In a scathing verdict,Karnataka High Court today struck down appointment of Shankar Bidari as state DGP and IG,describing him as “worse than Saddam Hussain or Muammar Gaddafi” for alleged atrocities committed by the STF led by him during the hunt to nab forest brigand Veerappan.
Dismissing as “without merit and substance”,petitions by the government and Bidari,challenging the CAT order,the division bench headed by Justice N Kumar held his empanelment by UPSC and consequent appointment as “void and illegal.”
Upholding the verdict of Central Administrative Tribunal the court said “in the facts of the case,we cannot find any infirmity in the said decision. It is just”.
It struck down Bidari’s contentions “absolving himself of the responsibility” of atrocities by stating he was only Deputy Commander of the Joint Task Force of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to nab Veerappan and not “omnipresent and omnipotent like Saddam Hussain or Muammar Gaddafi.”
“Though he was not one of them,if what the two women (tribals) have said in their affidavit is true,he is worse than them” (Saddam Hussain and Muamar Gadaffi),the court said in its acerbic observations.
The court directed the government should relieve Bidari forthwith and appoint A R Infant in his place. “Otherwise they are answerable to the public of the state”.
The court dismissed the memo filed by the government seeking a one week stay of the order. It observed “if the state government has any respect for the rule of law,womanhood,human rights,concern for the downtrodden,tribals,and socially backward communities of the state,they should relieve the third respondent (Bidari) forthwith and appoint the applicant (A R Infant) in that place.”
On March 16,CAT had set aside Bidari’s appointment as DGP and IG and ruled that Infant should be appointed ad hoc police chief till the government decides on the new appointment.
CAT said government should prepare a fresh list of senior IPS officers and send it to UPSC,which would suggest three names for the top post.
On the court verdict,Infant told PTI “I am lucky that my case was tried by judges with great conviction,both at CAT and High Court. I admire their courage of conviction”.
Observing that Chief Minister should have used his discretion while exercising his absolute power in selecting Bidari for the post,the court stated “……but such discretionary power must be exercised with great caution…..the Chief Minister before exercising his power did not see the police records”.
Quoting extracts from the National Human Rights Commission report,which was not placed before the Union Public Service Commission before empanelment as it was not considered “relevant”,the court stated that NHRC concluded that one woman was a victim of rape and repeated torture,three women were subjected electric currents through different parts of their body,seven subjected to illegal detention and assault,three suffered permanent disability,11 stripped naked and given electric shocks,12 unlawfully detained,one was taken into custody but never returned and 60 were killed in encounters out of 36 were killed in “false encounters”.
Referring to the affidavits filed by tribal women Erammal and Nagi before an NGO which was produced before the court and indicted Bidari,the court stated “Erammal was taken to Dimbam police camp,beaten with a lathi as a result of which she lost sight in her right eye,She was then taken Mahadeshwara camp where she was stripped naked,beaten and given electric shocks in different parts of her body in front of Bidari”.
The court then cited the instance of Nagi who taken to the M M Hills camp,was blindfolded and interrogated by Bidari who passed currents through different parts of her body and then she was gang raped.
The court observed that though the then governments accepted the recommendations of the NHRC accorded compensation to the victims and then DG and IG (Achutha Rao) promised to initiate action against the perpetrators,no action was initiated. Probably they (the then CMs) lacked the “political will and courage” to direct action against these acts.
Taking a swipe at the present day politics,the court observed “people who are in opposition party preach values,criticise the acts of the ruling party. Gullible public believe them and they are voted to power,but when they come to power they realise it is very difficult to practice what they preach and when they are seated in super power (ruling party) all these values evaporate. They succumb to corruption. Power corrupts,absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
Therefore it is immaterial,the court observed which party comes to power,what ideology they believe in,what principles they preach. Once they come to power,they become the ruling party. This is the democracy which is in practice.
It appears that the present day state government and Bidari after occupying the present position seems to have forgotten was was said 15 years back,the court observed. “By characterising this report as “one without jurisdiction,giving the impression that it was not a document of any importance…..government of the day and Bidari are afraid of truth….we are convinced that the report of the Sadashiv Panel,NHRC was deliberately kept back”,the court obseved.
There is no disputing the fact,the court stated,that the record of Bidari during his tenure in STF of Karnataka and his bio-data which was prepared by himself wherein he stated the exemplary service that he rendered that won him the gallantry award and a cash prize of Rs 1.68 crore,was placed before the UPSC. “This is the positive side of the story that was placed before the UPSC”.
What is clear from the report,the court observed is there were allegations against STF personnel of Karnataka that they committed atrocities on innocent villagers of 48 villages,committed murder,false encounters,rape and torture and 20 written complaints were filed before the NHRC.
On Bidari’s contention that he was not personally indicted by NHRC,the court observed that the NHRC has categorically stated that it has not indicted any one as it has been unable to identify the perpetrators of the acts. “This only shows the fairness and application of judicial mind”.
The court observed “from the report,it is clear that atrocities were committed by police on the instructions of R3 and while the state and the police assured of action against the culprits,no action has been till date.
What is to be considered,the court observed is whether such a person who has “no concern for women,her rights,her safety and that of the poor tribals,downtrodden and socially backward classes. A person with such a bent of mind can head the state police force to maintain law and order,whether their (public) interests are safe in such hands.
These are the facts which UPSC and the state Chief Minister should have considered while exercising the power conferred on him and it is these factual findings of the Sadashiva panel and the NHRC which the government should have placed before the UPSC. “In the absence of such material,the assessment by the UPSC and state government is vitiated”,the court said.
Reflecting on the mindset of Bidari,who wants to absolve himself from the responsibility stating that he was only acting under the supervision and control of Walter Davaram,the commander of the STF,the court observed “even after 15 years,there is no remorse,he is not prepared to accept the responsibility……..whatever may the provocation,we cannot tolerate for a second rape…… as a means of investigation by the police”.
Finally,in an message to the Chief Minister,the court stated “it is not a legal issue but a moral issue. As a head of the state,what are the various concerns,what is the message he is sending has to be kept in mind. Even now it is not too late to keep the interests of the public in mind and assure that previous dispensation would not be repeated and appropriate action taken”.