The Supreme Court has delivered its judgment in a petition seeking to initiate an independent investigation preferably by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the incident of alleged beating of students of Dr. Ambedkar Government Law College, Chennai on 12.11.2008 by some miscreants so that criminal proceedings could be initiated against the guilty police personnel as well as the other persons responsible for the said incident.
Justice R. Banumathi penned the judgment, with Justice T.S. Thakur agreeing with her. The Bench noted, “A group of students of Dr. Ambedkar Law College, Chennai belonging to Thevar Community is said to have pasted posters and pamphlets inside the college premises in connection with the birthday celebrations of Pasumpon Muthuramalingam Thevar in which the name of the law college was printed as “Government Law College” instead of “Dr. Ambedkar Government Law College”. Agitated Dalit Students questioned the Non-Dalit Students which led to wordy altercation between the two groups culminating in an untoward incident which occurred in the campus of Dr. Ambedkar Government Law College, Chennai on 12.11.2008 at about 2.20 P.M. Both the group of students attacked each other and it is alleged that Non Dalit Students (Thevar Students) were brutally beaten by the other group.”
After the incident, criminal cases were registered against both groups and a few policemen were also suspended. A one man Commission of a retd. High Court judge was also appointed.
The Petitioners had submitted to the court that the “delinquent police officials deliberately did not intervene, only in order to appease their political bosses and the police personnel were negligent in preventing the incident.”
They also tried to file a complaint with State Human Rights Commission but as the same was not accepted, they approached the National Human Rights Commission.
After the complaint was registered at NHRC, the petitioners alleged that they are “facing considerable harassment at the hands of the Tamilnadu Police and frivolous cases are
registered against the petitioners and their Organisation since the petitioners have refused to withdraw the complaint filed with the NHRC regarding the law college incident.”
It was claimed by them that third degree was being used and that the erring police officials have been let off either with ‘censure’ or nominal punishment and the matter has not been proceeded with all seriousness and urged that the investigation of the Law College incident on 12.11.2008 be handed over to CBI or SIT.
Additional Advocate General Mr. Subramanium Prasad appeared for the State of Tamil nadu, and submitted that criminal cases were registered against both the groups of students and accepting the report of One Man Commission, the State Government initiated departmental proceedings against the police personnel and punishments were also imposed on them.
Mr. Prashant Bhushan, appeared for the Petitioners submitted that “even though there wasgrave dereliction of duty on the part of the police personnel, there had been inconsequential departmental action and only nominal punishment of censure was imposed on two police officers and in case of another police officer, the Government proposed to impose meagre punishment of cut in pension at the rate of Rs. 200/- per month for two years (Rs. 4,800/- in all) and thus in effect no punitive action has been taken against the police personnel commensurate with their grave dereliction of duty, which only shows the reluctance on the part of the State in pursuing the matter with all seriousness.
The judgment also highlights the sorry state of State Human Rights Commissions in India. Senior advocate Mr. R. Bala subramanian appeared for the State Human Rights Commission and submitted that since there was already a one man commission, SHRC did not pursue the matter. It was also submitted that the post of Chairman of the State Human Rights Commission has been vacant since 2011.
The Apex Court then observed, “We have perused few video clippings produced before us and report of the Commission of Inquiry. But we are refraining from entering into the details thereof, lest, it may prejudice any party. By a perusal of the Status Report and other materials, we feel that the matter was not proceeded with seriousness with which it ought to have been proceeded with.” It also relied on West Bengal & Ors.vs. Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights, West Bengal & Ors., (2010) 3 SCC 571, a Constitution Bench judgment saying he extraordinary power in handing over investigation to CBI must be exercised cautiously and in exceptional circumstances.
The Court also said, “Legal education has a direct impact on the prestige of the legal profession” and “we feel that at this distant point of time, it is not necessary to hand over the investigation to CBI or to SIT. The reason being criminal cases have been registered and charge-sheets are also filed and departmental action was also initiated against the police personnel and punishment though may be nominal was imposed on those police personnel.”
The Court said that the matter can be adequately dealt with if the directions to Magistrate Court are given, to deal with the matter expeditiously. The Supreme Court also highlighted the value of human rights and asked the State to fill up the vacant post of Chairperson of SHRC.