicial Commission to examine the alleged incident.
"Moreover, since there is no cogent and convincing evidence to establish the fact that the accused persons were, indeed, forced to move barricades, that too in the hot summer days, this Court is not in a position to pass any further orders", it said in closing the plea.
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