Supreme Court says no to CBI enquiry in Chennai Law College Case [Read the Judgment]

Supreme Court says no to CBI enquiry in Chennai Law College Case [Read the Judgment]

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.