New Internationalist

The hunt for justice

Justice delayed is justice denied, goes the maxim – and Kashmir is a perfect example. The struggle to seek justice in Kashmir is the worst thing that can ever happen to a victim.

From enforced disappearances to deaths in crossfire, people have to run from pillar to post for years, but they often end up with nothing. Sometimes, the endless wait culminates in death. Justice eludes the victims and their families in every shape and form.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) – both arms of the government – have time and again proved to be reticent, powerless and toothless in meting out justice.

These government bodies can only make recommendations to the state agencies associated with the cases, and the authorities don’t even need to flinch after reports are released and a good amount of the taxpayers’ money has been used to extract buried evidence.

A classic example is the way rape cases are being handled.

Here is one such example: a girl was kidnapped and raped by a constable who had won the President’s medal for bravery. On 9 June 2008, Asian Center for Human Rights (ACHR) filed a complaint seeking the intervention of the NHRC against the kidnapping and rape of a 17-year-old girl by Constable Shabir Ahmed and his accomplices in the police residential quarters in Jammu in the state of Jammu and Kashmir on 1 June 2008.

The NHRC registered a case (Case no. 50/9/5/08-09) and directed the authorities to investigate. The report of the Senior Superintendent of Police in Jammu ‘confirmed the allegation made in the complaint stating that FIR No. 100/2008 under section 363, 366A, 342, 376, 109, 354 & 511 RPC had been registered against Ahmed and his two accomplices and that after completion of the investigation charge-sheet had been filed in the court on 11.07.2008.’

In addition, a report dated 20 September 2009 from Director General of Police of the Jammu and Kashmir Police confirmed allegations made in the complaint.

Despite a notice and subsequent reminder, the state government failed to submit its reply to the NHRC. Hence, in its direction of 8 July 2009, the Commission presumed the state government had nothing to argue and directed it to pay compensation of Rs 200,000 ($4,458) to the victim. The compensation has not yet been paid, sources from the SHRC told me.

The case was forwarded to the secretary of the State Human Rights Commission in April last year. The constable has not been sacked and is currently ‘under suspension’ after securing bail from the court, an official from the SHRC stated. The matter is sub judice. The case is being shuffled between the NHRC and the SHRC – both have argued that it doesn’t fall within their purview.

Finally, on 28 April this year, the SHRC framed a case and has asked the complainant from ACHR to appear before the commission. Meanwhile, the next court hearing of the case is on 1 June 2011. After all, an official at the SHRC said, ‘Our orders are recommendatory in nature, and are not binding. We can only mete out compensation once the court has concluded the case. They might take years.’

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