The Delhi High Court on Tuesday asked the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to take a decision in six months on a complaint in relation to alleged police brutality during a rally organised by the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha in West Bengal in October 2020.
Justice Prathiba M Singh noted that although the matter was “receiving due consideration” by the NHRC, the proceedings should be concluded in a time-bound manner as the incident pertained to 2020.
The court’s direction came on a petition by one Rohit Verma, a member of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, who has claimed that he participated in the peaceful “Nabanna Chalo” rally organised on October 8, 2020 in West Bengal, which allegedly became a “hunting ground for the police establishment” and witnessed “large-scale brutality”.
The rally, he has stated, was a peaceful protest against ”ineffective, irresponsible, brutish, intimidatory, dictatorial and violent governance of the TMC-led state government.” Counsel for the NHRC stated it has taken cognisance of the complaint in relation to the rally and was exercising its power under the law to deal with the same in an “independent and rational” manner.
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The Commission is vigilant of the fact that it has to expedite orders in pending matters, he added.
“The court is of the opinion that the matter is receiving due consideration. However, considering the fact that the subject relates to an incident which took place in 2020, it is deemed appropriate to direct that the NHRC would take its final decision in the matter in six months,” ordered the court.
The court noted that as per response filed by the NHRC, detailed action has been taken by the authority pursuant to the complaint, including calling for reports from authorities in West Bengal.
“The NHRC affidavit suggests that directions have been passed by the commission and finding has been issued that there is a violation of human rights. Subsequently, notice was also served upon the concerned authority including the chief secretary and DGP of West Bengal,” recorded the court.
The NHRC counsel said the Commission is not a “supervisory authority” in relation to law and order in any state and deals with complaints of violation of human rights.
Earlier, the petitioner had argued that the NHRC was not taking any action on the complaint and was “laying to waste” its powers granted to it under the law.
The petition, filed in 2021, sought directions for an expeditious decision by the NHRC on the complaint.
“The complaint was filed to bring to the attention of the respondent, the magnitude of the egregious human and fundamental rights violations committed by the State machinery in West Bengal on the fateful day of the Nabanna Chalo rally,” the petition said.
It claimed the NHRC notice was issued promptly but the matter then went into cold storage.
“Even after a period of almost nine months having elapsed since the making of the complaint, the respondent had done little to nothing to bring the State of West Bengal and its police establishment to book,” the petition through lawyers Kabir Shankar Bose and Surjendu Sankar Das stated.
The petition contended that the attack on the participants was an attack on democracy and that the police and the State Government of West Bengal “acted in tandem to stifle dissent and silence by force the demands of the people of West Bengal for accountability”.
“The vicious attacks by the police authorities at the behest of the State Government are politically motivated and focused against the supporters of any political party or faction which is not the ruling party of the State of West Bengal, namely, the All-India Trinamool Congress (TMC),” the plea submitted.