Sadashiva panel has exceeded brief, say TN, Karnataka

Question the validity and scope of inquiry

Siddharth Narrain

NEW DELHI: Tamil Nadu and Karnatakahave questioned the scope and validity of the Justice Sadashiva panel inquiry into alleged atrocities committed by Joint Special Task Force (JSTF) personnel during their operations against forest brigand Veerappan.

In their response to the panel report, both governments have said the complaints were not filed within a year of the alleged atrocities. Hence the constitution of the panel was in contravention of Section 36 (2) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. Moreover, the panel exceeded its brief, inquiring into complaints, which were not referred to it by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

The Tamil Nadu Government has said that as the panel was not able to pinpoint the identity of individual JSTF personnel, it would not be possible for it to establish a rationale for paying compensation. Arguing that the panel recommended compensation without establishing specific liability, the government has asked for a reappraisal by the NHRC of the findings, providing it an opportunity to make a detailed submission.

"Followed procedure"

On the findings of encounter deaths, the government said it followed the procedure laid down under the Police Standing Orders and if an enquiry by the executive magistrate showed any misconduct, criminal prosecution or disciplinary action would be launched.

The Karnataka Government said the panel examined a large number of witnesses accused of `heinous crimes' when their trial was in progress. This meant the panel entertained enquiries on matters which were sub judice, contravening Regulation 8(b) of the NHRC (Procedure) Regulations, 1994.

Responding to the findings on the veracity of the JSTF encounters, it claimed that there was `absolutely no evidence' to show that the incidents were fake. Awarding compensation to any of the victims mentioned in the panel report was likely to send wrong signals to law-abiding citizens and encourage `criminal and terrorist activities'.

The panel, constituted by the NHRC in 1999 to examine allegations of atrocities perpetrated between 1993 and 1994, recommended that compensation be awarded to families of 72 persons killed by the JSTF in `encounters'. Its 489-page report said there was not enough evidence to name individual policemen for "torture". Except in one instance, there was not enough evidence to show that the JSTF personnel raped complainants.

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