Allahabad HC Orders NHRC to Probe December Police Violence at AMU

In an order issued after recording counters filed by the police and AMU authorities, the HC has directed the human rights agency to complete the investigation within five weeks.

New Delhi: The Allahabad high court has ordered the National Human Rights Commission to launch a probe into the police violence at Aligarh Muslim University on December 15, 2019, where over 60 students were injured at an anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protest.

According to a report in LiveLaw, the order was passed by a bench of Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Vivek Varma in response to a PIL filed by former AMU student Mohammad Aman Khan. Khan had moved the court to seek a judicial inquiry by a ‘court monitored committee’.

“The facts of the instant case indicate alleged violation of human rights and also alleged negligence in the prevention of such violation. We have not looked into the video footage, which are said to be available with the petitioner and compact disks, which are placed on record by the respondents along with counter,” the bench said.

Also read: Factcheck: Why You Shouldn’t Be Taken In by the ‘AMU is Bad, BHU is Good’ Propaganda

“However, the photographs annexed with the petition reflect certain serious happenings which are termed by the petitioner as brutal, violation of human rights that also amounts to commission of cognizable crime. The narration of facts certainly demands a probe,” it said.

The HC has directed that the NHRC complete its investigation within five weeks. The matter has been listed for February 17. The petitioner has also been directed to appear before the NHRC.

According to Bar and Bench, “The petitioners had submitted that State force had been used as a repressive means, recklessly and inappropriately upon university students.” Khan alleged that the students protesting peacefully against the citizenship law since December 13 were lathi charged by the para military force and UP police, who also fired tear gas shells, rubber bullets and pellets at them, LiveLaw reported.

The order was passed after the police and AMU authorities submitted various counters to the court. As per Bar and Bench, “The AMU authorities told the court that the police had entered the campus after being called in by the university. Among other submissions, the administration also told the court that the anti-CAA demonstrations of December 14-15 also saw the participation of several people who were not students of AMU. Of the 26 arrested by the police, the administration has submitted that 15 persons are not students of AMU.”

In view of the December 15 violence, the varsity administration had advanced the winter vacations and closed the campus till January 5. The authorities told the court that winter vacations had just been “brought forward”.

Also read: ‘More Brutal Than Even Jamia’: AMU Fact Finding Report Accuses UP Police of Violence, Islamophobia

Bar and Bench reported that senior advocate Colin Gonsalves had made a submission that the inquiry be made by a Special Investigation Team instead of the NHRC as an NHRC probe would be civil in nature and “would not be an effective measure to bring the culprits to board”. The bench, on its part, noted that a similar case – that of the police violence in Jamia Milia Islamia – was also already being looked into by the NHRC.

So far in the case, a complaint has been filed against a thousand unnamed AMU students for violence and damaging public property by RAF commandant Punit Kumar, despite various reports and eyewitness accounts of unchecked police brutality and even vandalism committed by UP police.

Earlier, the high court had ordered the district magistrate, Aligarh, to provide necessary medical assistance to all the injured in the alleged incident. The court had reserved its order in the matter on January 2.

On December 17, the Supreme Court had declined to entertain pleas seeking enquiry into police atrocities against university students. A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde asked the petitioners to approach the concerned high courts.

“Having regard to the nature of the matter and dispute, and the vast area over which the matter is spread, we do not think it is feasible to appoint one committee for this. The high courts can be approached where the incidents have taken place,” the bench said. “High courts have the liberty to appointed retired judges for the purposes of inquiry after hearing the Union and the state government.”