Human rights defenders continue to face threats in Varanasi
10 August 2011
Human rights defenders continue to face threats in Varanasi
INDIA: Witness in a human trafficking case assaulted by the accused
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information concerning the criminal case against human traffickers in Varanasi. Unfortunately this time, the primary accused Mr. Parvez, his father Mr. Maulvi and four other thugs working under the instructions of Parvez, assaulted the primary witness in the case, Mr. Fulanu, inside the court campus in Varanasi district of Uttar Pradesh on 3 August 2011. It is reported that Fulanu came to the court of Special Judge (Anticorruption), Varanasi to give evidence in the case, Sessions Case 461/10. The accused threatened to kill Fulanu and cut him into pieces if he were to appear before the court and to enter the witness box. Fulanu ran into the court hall seeking protection. Fulanu suffered multiple injuries on his body from the assault.
When the matter was reported to the court, the court instead of taking immediate actions against the accused for interfering with the trial process and threatening of the witness, directed Fulanu to file a complaint with the local police. To the information of the AHRC, no action has been taken upon the complaint so far. The case for which Fulanu came to give evidence is registered upon his complaint, in which he has alleged that the accused in the case, Parvez had kidnapped his minor daughter, raped her and had trafficked her. The accused, his father and the thugs inside the court compound also threatened his lawyer.
Fulanu, son of Alimullah is the resident of Dulahipura, within the jurisdiction of Mughalsarai police station in Chandauli district of Uttar Pradesh. He is the complainant and prosecution witness in the crime no. 36/10 registered under Section 363, 366, 376, 372, 120-B of Indian Penal Code, 1860 registered at the Jaitpura police station of Varanasi district. The allegation in the complaint is that Parvez had kidnapped, trafficked and raped Fulanu's minor daughter. The police had filed the charge sheet in the court in the case of the applicant against four accused persons including Parvez.
This case is under trial in the court of Special Judge (Anti-Corruption) Varanasi as Session's Trial 461/10 (State v/s Rabiya, Parvez and others). The trial date was fixed to be 3 August and Fulanu had come to the court upon receiving summons from the court to tender evidence. The court took up the case during the roll call and directed Fulanu to be present in the court during the post-lunch session, at 2pm, so that his evidence could be recorded.
Fulanu had then walked out of the court hall and was taking tea within the court campus. Soon the accused Parvez, his father Maulvi and four other thugs approached Fulanu and started assaulting him. They threatened Fulanu that if he were to give his statement in the court, they would cut him into pieces. Fulanu shouted for help and the people who were in the locality saved him from the thugs. With the severe injuries that Fulanu had suffered in the assault he ran into the court hall and pleaded for help from the Magistrate. He narrated the entire incident before the presiding officer. The presiding officer instead of recording Fulanu's statement directed the applicant to file a complaint to the police and directed the police to report the court about the actions taken upon such a complaint.
Hearing about the altercation, the lawyer appearing for Fulanu assisting the prosecution in the case reached the court. Parvez and his companions then threatened the lawyer asking him to give up the case.
On the same day Fulanu sent a written complaint through post addressed to the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Varanasi and the Station House Officer of Cantonment police station. On the same day Fulanu went to the Cantonment police station with the same complaint so that it is registered immediately, than for the officers to wait for the post to arrive. But the police did not take any action. Instead they sent Fulanu to the Jaitpura police station in Varanasi saying that since he had his first complaint regarding the kidnapping of his daughter registered at that police station, he should get the present compliant also registered at Jaitpura station.
Having no other option other than to comply, Fulanu went to the Jaitpura police station. There the police inspector asked Fulanu to go to the Kabirchaura district hospital and get his medical examination done, before the complaint is registered. Perplexed and having no other option, Fulanu went to Kabirchaura district hospital. The doctors at the hospital did a medical examination, but refused to issue a certificate saying that unless there is a copy of the police complaint with the crime number or there is police officer accompanying Fulanu, a certificate cannot be issued. Fulanu then returned to Jaitpura police station seeking a remedy. The officers asked Fulanu to return on 4 August at 12pm.
On the next day when Fulanu went to Jaitpura police station the officers made him wait till 3pm in the evening. The police did nothing; neither did they take Fulanu to the hospital. Rejected, disgusted and refused to be served, Fulanu returned home.
The AHRC in the past has documented and issued more than one Urgent Appeal regarding this case, involving Parvez and his colleagues, and similar activities in and around Varanasi. The cases which are available at UA-190-2005; UP-131-2005; UP-035-2006; UP-036-2007; AHRC-UAU-005-2008; AHRC-UAU-050-2008 and AHRC-UAU-004-2011. All the cases involve security risks to the human rights defenders, in particular, to the staff members of Guria, the local human rights organisation that is involved in exposing human trafficking in Uttar Pradesh. The role played by the local police in all of these instances is similar to what Fulanu had faced in the present instance, in essence failing to register a case.
The AHRC has confirmed information that the Uttar Pradesh State Government has directed the state police as well as the government hospitals to take measures to reduce the number of criminal cases that they attend to. Indeed the doctors cannot be requested not to treat a person approaching the doctor seeking medical help. Instead they are ordered not to issue medical certificates unless requested by the police. The state police on the other hand have been directed not to register cases without a medical certificate. Both these orders are illegal and trivialize the process of criminal justice. Indeed none of these orders are issued in writing, but verbally at the behest of the Chief Minister of the state in an attempt to statistically reduce the number of criminal cases in the state, thereby to argue that her government has reduced crime in the state.
On the other hand the process adopted by the Sessions judge is also wrong In fact the lawyer appearing in a court is an officer of the court. Threatening an officer of the court is equally serious an affair as threatening any other court staff, including the presiding officer. It is direct criminal contempt. It is equally a serious matter when a witness bound over for examination is assaulted to prevent the witness from giving evidence in the case. It is direct intervention with the process of the court and is criminal contempt. One of the bail condition in which the accused in the case, Parvez, is released is that he should not in any form interfere with the witness or threaten or intimidate the witness. The court have cancelled the bail of the accused and remanded him into custody and directed the court police to arrest the other thugs, who were at the time Fulanu gave his statement in the court concerning the assault present within the court premises. The court failed to do this. The least that the court could have done is to record Fulanu's statement in the court and directed the court police to produce him before a medical doctor for treatment and ask the police officer to file in court the medical officer's report. The court failed to exercise the statutory duty cast upon the judge in discharge of justice. In an environment like that where the judge herself neglects her authority and duty, it should not be a matter of surprise that the police behaves most irresponsibly and the criminals to the maximum exploit such openings.
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