Communal violence deprive minorities of their sense of belonging: SC

Published - August 04, 2016 09:04 am IST - NEW DELHI

Religious minorities are “as much children of the soil as the majority” and nothing should be done by the majority community to deprive them of a sense of belonging, of a feeling of security, the Supreme Court observed in a judgment condemning repeated incidents of communal violence targeting minority communities.

A Bench of Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur and U.U. Lalit said the State’s actions should never cause minorities to fear the extinguishment of their “consciousness of equality."

The measure of civilisation prevalent in a nation is the extent to which its Minorities feel secure and are not subject to discrimination or suppression, the apex court held in a judgment directing the re-investigation of 315 cases of communal violence against Christians in the 2008 Kandhamal riots in Odisha.

Over 230 Christian religious establishments and 39 people were killed in the riots. The State Police arrested 6495 persons and registered 827 cases of communal violence. However, chargesheets were filed in only 512 cases. The police concluded that no offence or offender could be detected in the remaining 315 cases.

The apex court expressed its chagrin at the snail-paced delivery of justice to the victims even though eight years have passed since the violence. “Trials have been completed only in 362 which resulted in conviction in 78 cases while 284 cases ended in acquittal and only 15 appeals have been filed,” it noted. But it refused to order a CBI probe.

In a judgment authored by Justice Lalit for the Bench, the apex court pointed to the case of the 2013 Muzzafarnagar riots in Uttar Pradesh to hold that both the Centre and the State where the communal violence occurred were obliged to shell out additional compensation to be paid to the victims.

“Incidents of communal violence had occurred in and around Muzaffarnagar in the year 2013 and that the State itself had decided to pay compensation… We have considered the scales at which compensation has been granted and disbursed in the present matter. In our view the ends of justice would be met if the State Government and the Central Government are directed to pay additional compensations,” the apex court observed.

The judgment is the last in a series of orders passed by the Supreme Court since 2008 on a batch of petitions filed by several persons, including Arch Bishop Raphael Cheenath, highlighting the failure on part of State of Odisha to protect innocent people whose human rights were violated after the unfortunate assassination of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and some others on August 23, 2008 by Maoists.

The apex court orders over the past years spans a variety of issues which followed the violence, including proper and adequate facilities in refugee camps, steps to prevent communal violence, to provide adequate compensation to the victims of communal violence, to order institution of a Commission of Inquiry, etc.

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