Disposing of a bunch of complaints filed against the police violence in Jamia Milia Islamia in December 2019 in the wake of protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019, the National Human Rights Commission recommended a probe by Special Investigation Team of the Delhi police to identify and arrest the "real perpetrators" behind the protests, which were termed violent by it.
The human rights body puts blame on the students of the University for holding protests without proper permission from the University. The NHRC observed that the students had come under the influence of outsiders to indulge in unauthorized protests. It stated that the students of Jamia were a part of an "unlawful assembly" and were responsible for instigating the actions of the Delhi Police; they had indulged in destruction of property, both public and private, and therefore, could not avail for themselves the protection under the rights enumerated under Article 19 of the Constitution of India.
The Report states that there exist insidious elements which were at work when the protests took place, and that there is a need to uncover these elements.
"There is a need to uncover real actors, and motive behind overall protest at Jamia Milia Islamia which seems to be smartly and purportedly organized under disguise of students", it observed.
In the light of such observations, the NHRC recommended :
"Government of India to direct Police Commissioner of Delhi to ensure that the SIT of Crime Branch, Delhi Police investigates all the related cases on merits and in a time-bound manner by identifying and arresting the real perpetrators behind this violent protest"
No recommendation for independent probe into police violence
Seven months after the emergence of CCTV visuals showing police violence, the NHRC recommended the Government of India to direct Police Commissioner of Delhi and Director General of CRPF for RAF to identify members of the force who were seen on CCTV footage damaging CCTV cameras, unnecessarily coming inside the libraries and using tear gas shells inside the close compound of the library.
"A suitable action may be taken against them as per rules and provisions that exist in the respective organization", it said.
The complainants had sought for investigation into police excesses by an independent agency monitored by retired judges.
The human rights panel also recommended the GNCTD to provide suitable compensation to the injured students who received grievous injuries, on humanitarian grounds.
The other key recommendations with respect to police actions are :
* Government of India to direct Police Commissioner of Delhi and Director General of CRPF for RAF to ensure that the police force is sensitized and special training modules are carried out to inculcate professionalism in handling such law and order situations;
* Government of India to direct Police Commissioner of Delhi to expedite administrative inquiry into alleged atrocities committed by the Police inside the library, and for actions on its findings and recommendations to be taken promptly;
* Government of India to advise Police Commissioner of Delhi and other senior officers to improve and set up a robust intelligence gathering system to ensure better preparedness to prevent such incidents in the future. Special steps may be taken to counter rumour mongering and circulation of distorted and false news especially on the social media.
Multiple complaints had been registered at NHRC regarding the detention of students and, the use of excessive force in form of lathi-charge and tear gas shells by the Delhi Police during a peaceful protest being conducted by the students of Jamia on 15th December, 2019. The complaints had alleged that students had been grievously injured as the police entered the University, damaged the library, hostel and other public places.
Regarding the alleged atrocities committed by the police, the Report states that the police was law-bound to contain the activities in order to maintain law and order. However, it also terms as the use of tear gas shells inside the compound as "irresponsible action of the police" which "could have been avoided". The report stipulates that the NHRC team, led by Ms. Manzil Saini, SSP, visited the spot and recorded statements, and then came to the following conclusions:
Protests were not peaceful as claimed; police was forced to intervene The protests embarked upon by the students of Jamia were conducted without any permission of the University, despite a 2017 notification requiring for such prior permission to be sought in order for any "activity" to be conducted. They were also not "peaceful as they claimed". A previous "clash" had taken place between the police and the students/local residents on 13th December, however, the police had "succeeded to contain them at Gate No. 1 of the campus. No report/complaint in regard to this incident was made to any authority. The report then states that the students and local residents yet again engaged in violent protests, thereby damaging "various private and Govt. properties and burnt down buses and other vehicles. They also attacked on the police with stones, petrol bomb etc. They blocked the traffic from all sides at Mathura Road, Ashram Chowk. The gathering was declared an 'unlawful assembly' by the police." In this context, the report states the police was "law bound to contain the activities of these unlawful assembly to maintain the law & Order". It further contends that not only was the protest not peaceful as claimed, but the appeals made by the police, including senior officers, had been ignored by the protestors. However, with regard to the violence which took place inside the premises of the University, specially the library, the report states that the beating was "avoidable" and could be attributed to "irresponsible action of the police". Failure of the Administration of Jamia Milia Islamia University The Report states that there was abject failure on behalf of the Administration of the University as "they did not try to share any development of discontentment of students with local police and also did not seek any assistance from them". There was also failure of the Proctorial team who had left their positions at Gate No. 7, when they should have remained there in order to pacify the students and the police. Moreover, it has been stated that, as the campus is divided into two sides of a public road, the students are "prone to mingling with local population" and that the administration needs to come up with a "permanent solution" to tackle this problem. Need to uncover real actors behind protests Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19 of the Constitution of India is not absolute. The Report posits that there are "constitutional limitations attached" to freedom of speech/expression and the freedom to assemble peaceably. Judgements of the Supreme Court and High Courts have been referred to in order to assert that reasonable restrictions are applicable on the exercise of the fundamental right under Article 19. "It is well settled in law that law enforcing authorities are the best judge for meeting a situation prevailing in a particular locality based on which appropriate decision is to be taken either to grant permission to conduct meeting or protest or march in a particular place and a particular time." Further, as Law and Order is a State subject, as submitted in the Report, "it is the duty of the concerned authority to take a final call. Hence, assembly must be peaceful to get benefit of this Article".
In the light of such findings, the NHRC made the following recommendations to the VC and authorities of the University and the MHRD :
*Recommends to the VC, Registrar and other authorities of the University to establish a mechanism of better communication with the students' fraternity "so that they are not influenced by outsiders and local goons or petty politicians. Also, the University management should ensure timely sharing of information and regular liaisoning with local police so that such incidents can be prevented in the future. An SOP may be prepared to deal with such incidents in the future";
*Recommends to the Secretary, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt. of India, to look in to the difficulty with regard to division of campus across public road and to sort out the issue amicably to avoid law and order problems in the future. It further recommends them to submit an Action Taken Report on the letter dated 20.12.2019 of the Registrar of the University.
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