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PSHRC inept in dealing with plethora of complaints against police

July 29, 2015 01:04 PM

By Satinder Bains
CHANDIGARH: “The Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) seems to have lost its credibility and more or less become a defunct body due to lack of proper infrastructure and staff to handle hundreds of complaints, majority of them against the Punjab Police.

“PSHRC was no helping any human rights victims and that the people of Punjab would be better served if the commission is closed”. These observations noted in its report, published recently, by Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), a national level NGO of lawyers, which reviewed the working of Commission speaks volume of state of affairs in the Commission.

During the year 2014, the commission had received 55 percent (8792) of total complaints (15523) against the Punjab Police. The rise in complaints against Police started in the year 2002 during Congress party Government when 4344 complaints were registered and it has doubled during present regime, beginning 2007.
The PSHRC is practically working with single judicial member that is Chairman Justice Jagdish Bhalla retired as Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court. According to lawyers who practice before PSHRC Justice Bhalla has reputation for rarely being at the commission. Justice Bhalla, judge at Allahabad High Court was once in eye of storm of when the President of India Abdul Kalam had opposed his elevation as Chief Justice.
The two posts of judicial members are lying vacant after the retirement of Justice Baldev Singh retired judge of High Court and Justice L.R.Roojam, retired session judge. Both of them had retired in November 2011 and no appointment is made till date.
Under the Protection of Human Rights Act 1993 it is mandatory to appoint a retired Chief Justice as Chairman of the commission and two other judicial officers-retired Judge of High Court and retired district judge-as members. The state government has expanded the strength of members with two more non-judicial members who have knowledge of human rights.
The SAD-BJP government has started appointing politicians or persons with political lineage on these posts. The state government May 2009 appointed BJP leader Avinash Rai Khanna as member who left the job in March 2010 after nomination to Rajya Sabha. He was elected to MP on BJP ticket from Hoshiarpur in 2014.
Khanna was replaced by Baljinder Singh a Patiala based advocate who run NGO. Baljinder Singh has no background of involvement in human rights. The other non-judicial member Pushpinder Singh also lacked requisite human rights experience. He is brother of ruling Shiromani Akali Dal General Secretary Maheshinder Singh Grewal and brother-in-law of sister of Punjab Agriculture Minister Tota Singh.
The backbone of PSHRC, the investigation wing has crippled after its powers were circumvented by state government and Punjab Police was vested with powers to investigate complaints.
The investigation wing in PHRC is headed by an officer of DGP rank. Presently, Rajinder Singh an IPS officer of 1982 batch is posted there. The quarries made by Sunday Guardian revealed that DGP is the only officer posted in the wing. All the sanctioned posts of one Superintendent of Police, One post of Deputy Superintendent of Police, four posts of Inspector and four posts of Sub-Inspector are lying vacant for several years. Two retired inspectors of police have been hired through a job contractor to attend routine office work.
As a rule, the complaints made against police are referred back to the police for investigation and sources in the Police said that often complaints are marked to same cops who are named in the complaint. Sunday Guardian encountered a Ferozepur resident Jaswinder Singh Kelly who had made a complaint against DSP (D) of Ferozepur. He had come to see PSHRC authorities on Thursday to complain that his complaint has been marked by the SSP Ferozepur to same officer. He said a false case was registered against him and by the DSP and how can same officer investigate against him. The Commission sources said there are plenty of such cases.
The SAD-BJP government which faces flak for violation of human rights has created a method of investigating cases improperly favors state actors over petitioners. A separate human right cell in Punjab Police head quarter where all complaints are sent by commission. The cell processes the complaints and forwards to SSP of concerned district who further assigns investigation to DSP or SHO of concerned area. The sources said that Punjab Police returns about 80 percent of complaints to commission with the tagline, ‘report is found baseless’.
DGP Rajinder Singh when contacted said that he was doing best possible he could do in the existing set up. He said that it was prerogative of the Commission Chairman to forward complaints for investigation either to him or concerned departments including Punjab Police. Some cases where commission is not satisfied with Police report are forwarded to him. He said that he tried to sort out the issues by counseling the aggrieved party or send his recommendations to DGP Punjab Police for action against erring cops.

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