The People’s Union for Civil Liberties has condemned the continued detention of trade unionist and activist Shiv Kumar. The human rights body has demanded his immediate release and withdrawal of all charges against him and co-accused Nodeep Kaur. It has also demanded legal action against the Haryana Police on allegations of custodial torture. A report by MANYA SAINI.
UMAN rights organisation, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has condemned the arrest of Dalit labour rights activists Nodeep Kaur and Shiv Kumar. It criticised that the Punjab and Haryana High Court has only granted bail to Kaur while grievously injured Shiv Kumar remains in custody.
The demands put forward by PUCL include stern legal action against police personnel accused of custodial torture, the immediate release of Shiv Kumar and payment of compensation to both for wrongful detention. Further, it has asked that all charges against the trade unionists be withdrawn by the Haryana Police.
On 23rd February, a five doctor team had submitted Kumar’s medical report for the court to examine, stating that all injuries are over two weeks old and were caused by a blunt object or weapon. Apart from multiple possible fractures in his wrist and right foot, he is also suffering from post-traumatic disorder symptoms. The psychiatric evaluation conducted on Kumar has confirmed predominant anxiety, nightmares, sleep disturbances and depression.
The PUCL statement has alleged that both, legal norms and court orders have been severely violated by the police authorities. It has claimed that turning victims into the perpetrators of crime has become a well-established method employed by law enforcement agencies of the State. It said, “there is an urgent need for legal institutions to take notice of the completely lawless actions of State authorities, which continue to suppress human rights, any form of dissent and even peaceful, non-violent protests.”
The primary violations cited by the human rights body is of the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in D.K. Basu vs State of West Bengal that details the procedure to be followed while making arrests. These include medical attention to the injured in police custody and ensuring that information of the arrest and the person’s welfare is given out to at least one relative or known person.
It said the copy of the FIRs filed against both activists was not shared till the Punjab and Haryana High Court intervened. This is a clear violation of the directives issued by the Supreme Court in September 2016, where it had said that FIRs across the Union of India must be uploaded on the official website of the police of all states, preferably within 24 hours.
It also alleged that the Quick Response Team (QRT) which it claims is a group formed by the factory owners of the Kundli Industrial Association to “deter any protest, strike or unionisation by labourers.” In a statement, the PUCL said that QRT has quashed democratic activity for over two years and fired shots at the members of the Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan (MAS) on January 2, when they demanded their unpaid wages. Nodeep Kaur’s sister, Rajveer has claimed that the police despite the firing refused to register an FIR.
PUCL has demanded that the QRT be disbanded with immediate effect.
Citing damning data, from the report of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), it said that in 2019, 1,723 custodial deaths were recorded in the country. Currently, India is one of the only five nations in the world yet to ratify the 1987 UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT).
(Manya Saini is a student of the Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication, Pune, and is an intern with The Leaflet.)