THE NATIONAL Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has found that 16 women were “prima facie victims of rape, sexual and physical assault by state police personnel in Chhattisgarh” in Bijapur district in October 2015, and said it is of the view that “prima facie, human rights of the victims have been grossly violated, for which the state government is vicariously liable.”
Stating that it could not record the statements of 20 other women, the NHRC has asked for those statements to be recorded within a month. It has also sent a notice to the chief secretary, asking the state government to show cause as to why it should not recommend interim monetary relief of Rs 37 lakh to the victims.
In its press release, the NHRC said it took suo motu cognizance of The Indian Express report dated November 2, 2015, and sent an investigation team to the spot on February 22, 2016.
As reported by The Indian Express, women from five villages of Bijapur district — Pegdapalli, Chinnagelur, Peddagellur, Gundam and Burgicheru — had alleged that Chhattisgarh Police personnel sexually harassed and assaulted more than 40 of them, and gangraped at least two. Villagers in Pedagellur alone alleged that four women had been raped, including a 14-year-old who was allegedly blindfolded and gangraped.
“…the grave allegations of physical as well as rape/ sexual assault committed by security personnel of the government of Chhattisgarh, made in the FIRs, were reiterated before the NHRC team, which conducted spot investigation, and/ or before the magistrate u/s 164 CrPC or both,” the commission said in a statement.
The NHRC said its team could only record the statements of 14 victims, out of the total 34 mentioned in the FIRs, and statements under Section 164 of the CrPC had only been recorded “in respect of 15 victims”. “Almost all the victims in these incidents, covered under the three FIRs, are tribals. However, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act has not been invoked in any of the cases. As a result, the due monetary relief under the SC/ST Act has not been paid to the victims,” said the rights body.
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In its showcause notice, the chief secretary has been asked why monetary relief to the tune of Rs 37 lakh should not be recommended. “This includes Rs 3 lakh each to eight victims of rape, Rs 2 lakh each to six victims of sexual assault, and Rs 50,000 each to two victims of physical assault,” it said.
The commission has directed “its DIG (Investigation) to depute a team of officials from the Investigation Division and Law Division to record the statements of 15 victims whose statements were not recorded either by the NHRC team or by the magistrate u/s 164 CrPC and submit the same to the commission within one month”. It has also said the statements of 19 victims should be recorded before a magistrate, and put up before the commission within a month.
Asking the chief secretary to grant monetary relief under the SC/ST Act at the earliest, the NHRC has asked the police to ensure that the provision of law is invoked in all cases where the victims are SCs or STs.
The commission has said “the directions given are of interim nature and a final view will be taken in respect of other victims and also with regard to other issues involved in this matter in due course of time.”
“During the course of this enquiry, the commission received another complaint dated January 21, 2016, bringing to its notice more incidents of sexual violence by the security personnel against women that took place between January 11-14, 2016 at Bellam Lendra (Nendra) village, Bijapur district, at Kunna village, Sukma district, and Chotegadam village, Dantewada district. The commission sought reports from the state authorities regarding these incidents also,” it said.