Unlawful activities of the police in Jharkhand. Excerpts from a fact finding report of the WSS
UNLAWFUL ACTIVITIES OF THE POLICE IN JHARKHAND
Newsletter Jan - Aug 2011
Saheli is a part of a coalition called Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) that conducted a fact finding mission in Jharkhand on violence against women as a consequence of Operation Green Hunt. A team of WSS members and their supporters comprising of Sharanya Nayak (HumAnE, Koraput), Rajni (Advocate, HRLN, Ranchi), Rinchin (Madhya Pradesh Mahila Manch, Bhopal), Pyoli Swatija (Advocate, Delhi), Madhuri (Jagrut Adivasi Dalit Sanghathan, Badwani) and Indira Chakravarthi (Public Health Researcher, Delhi) made two visits to Jharkhand late last year. The following is an excerpt of the report dealing with the case of illegal arrest of three minor school girls by the police and their release after an intervention by WSS. (For the complete report, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org)
On 11th November 2010, on reaching Ranchi the team heard that on 30th October three minor school girls had been arrested, purportedly from an encounter site, near Eeti village in Khunti district, and were presented in media as women Maoists and hardcore naxalites. The three girls were later presented in court as adults and remanded to judicial custody. The team decided to look into these arrests and hence met the villagers in Eeti, school teachers, journalists, hospital staff, the girls as well as the SP of Khunti, Shri Manoj Kaushik.
When the parents of one of the arrested girls had come to Ranchi to meet the DIG Police, members of the team also met them. They are marginal farmers from a village in the interiors and their daughter (Juiliyani) was studying in Murhu, on the outskirts of Khunti, a district town. They said that Juiliyani had gone to see a hockey match with Jasmani and Magdali. Magdali had relatives in that village and so the girls went over for mehamani (as guests). They were picked up by the police from those people’s house. They had learnt of the arrest only from the news. The police had not informed them. They were very distressed and had managed to reach the DIG with the help of a journalist and Juiliyani’s teacher. The school teacher was disturbed by the arrest and had come to vouch for the girl’s innocence. They said that Juiliyani was 13 and half years old. They only knew that at the moment their daughter was in Khunti jail and were very worried because they had been told that she was ill.
The team learned that the three girls, Jasmani, Magdali and Juiliyani were from three different surrounding villages. They were living in Khunti town in rented accommodation (dera in local parlance) and attending school there; all were in class eight. Two of them – Juiliyani and Jasmani – stayed together, while the third Magdali stayed with her younger brother. They were minors as per the school records. On 29th October the girls had gone to Sarvada village, and then stayed with one Paulose in Eeti village, brother-in-law of Magdali Soy. They were picked up the following day by the police.
The Police version: The SP reported that on 30th morning they received information about presence of naxalites in the area (Panghu P.S.), to plan some major operation. A team of policemen went there around 10.30 am, and there was an exchange of fire in the forests near Eeti-Pangura villages, wherein the police fired 53 rounds while the naxalites fired more than 100 rounds. Several items were recovered: cartridges, explosives, and a bag, and the above-mentioned four people were also arrested from the spot. They were being questioned. The statement of the officer-in-charge (O/C) Murhu P.S gives further details. According to him an armed group of 10-15 MCC cadre including some women, all belonging to the Kundan Pahan group, were planning to lay landmines in the road under Murhu thana area and conduct some major operation. Paulose Purti of Eeti village was sheltering them and was also active himself. A team of 10 armed police went there and found the Maoists and there was exchange of fire but when more police reinforcement came the Maoists fled. The police searched and found four of them. After this encounter 11 people (names of 6 given) of their group ran away. As this arrest was in the jungle, two members of the police signed as witnesses to the arrest and search of Paulose Purti. He was found to be carrying arms and explosives. These were confiscated. The four of them were arrested on charges of possessing illegal arms and were charged under Sections 147/148/149/353/307 of IPC, 25[1A] /26(2)/27 of Arms Act, 3/4 of Explosive Substances Act, and 10/20/19/38 of UAP Act 1967 as amended in 2008. This included the three girls.
The people’s version from the village visit
According to Karuna, wife of Paulose Purti, Paulose was chopping wood in the school nearby when he was taken away by the police. The team met the members of the house from where the girls were picked up. It was the house of three brothers, Isaac Samad, Paulose Samad, and Marshal Samad, who said that the girls had been brought by Paulose Purti and had been staying with them. They also said that they were working in the fields, and had heard some firing. Soon after the police arrived in the village to pick up the girls. The police also started beating up the men because they could not tell the names of the girls. The police was asking for Paulose, and as one of them bore the name Paulose, he was beaten up. They were then taken to the thana along with the girls and Paulose Purti. One of them was beaten up at the police station but the three were let off the next day. They also reported that at the time a relative of theirs, who was participating in the tournament, was staying with them. His bag and the purses of the men of the house were also taken away by the police as were some of their implements like spades, axes, etc. On talking to other people, it was confirmed that the police had seized things from many people’s houses that were missing from police seizure report. No proper panchanama or seizure list was made.
Observations and concerns
This version of the events clearly contradicts the police report. The police says that the three girls were picked up from the site of the alleged encounter, but the villagers said that they were picked up from the village. If the police found Paulose and the girls in the forest, then why were they looking for Paulose in the village, and why did they pick up the wrong Paulose and his brothers? For three weeks the police had not bothered to inform the parents. This is in clear violation of the DK Basu guidelines on arrest. Further, according to the SP, the police recorded the ages of all the girls as above 18 as they ‘looked’ like adults. But this is not correct as the police had taken Juiliyani to the hospital where her age was recorded as 13 years.
Meeting with the SP, the school teachers and hospital staff
On the 18th of November when the girls were still in jail, the team went to the respective schools and talked to teachers who vouched that the girls attended school regularly. There were no indications of engagement with much activity outside school. The teachers also said that they could not imagine Jasmani being involved in armed encounters because she was a slow child. The teachers had learnt about the arrest from the news. The schools had not taken any action to help the students. They also said that the police had come earlier in the day, and taken photocopies of the school records.
Visit to government Hospital, Khunti
The team found that at the time of arrest Juiliyani was very ill and had to be admitted to the hospital in the evening of her arrest with malarial fever. According to the records (inpatient register) she is recorded as being thirteen and half years old. The nurses said that she was very scared and also said that she had no physical injuries. She gave them her age and told them that she was a student of St Mary’s school.
Meeting with the SP, Khunti
The SP denied that he had any information or inkling at the time of the arrest that they were minors. When asked why he did not verify the ages of the girls he said it was not his job. When asked why nothing had been done till date when everyone, including the police knew that they were school girls, he said they were waiting for the parents to take some action. When asked whether the police had informed the parents of their arrest, he said it was not his job. According to him the police was not expected to inform the family; and moreover the family lived in very remote villages, and that the police would have to go there with adequate forces. When told about the D.K.Basu guidelines, the SP finally conceded that he would inform them through the village chowkidar. He was aware of the media coverage and said that a DSP had investigated the issue and taken the school records that morning to the court but the judge had said that the girls had also given their ages as 18 and 19 years and had refused to act and would do so only if the parents were to apply and then the girls would be sent for a bone test.
The version of the three arrested girls
The girls said that they reported their ages as above 18 years as the police told them to do so or else they would be shifted to Ranchi if they said they were below 18.
The SP also told us that it was quite possible that even Juiliyani, who clearly is and looks a child also must have told the judge that she was 18 or above for fear that she would be separated from the other girls and be sent to the juvenile home in Ranchi.
The girls said that they had gone to Eeti to watch the hockey match. They were with Paulose and his wife who are relatives of Magdali. They were arrested from the house on 30th October at about 10:00 am. The girls said that the police beat them up and questioned them if they were Maoists. Despite their desperate pleas and denial, the police arrested them.
On the 14th December WSS members met the Chairperson, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) Delhi, apprised her of the case and filed a complaint. Based on this complaint NCPCR issued a letter to the Collector and other concerned officials. (See facing page).
The demands to the NCPCR were to investigate why the police showed these girls to be adults, expedite the transfer of these girls to the Juvenile Justice Board, investigate the unlawful arrest and the basis of the serious charges levelled against the girls such as Section 302 (murder), and charges under UAPA and Arms and Explosives Act and dropping of charges against them if there was no prima facie case.
The police did not bring any charges against the three girls when the charges were finally framed in the case on the 3rd january 2011, and the girls were released after having spent over two months in jail.
On 19th January, the team met the three girls after their release. The girls had all just rejoined their schools. They spoke of the violence and terrorising in the thana. Two of the girls were taken up to the terrace, while the youngest one was tied up in the room downstairs. They were again beaten with batons on their hips and buttocks. The injuries had lasted for many days and it was difficult to even sit during that period. ‘The marks have gone only now’, they said. They also said that the police kept pointing guns at their chests and threatened to shoot them, if they did not confess. “We just kept crying and said that we did not know anything.”
Two of the girls said that they had thought of giving up their studies because of this experience. But their parents had been encouraging and had insisted that they go back to school. One girl had found it difficult to find a dera (place to stay) when she came back, and was living with a relative. Another one also was now with her grandmother. Her family was planning to shift her to a hostel. The administration did not help in their rehabilitation and family, school teachers and local activists have helped them.
Issues in this arrest
The arrests and subsequent treatment of these girls raise several serious issues:
1. The girls have been released after two months without any charges against them, showing that the arrests and detention were arbitrary and unjustifiable. If there was no reliable evidence against them then why were they charged with such grave crimes, and why were they paraded in the media as hard core naxals? What effect will all this have on their future? Will the state bear responsibility for this unlawful and violent conduct of the police personnel, and if yes, how will it compensate the girls?
2. The girls were clearly below 18 years of age and rather than abiding by the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, their age had been falsified and they were kept in jail for nearly two months.
3. There was gross violation of all the rules laid down regarding arrests, such as informing family members. The DK Basu guidelines clearly state that at the time of arrest someone other than the police has to be a witness to the arrest as well as seizures. The girls were arrested in the village then why was a villager not made a witness?
This is no isolated incident, and cases involving other minors have since been placed before the NCPCR. But a lot more needs to be done to prevent such violations of child rights.
ACTION INITIATED BY NCPCR
Letter No.- JH-12016/19683/2010-11/COMP Date: 15 /12/2010
Shri Rakesh Kumar,
I.A.S, District Collector,
Jharkhand Fax No-06528-221665
Sub: THREE SCHOOL GOING GIRLS HAVE BEEN ARRESTED UNDER UAPA, ARMS ACT, EXPLOSIVES ACT AND KEPT IN JAILS IN KHUNTI DISTRICT OF JHARKHAND.
I am directed to say that the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has been constituted under the provisions of the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, 2005 for protection of child rights and other related matters. One of the functions assigned to the Commission under Section 13 (1) (j) of CPCR Act is to inquire into complaints and suo motu cognizance in relation to deprivation and violation of child rights.
The Commission has received a complaint from Smt. Indira Chakravarti and Rinchin on behalf of Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) regarding three girls of School near the district headquarters of Khunti District of Jharkhand who have been allegedly arrested on 30th October 2010 and sent to jail (copy enclosed). The girls were arrested from the site of an encounter between the Police and a Maoist squad. The girls have been charged under UAPA, Arms Act, and Explosives Act etc and kept in jails. Three of these girls were arrested being treated as adults without verification of their age and then produced in Court where they were remanded to judicial custody and sent to Khunti jail.
The Commission has taken a very serious note of the violations of involved in the above mentioned case As per Section 10 of the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2000, such juveniles should have been placed in the charge of Special Juvenile Police Unit or Juvenile Welfare Officer police officer designated in concerned Police Station under Section 63 of JJ Act who in turn had to produce such juveniles before the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) having jurisdiction over the area without any loss of time but within a period of 24 hours of their apprehension (excluding journey period). Under Section 49 of the said Act, it is the JJB which is the competent authority to determine the age of a juvenile in conflict with law as per the procedure laid down under Rule 12 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Rules 2007. Such Juveniles, pending inquiry, should have been lodged in an observation home and not in a jail. However, the complaint speaks otherwise.
In view of the above, the following actions need to be taken on priority basis in the above matter and a report, containing the facts and circumstances of the case as well as the remedial actions taken, is submitted to this Commission within seven days by fax/e-mail followed by post:
(i)The Juveniles in question must be produced before the JJB having Jurisdiction within 24 hours (if the same has not yet been done); (ii)The age determination of the Juveniles may be completed immediately (if the same has not yet been done) as per Section 49 of the J.J. Act 2000 and Rule 12 of the Central J.J. Rules, 2007; (iii)The Juveniles may be sent to an Observation Home (if they have not yet been sent) and must not be allowed to be in the jail, pending inquiry by the concerned JJB; (iv)In the light of Article 20 of the Constitution of India and Section 13 of the JJ Act, 2000 the parents/guardian of the Juveniles must be informed about the grounds of their arrest and the place where they have been lodged, so as to facilitate their interfacing; (v)The Juveniles must be provided with adequate Legal Aid (if they have not yet been provided with) as per rule 14 of the Central J.J. Rules, 2000; (vi)It must be ensured that their education (if they were school going) do not get disrupted due to their confinement but continues unhindered. The loss of their education must be compensated in terms of the provision of text Books, note Book, test papers, sample questions, tuition, etc. by the joint effort of the Superintendent of the Observation Home, District Social Welfare Officer, District Education Officer and District Programme Coordinator under the overall supervision of the District Collector. This issues with the approval of the Chairperson, NCPCR.
Sd/(B.K. Sahu) Registrar, NCPCR
Copy to for information & necessary action: 1. Superintendent of Police, Khunti District, Jharkhand (Fax: 06528-221660). 2. Principal Magistrate, Juvenile Justice Board, Khunti, Ranchi, Jharkhand. 3. Shri Rajeev Arun Ekka, Secretary, Department of Social Welfare (SW) & Women and Child Development (WCD), Govt. of Jharkhand, Ranchi (Fax: 0651-2400758, Ph: 0651-2400757)