NHRC poser on illegal cremations case

NEW DELHI. NOV. 13. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) today ordered that the issue of who was responsible for the death of 2,097 people, illegally cremated at three crematoria in Punjab during the insurgency, be reframed.

At a hearing of the eight-year old case on illegal mass cremation of the disappeared in Punjab, the Commission's chairperson, Justice A.S. Anand, said the fact of the cremations established that death had occurred.

It did not explain how death had occurred or whether police officials responsible for cremating the bodies were linked to the deaths.

Mr. Justice Anand said that while trying to provide relief to the families of those who were killed, it was essential to settle these issues. Counsel for the petitioners and the defence and the amicus curae assisting the Commission would submit the reframed issues to the Commission on November 19.

The Commission's effort was to make a list of those entitled to compensation, but the quantum could only be fixed when the issue of culpability was settled.

It would have to consider whether there was material evidence about a particular officer or individual's responsibility for the death.

The absence of such material would, however, not take away from the State's liability, as earlier hearings in the case had shown that there had been "gross violation of human rights".

At the last hearing, on October 20, the Commission had asked for a list of cases in which police admitted that the cremated persons had been in their custody at the time of their death. A list of 147 cases has been given to the commission by the petitioner's counsel, Ashok Aggarwal.