NHRC to Inquire Into Murder of Gujarat Teenager Rajesh Sondarva

The 19-year-old was allegedly killed for vigorously pursuing the murder case of his father, an RTI activist.

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is set to initiate an inquiry into the murder of Rajesh Sondarva, the son of an RTI activist who was killed last month. Sondarva’s father was murdered last year, and the 19-year-old was attacked and killed in a village in Rajkot district because he brought it to the attention of a trial court that one of the murder accused had violated the conditions of bail.

After Venkatesh Nayak, an RTI activist, filed a complaint with the NHRC, the body registered a complaint and will inquire into the situation. Last year, when Nanjhibhai, Rajesh’s father, was killed, Nayak had filed a complaint with the NHRC, prompting it to seek a report from the police on the action taken in the case. The NHRC had closed that complaint after the accused were committed for a trial. Nanjibhai was allegedly killed for filing a case accusing the village panchayat of diverting public funds.

According to Commonwealth Human Rights Intiative, Sondarva’s death is the 14th case of a person being killed in Gujarat for being involved in RTI related activities. Across the country, at least 83 cases of murder, 165 cases of assault, 180 cases of harassment or threats have been reported, all of them targeting RTI users and activists.

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As The Wire reported earlier, Sondarva, a Dalit and a Class XII science student, was returning home to the Manekwada village from Rajkot city when he was attacked. Before he passed out, the teenager apparently told a person that he was attacked by the same people who murdered his. He also said that those people had been threatening his family, asking them not to pursue the murder case vigorously.

Nanjibhai was murdered on March 9, 2018, and the accused in the case were arrested but were released on bail.

Venkatesh Nayak has claimed that the Rajkot police has refused to publish a copy of the FIR relating to the Sondarva’s murder. Though the police are required to upload copies of FIRs to their websites as per the Supreme Court’s direction, the Rajkot police have not done so, claiming it is a “sensitive matter”. While the apex court’s directives allow police to make an exception in matters relating to sexual offences, offences under POCSO Act or those relating to terrorism or insurgency, Sondarva’s murder does not fall under any of these categories.