Launching a campaign against the Ordinance on police reforms, human rights activists representing various organisations, advocates and members of civil society on Sunday called for a public debate on the issue and urged Chief Minister Jayalalithaa to refer the Ordinance to a select committee.

At a round table discussion here on Tamil Nadu Police Ordinance, 2013, speakers representing the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Human Rights Foundation, People’s Watch and Campaign for Custodial Justice, Abolition of Torture and others said the Ordinance dated September 11, 2013 would in no way further the cause of reform as it was introduced only to fulfil the State’s obligations to comply with the Supreme Court order.

They said a new police law to govern future policing was significant.

But, considering the fact that the functioning of police had a direct impact on the protection of fundamental rights and freedom of people, it was imperative that such a law be passed after wide public consultation.

When the Ordinance is introduced in the Assembly as a Bill, it should be referred for review.

Pointing out that the State government showed no hurry to introduce the much needed police reform in the last seven years (since the Apex Court’s directives), the forum sought to know the urgency or special circumstances which merited the passing of the reforms in the form of an Ordinance. The power to make an Ordinance was a rare and unique authority under Constitution essentially to meet urgent situations.

Henri Tiphagne of People’s Watch said the composition of the State Security Commission should be suitably amended to meet all the requirements of the court’s directive. The present composition of the Commission comprised the Minister in-charge of the Home Department (the Chief Minister), Leader of the Opposition, Chief Secretary, Home Secretary, Director-General of Police and the Chairpersons of the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commissione, Tamil Nadu Women’s Commission, Tamil Nadu Minorities’ Commission and State Human Rights Commission. This model of composition was not in accordance with any of the three models of composition suggested by the court.

Laying emphasis on in-depth changes in the Ordinance, Mr. Henri urged the Chief Minister to refer the mater to a committee of experts for revamp through wider consultations and public debate. “We have decided to send a representation to Ms. Jayalalithaa in this regard. An all-party demonstration in all district headquarters has been planned to demand the review of Police Ordinance, 2013. A campaign in the social media is also being launched,” he said.

Ossie Fernandes, Director of Human Rights Advocacy and Research Foundation, said the Ordinance lacked vision and needed to be redrafted keeping in mind the spirit and objectivity of the court’s directives. Former Chennai Police Commissioner G. Nanchil Kumaran also spoke.

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