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  • Punjab

    I. Overview. 1

    II. Human rights violations by the security forces 2

    a. Violations of the right to life. 2

    b. Arbitrary arrest, illegal detention and torture. 3

    III. Violations of the prisoners’ rights 4


    I. Overview

     

    Punjab is governed by the Akali Dal and Bharatiya Janata Party Alliance. The Punjab Police continued to be responsible for serious human rights violations. According to the 2006 Annual Report of National Crime Records Bureau, a total of 4,796 complaints were received against the police personnel in Punjab during 2006. Out of the 17 police personnel whose trial was completed, four were convicted and the rest acquitted.

     

    The Punjab State Human Rights Commission reported up to the month of October 2006, the police notified deaths of only 40 persons in custody but the PSHRC registered 47 custodial deaths in Punjab.

     

    Dalits remained vulnerable to atrocities. The NCRB recorded a total of 184 cases of atrocities committed against the Scheduled Castes in Punjab in 2006. These included three cases of murder, 11 cases of rape and 99 cases registered under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocity) Act of 1989. While the rate of filing charge-sheet for the crimes against Dalits was 85% in Punjab during 2006 the conviction rate was only 13.3%.

     

    A total of 2,242 crimes against women were recorded in Punjab in 2006. These included 442 cases of rape, 418 cases of kidnapping and abduction, 130 cases of dowry death, 801 cases of cruelty by husband and relatives, 314 cases of molestation, 67 cases under Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act of 1956 were recorded by the NCRB in 2006.

     

    Torture was widespread in jails. According to the information obtained by Asian Centre for Human Rights under the Right to Information Act of 2005, the NHRC received 87 cases of death in judicial custody in Punjab during the period of 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007.

     

    According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a total of 329 crimes against children were recorded in 2006. These included 22 cases of murder, 58 cases of rape, 169 cases of kidnapping and abduction, 9 cases under Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1978, among others. The condition of the Observation Home in Faridkot was dismal. The Home lacked basic amenities.

     

    The Judiciary was hampered by judicial delay. A total of 25,5696 cases were pending with the Punjab and Haryana High Court and a total of 58,2483 cases were pending with the District and Subordinate Courts as on 30 September 2007. As on 1 January 2008, there were 26 vacancies out of the sanctioned strength of 68 judges in the Punjab and Haryana High Court. There were 58 vacancies against the sanctioned strength of 328 in the District and Subordinate Courts as on 30 September 2007.

     

    II. Human rights violations by the security forces

     

    According to the 2006 Annual Report of National Crime Records Bureau, a total of 4,796 complaints were received against police personnel in Punjab during 2006. Departmental inquiries were ordered into 2,893 cases, magisterial inquiries were ordered into 6 cases and a judicial inquiry was ordered in 1 case. 52 police personnel were sent for trial during the year. Of the 17 police personnel whose trial were completed, 4 four were convicted and the rest acquitted.  

    a. Violations of the right to life 

     

    Security personnel were responsible for gross human rights violations including custodial deaths and extrajudicial executions.

     

    According to the information obtained by Asian Centre for Human Rights under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the National Human Rights Commission received one case of death in police custody and two encounter deaths in Punjab during the period of 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007.

     

    The number of custodial deaths was under-reported by the police. On 2 May 2007, N. K. Arora, member of the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) stated that the custodial deaths were not being properly reported by the police to the PSHRC. Up to October 2006, the police notified deaths of only 40 persons in police custody. The PSHRC registered 47 custodial deaths in Punjab. These are contrasted by statistics of the National Crime Records Bureau (NRCB) of the Ministry of Home Affairs which recorded one case of death in police custody in the state during 2006.

     

    On 2 May 2007, N. K. Arora, member of the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) also stated that use of third degree methods of torture during interrogation by police was one of the main reasons behind custodial deaths in Punjab. The police often denied the use of torture and attributed other reasons to explain the deaths. The police explanations lack credibility. For example, in 2004 there were 53 custodial deaths in Punjab but the police maintained that 32 of them died “natural deaths” despite the fact that most of the victims were aged 30-40; another 17 deaths were attributed to negligence and four were termed as “suicide”.

     

    On 19 August 2007, Mandip Kumar (26) of Ward No. 4 of Dasuya town in Hoshiarpur district was allegedly tortured to death in the custody of Dasuya police station in Hoshiarpur district. He was arrested on the charge of theft on 17 August 2007. The police claimed that he committed suicide by touching naked electric wire.

     

    In June 2007, a Dalit labourer identified as Tara Singh, his wife and four-year-daughter allegedly committed suicide by jumping in front of a train at Beer Pind village in Jalandhar district after alleged torture and humiliation of Tara Singh by the police in what appears to be trumped up charges against him.

     

    The court sentenced a number of police personnel for custodial killings. On 7 December 2007, Additional Sessions Judge Kuldip Singh of Patiala sentenced Deputy Superintendent of Police Rajinder Pal Singh Anand, Assistant Sub Inspector Rajpal Singh and three constables Mohinder Singh, Vinod Kumar and Darshan Singh to life imprisonment in the Balbir Singh custodial death of 1995.

     

    On the night of 18 May 2007, four personnel of Border Security Forces (BSF) went to the house of Shinghara Singh, a farmer at Thakarpura village in Gurdaspur district. The police were apparently drunk. They shot dead Shinghara Singh and his 15-years-old son, Daljit Singh. The four accused BSF personnel have been identified as head constable Karan Chakarborty and constables Mohammad Latif, Shatrughan and Shivu Dey. They were later arrested.

    b. Arbitrary arrest, illegal detention and torture

     

    Unlawful detention and torture were widespread in Punjab. According to the information obtained by the Asian Centre for Human Rights under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 the NHRC received eight cases of unlawful detention, 95 “other police excesses”. The Punjab Police failed to take action in 88 cases during the period 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007.

     

    The use of torture by the Punjab Police to extract confessions continued to be widespread.

     

    On the 19 April 2007, a warrant officer appointed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court rescued two brothers - Mohan Kumar and Shalinder Kumar from illegal custody of Sardulgarh police station in Mansa district. They were picked up by the local police on 17 April 2007 on the pretext that a complaint. No arrest entry was made in the custody record of the police station. No charges were proffered. One of the brothers of the victims filed a writ petition wit the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the court appointed a warrant officer. The warrant officer raided the local police station and removed the victims from the illegal custody of the police. Both the victims were allegedly tortured by the police. A few days earlier, a warrant officer appointed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court rescued three persons from the illegal custody of the police at Bhagta Bhai Ka town in Bathinda district. The three victims were kept in illegal custody for days together and tortured.

     

    On the night of 23 March 2007, Mr Chhote Lal was picked up by local police in Zirakpur in Mohali district in connection with a land dispute. He was allegedly subjected to torture including electric shocks. On 24 March 2007, the police asked his family members to take him when his condition became critical.

     

    During the night of 4 April 2007, a Home Guard identified as Chand Singh was allegedly tortured at the Sadar police station in Nabha by the Station House Officer of the police station, Bindu Bala, Assistant Sub Inspector Ajaib Singh, Kuldeep Singh and Lakha Singh.

     

    On 18 May 2007, Fumman Singh, resident of Kotu Wala village in Ferozepore district of Punjab, was allegedly tortured in police custody after he was arrested by the local police on charges of theft. The police allegedly took off his clothes in front of other suspects in the police lock up and humiliated him. Then, he was allegedly tied with ropes and beaten up. Four police personnel allegedly stood on his legs while he was being beaten up who forced him to confess to the crime which he said he did not commit.

     

    On 22 August 2007, Ravinder Kumar, resident of Bahadurpur Mohalla, was tortured by the Station House Officer Parveen Kumar Kanda of the Criminal Investigation Agency in Hoshiarpur. Ravinder Kumar was booked for alleged theft in a garments showroom. On 24 August 2007, Senior Superintendent of Police of Hoshiarpur, Anita Punj stated that the preliminary inquiry conducted by the police confirmed Mr Kanda allegation of torture, and ordered a department inquiry.

     

    III. Violations of the prisoners’ rights

     

    Prison conditions were deplorable and prisons were overcrowded in the Punjab. The authorised capacity of prisons is 10,854 males and 888 females. However, there were 14,860 male and 859 female inmates across the jails as of 18 December 2007. The Amritsar Central Jail was the most overcrowded jail with 2,137 male prisoners against a capacity of 1455 male inmates, followed by Bathinda jail, where there were 1,325 male inmates against capacity of 485, Jalandhar jail, where there were 1,365 male inmates against capacity of 475. The Ropar jail had 439 inmates against its capacity of 30 inmates only.

     

    On 22 December 2007, Justice RL Anand of Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) paid a surprise visit to Central Jail, Ferozepur to inspect the living conditions of inmates there. Following the visit, Mr Anand said that though he found the general condition of the jail hospital satisfactory, “But, I was shocked to know that in a central jail like Ferozepur, where more than 1,000 inmates are living in custody, no doctor has been posted despite sanction of two posts of doctors - a senior medical officer and a medical officer”.

     

    An investigation by The Tribune into the plight of women prisoners in the jails in Punjab revealed that they were denied even minimum requirements. The condition of women prisoners living in the dilapidated women’s cell of the Jalandhar Central Jail was miserable. There were 86 women inmates living in two small, dingy rooms whose actual capacity was only for 25 inmates. The floor of the cells was rutted and the roof was giving way. They were forced to share four doorless toilets/bath-rooms attached to the rooms. There was no privacy. There were about 50 children living with their mothers in various jails of Punjab. They have been denied the fundamental right to education. The mothers were too underfed to properly tend to their infants. On 3 July 2007, the Punjab and Haryana High Court took suo motu notice of The Tribune’s investigative reports and issued notices to the Chief Secretary, the Director General of Police (Prisons) and the Home Secretary of Punjab.

     

    Torture was widespread in the jails. According to the information obtained by Asian Centre for Human Rights under the Right to Information Act of 2005, the NHRC received 87 cases of death in judicial custody in Punjab during the period of 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007.

     

    On 1 November 2007, the Punjab and Haryana High Court directed the police to register a case in the custodial death of Kewal Singh in Central Jail, Ferozepore in Punjab on 20 April 2007. The court took cognizance of the post mortem report which found as many as 13 injuries on the deceased’s body.

     

    On 27 March 2007, Raj Singh, an undertrial prisoner allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself in the Central Jail in Patiala.

     

    On 12 June 2007, another undertrial prisoner Gurdev Singh of Ferozepur Central Jail died under mysterious circumstances within minutes after being shifted to a hospital.

     

    On 1 September 2007, undertrial Jawala Singh, lodged in the Cenral Jail in Bathinda, allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself from a water pipe.

     

    On 19 November 2007, undertrial Paramjit Singh, lodged in the Jalandhar Central Jail, died after he complained of chest pain.

    Endnotes:

    1.     2006 Annual Report of the National Crime Records Bureau

    2.     Bring transparency in police force: PSHRC, The Tribune, 3 May 2007

    3.     2006 Annual Report of the National Crime Records Bureau

    4.     2006 Annual Report of the National Crime Records Bureau

    5.     2006 Annual Report of the National Crime Records Bureau

    6.     Information obtained by ACHR from NHRC by filing of RTI application

    7.     2006 Annual Report of the National Crime Records Bureau

    8.     Lack of amenities at juvenile home, The Tribune, 4 September 2007

    9.     Supreme Court of India, Court News- October – December 2007, available at: http://supremecourtofindia.nic.in/CtNewsOct_Dec07.pdf

    10.   2006 Annual Report of the National Crime Records Bureau

    11.   Information obtained by ACHR from NHRC by filing of RTI application

    12.   Bring transparency in police force: PSHRC, The Tribune, 3 May 2007

    13.   2006 Annual Report of the National Crime Records Bureau

    14.   Bring transparency in police force: PSHRC, The Tribune, 3 May 2007

    15.   2 Cops Suspended - Youth dies in custody, The Tribune, 20 August 2007

    16.   Suicide after cop ‘torture’, The Telegraph, 9 June 2007

    17.   Custodial death: Life for 5 cops, The Tribune, 8 December 2007

    18.   Follow-up - Killing of father, son - 4 BSF jawans sent to police custody, The Tribune, 21 May 2007

    19.   Information obtained by ACHR from NHRC by filing of RTI application

    20.   2 brothers rescued from illegal police custody, The Tribune, 22 April 2007

    21.   Bloody battle in Zirakpur  - Residents storm police station after ‘brutality’ -
    12 hurt; police opens fire to disperse protesters, The Tribune, 25 March 2007

    22.   PSHRC notice to govt on Home Guard's torture, The Tribune, 10 April 2007

    23.   Police Torture - Rights body seeks report, The Tribune, 23 May 2007

    24.   Probe against SHO ordered in torture case, The Tribune, 25 August 2007

    25.   State jails overcrowded, The Tribune, 19 December 2007

    26.   No doctor at Ferozepur Central Jail, Punjab State Human Rights Commission, see http://www.pshrc.net/html/news1.asp?Id=78

    27.   From Behind The Bars — II: No floor underneath, no roof overhead, The Tribune, 3 July 2007

    28.   From Behind The Bars — III - Children suffer with mothers, The Tribune, 4 July 2007

    29.   HC takes suo motu notice of Tribune report on jails, The Tribune, 4 July 2007

    30.   Information obtained by ACHR from NHRC by filing of RTI application

    31.   High Court - Registration of case in custodial death ordered, The Tribune, 2 November 2007

    32.   Jail inmate commits suicide - DC orders magisterial inquiry, The Tribune, 28 March 2007

    33.   Undertrial dies in Ferozepur jail, The Times of India, 14 June 2007

    34.   Undertrial commits suicide, The Tribune, 2 September 2007

    35.   Undertrial dies, The Hindu, 20 November 2007

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