The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) expressed deep concern on the recent raids and arrests of social and civil rights advocates, among whom are human rights activists, academics, lawyers and priests. These raids and arrests by the Pune Police took place on 28 August, 2018, at Mumbai, New Delhi, Ranchi, Goa and Hyderabad. Those targeted are well known figures who have long been associated with various social movements including human rights protection of marginalized and vulnerable communities.
The statement issued by the India Executive Committee of CHRI says, 'We are concerned about the use of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and sedition laws, despite courts at the highest level repeatedly pointing out their widespread abuse. This is particularly disturbing, given allegations of procedural lapses by the police in the conduct of the raids and arrests. That this comes barely a month before Police Reforms Day shows how extensive gaps still remain with regard to police accountability and upholding the law, not just enforcing it”.
“The High Courts of Delhi and Punjab & Haryana had stayed the transit of two of the arrested persons from Delhi to Pune on the grounds that the allegations against them are not clear and called into question whether police complied with the mandatory procedures. Any arrested person must be properly informed of the grounds of arrest, this is a fundamental right. A search is legally conducted when the search warrant issued by a Magistrate contains the reasons for the search, and the person to be searched knows these. Illustratively, all the documents provided to the arrested persons were in Marathi, a language they do not know. As a result they could not read nor understand the allegations against them, the grounds for arrest, or purpose of the raids. This alone is in violation of a fundamental right under Article 22 of the Constitution of India and the requirements of Section 165 and 166 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. In spite of this, their personal electronic items were seized by the police and arrests were carried out”. Subsequently, a Supreme Court bench, under the Chief Justice of India, without pronouncing on the arrests, has ordered on Wednesday that those arrested would continue to stay at their homes.
“CHRI regards these raids and arrests as a disturbing trend in the context of the calls for reform of the police and the need for a police force that is citizen-centric. The objective of directives by the Apex Court in the Case of Prakash Singh & ors vs Union of India & ors (2006) is that the police work as a servant of the law, not as a tool of the State. All those who strive for the continued evolution of India as a democratic polity, cannot but support these path-breaking directions that are aimed to uphold the rule of law and protect the basic rights of citizens”.
“We welcome the strong stand of the National Human Rights Commission in this case and join others in seeking the end of such questionable actions. We support widespread demands for observance of due process of law and an enquiry by an independent agency into the actions of the Pune police”.
Signatories include prominent citizens such as Wajahat Habibullah, the organization’s chair and India’s first Chief Information Commissioner, Justice AP Shah, former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, Nitin Desai and Vineeta Rai, former Secretaries to the Government of India, Poonam Muttreja, and Maja Daruwala, former CHRI Director. Others include Jacob Punnoose, former DGP, Kerala, Kamal Kumar, former Director, National Police Academy, Nidhi Razdan, Executive Editor, NDTV, Jayanto N. Choudhury, ex IPS, Prof. BK Chandrasekhar, former MLC, Karnataka and Sanjoy Hazarika, International Director, CHRI