The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed the Chief Secretary of Assam to release an amount of Rs 1,00,000/- to Shaukat Ali, a hate crime survivor from Biswanath district. It has also taken the Director General of Police to task for not filing a report on action taken against errant police officials investigating the case.
On April 7, 2019, the 68-year-old man was beaten brutally and forced to eat pork, a meat forbidden in Islam, after goon accused him of serving beef at his restaurant located in Biswanath Chairali, a predominantly Hindu neighbourhood. Now sale or consumption of beef is not banned in Assam. It is noteworthy that Assam’s Cattle Preservation Act, 1950 allows the slaughter of cows only over 14 years of age or those incapable of breeding. As per the Act, a fitness for slaughter certificate (loosely referred to as a license) must be granted by a veterinary doctor. However, consuming or selling beef is not a cognisable offence in the state.
It is also noteworthy that the incident took place in the run-up to the General Elections, when the law and order machinery was on high alert across the country. However, even though a video of the incident went viral on social media, it is alleged that police did not take proper action in the case.
After the incident, Ali was hospitalised and couldn’t file a police complaint, but local activists got together and ensured that an FIR was filed a few days later. Though 15 people were subsequently arrested and remanded to judicial custody, all of them were later let out on bail.
Debabrata Saikia, who is the Leader of the Opposition in the Assam state assembly also filed a complaint with the NHRC on April 12, 2019. It was in response to this complaint that the NHRC sought information from the police on progress in the case to which it got a shocking reply from the Superintendent of Police where the police virtually admitted that a public servant was illegally collecting ‘taxes’ from local business establishment owners with the help of local youths.
Now, in a communication dated September 16, 2020, to the Director General of Police and the Assam Chief Secretary, NHRC has revisited the findings based on which it had sought further information (via a previous communication dated March 12, 2020), saying, “The Commission has considered the report. It is clearly discernible from the report that public servant was collecting revenue from the market involving some local unemployed youths which is against the law. The victim was found insulted and disgraced on basis of caste/religion, therefore, human rights of the victim were violated by collecting revenue by a public servant i.e. profession tax collector illegally. Police has apprehended 15 persons and forwarded them to judicial custody. Thus, prima facie it is a case of violation of human rights of the victim for which the State is vicariously liable to compensate the victim.”
The NHRC also recalled issuing on March 12, 2020, a show cause notice to the Chief Secretary asking why the Commission should not grant monetary relief of Rs. 1,00,000/-, to which it did not get any response. The NHRC has therefore concluded, “The Commission has not received reply or any response to show cause notice from the concerned authority which led Commission to observe that the concerned authority has nothing to urge upon theCommission with regard to the above show cause notice. Therefore, the Commission confirms its recommendation and directs to the Chief Secretary, Govt. of Assam to release amounting to Rs. 1,00,000/- to the victim Shaukat Ali and submit a report along with proof of payment to the Commission within six weeks.”
Additionally holding the DGP accountable for failure to respond to its communication with a report on action taken against errant police officials, the NHRC said, “In addition, the Commission has not received action taken report against the guilty police officials from the Director General of Police, Assam, therefore, let reminder be sent to the Director General of Police, Assam to submit action taken report against the guilty police officials within four weeks falling which the Commission shall be constrained to invoke section 13 of the Protection of Human Rights Act including law laid down in Rule 10 and Rule 12 of order XVI of Civil Procedure, 1908 and the criminal proceedings under sections 175/176 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 and such other action as its deems proper under the Law.”
The NHRC has asked for the compliance report in the matter to be sent to it latest by November 7, 2020.
Responding to this, Debabrata Saikia expressed gratitude to the NHRC for its action to uphold the human rights of a common citizen.
The communication to the DGP may be read here:
The communication to the Chief Secretary may be read here: