New Delhi: Releasing the report, The State of the Right to Life in India, the first ever study on the subject, Asian Centre for Human Rights today stated, “The right to life is perhaps the most violated right in India. In the last 10 years from 2004-2005 to 2013-2014, as per official records the right to life of at least 130,407 persons or 1,086 persons per month were violated either by the State agencies or caused by the failure of the State agencies to fulfill their responsibilities to prevent violations by the non-State actors. The majority of the victims are women (80,947) followed by victims of custodial deaths (16,465), encounter deaths (10,900), deaths in police firing (2,527), deaths of 10,219 civilians in militancy/Naxal related violence, deaths in caste related violence (8,138) and deaths in communal violence (1,211).
From 2004-2005 to 2013-2014, this report counts 16,465 cases of custodial death (with 1,389 deaths in police custody, 15,076 deaths in judicial custody and 23 cases of death in the custody of the army and the central paramilitary forces); 10,900 deaths in “encounters” (1,654 deaths involving police and 9,246 deaths involving the armed forces and para-military forces, of which 4,005 in Jammu and Kashmir, 3,650 in the North East and 1,591 in the Naxal affected areas); and 2,527 deaths in police firing.
The State’s failure to safeguard the right to life of individual citizens, particularly those belonging to vulnerable groups, during the same period also resulted in the death of 80,947 women (79,404 dowry killings and 1,543 killings of those suspected of witchcraft); 10,219 civilians in militancy/Naxal related violence; 8,138 (1,646 Scheduled Tribes and 6,492 Scheduled Castes) in identity-related violence; and 1,211 persons in communal violence.
The report states that though the Supreme Court of India has gradually expanded elements of the right to life, it has not been immune from its role to diminish the right to life. The report criticized the Supreme Court for arbitrary imposition of death penalty and stated that the Guidelines to deal with encounter killings which among others barred mandatory registration of FIRs in encounter deaths issued by the Supreme Court on 23 September 2014 in the case of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties & Anr v. State of Maharashtra & Ors are fallacious. The guidelines limited the powers of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) both on reporting of encounter killings by the police and in awarding compensation and has direct bearing on pending case of A.P. Police Officers Association v. A. P .Civil Liberties Committee & Ors [SLP(C) NO. 5933/2009].
The fallacious nature of the Supreme Court judgement in the PUCL case stands exposed from the direction of the Andhra Pradesh High Court on 16 April 2015 to register FIR against the members of the Special Task Force for murder of 20 labourers dubbed as smugglers in a forest in Chittoor district on 7 April 2015.
The report stated that impunity is the root cause for violations of the right to life. In the highly unusual situation that an independent and timely investigation is secured and a chargesheet filed against State security force personnel, prosecution is virtually impossible to pursue since Section 6 of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) stipulate that prior permission must be sought from the government. There are well-known cases in which prosecution has stopped for want of permission from the government to prosecute the accused.
“Unless impunity is addressed, the violations of the right to life cannot be effectively reduced” – stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights. [Ends]
The full report, The State of the Right to Life in India, can be accessed at: http://www.achrweb.org/reports/india/The-State-of-the-Right-to-Life-in-India.pdf