State has failed to do its job, say ex-SC judges on Delhi riots

It’s the handiwork of ‘total professionals’, says Justices Kurian, Patnaik and Vikramjit Sen after visiting riot-hit areas and a relief camp

March 06, 2020 06:38 pm | Updated 06:39 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Restoration work of electric supply in progress at Shiv Vihar in riot-hit area in New Delhi.

Restoration work of electric supply in progress at Shiv Vihar in riot-hit area in New Delhi.

From the destruction witnessed after the Delhi riots , the rampage looked like the handiwork of “total professionals”, said former Supreme Court judge, Justice A.K. Patnaik.

Another retired apex court judge, Justice Kurian Joseph, stated that the “burning smell” still hung over the riot-hit areas where families had lost their homes, livelihood and loved ones to mobs wielding rocks, rods and guns between February 23 and 26.

Read: Editorial | Read them the riot act

Justices Kurian and Patnaik were on Friday relating to The Hindu the impressions they gathered during their visit to the riot-hit areas and a relief camp. They were accompanied by another former Supreme Court judge, Justices Vikramjit Sen.

Both Justice Kurian and Patnaik said the families in the relief camp yearned to go back home but were too scared. Justice Patnaik said the State and its forces had “totally failed” to guarantee their basic right to life.

‘Rebuild homes’

“The State has to pay compensation. But ‘compensation’ here does not mean some money. It means the State, having failed to protect their right to life , is now obliged to rebuild their homes destroyed in the riots and give them back the assets they lost in the violence. The State has to put their lives back on track,” Justice Patnaik said.

Read: Delhi violence | Suspended AAP Councillor Tahir Hussain arrested for IB official’s murder

The visit was not to find fault with the authorities or the law enforcement agencies but to understand the ground situation. They met children who had lost their school books, families robbed of their wedding jewellery, vendors whose push-carts were burnt to cinders, employees looking on at what was once their homes and two-wheelers, he said.

“We saw that Muslim people and houses were targetted. Relief camps have Muslim men, women and children. The perpetrators may be people from outside the localities as these areas have seen communities live together peacefully for decades… We do not know who these people [rioters] are, but they were total professionals... There were instances of throwing oxygen cylinders into homes and lighting them up”, he observed.

The police have to work hard to regain the trust of the victims, Justice Patnaik added.

Justice Kurian said national and Delhi legal aid authorities should open a help desk to provide legal assistance to the victims. The identity documents of many victims had been destroyed in the violence. “They would need legal help to replace them... More lawyer bodies should got out there and offer help. That will make the victims confident.”

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