The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked UP Police to file an Action Taken Report in the case of a journalist receiving death threats and threats for false implication in cases after he reported on inaction of police in a rape case in Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh.
In October 2019, Citizens for Justice and Peace had filed a petition before the NHRC about an incident in Baijapur village of Sultanpur district of Uttar Pradesh where a mutilated body of a young girl was found hanging from a tree, akin to the Badaun rape incident. The victim was found with a stick inserted in her sensitive parts. There were also issues of deliberate delays in investigation and procedural lapses.
The petition also stated that the incident was reported in the FIR as a case of murder while the case was of rape and sexual assault leading to murder. Further, the statements given by the Superintendent of Police, Sultanpur were contradictory to the Post Mortem reports in the case. The copies of the FIR and the post mortem report were also attached along with the petition. Further, the journalist, Dharmendra Mishra, who was closely following the case and was reporting on police inaction in the case, speaking to witnesses, gathering documents related to the case, was receiving threatening calls and messages from unknown persons. This was also brought to the notice of the NHRC as a result of which, this case was tagged along with the main case. Mishra is known for unbiased and brave coverage of crucial stories that reveal corruption and injustice, and is the recipient of a national award from Indian Media Welfare Association along with an order by the World Health Organization.
The NHRC called for an ‘Action Taken Report’ from the Director General of Police (DGP), Uttar Pradesh on November 14, 2019 to be submitted by December 29, 2019. In response to the notice issued by the Commission, a report dated February 30, 2020 was filed by the Superintendent of Police, Human Rights, Lucknow along with a report dated January 21, 2020 by the SP, Sultanpur.
Further, a detailed inquiry report was also filed by Circle Officer, Sultanpur on January 16, 2020.
As per communications received by NHRC, another FIR (no. 218/2019) was filed in Dhammaur Police station. It was noted that while the FIR filed by Kotwali Dehat police station (no. 423/2019) to which CJP had access, was filed only under section 302, charge of murder but the Dhammaur FIR was filed under sections 363 [punishment of kidnapping] 366 [Kidnapping, abducting or inducing woman to compel her marriage], 302 [punishment for murder] 201 [Causing disappearance of evidence] 376 [punishment for sexual assault], 120B [punishment for criminal conspiracy] and 216 [Harbouring offender] of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as well as section 3(2)(v) of SC/ST Act which provides for punishment of imprisonment for life for any offence under IPC with imprisonment of 10 years or more.
As per reports received by NHRC, during the investigation, the accused were arrested and sent to judicial custody and Chargesheet No. A-01/19 dated December 3, 2019 had also been filed in the case. Further a compensation of about Rs. 4 lakhs has been provided to the relative of the deceased girl. The NHRC also ruled out inconsistencies with the post mortem report after perusing the additional FIR, the chargesheet as mentioned in the reports received from SP, Sultanpur.
The NHRC disposed of the case related to the rape and murder of the girl and stated thus,
“The Commission has carefully considered and perused the reports placed on record. Report submitted by the police inspires confidence. Since proper investigation has already been conducted in the matter, chargesheet has been filed by incorporating relevant penal provisions and compensation has already been provided to the kin of the deceased, no further intervention of the Commission seems to be required in the complaint dated 01.10.2019. Thus, that complaint is closed accordingly.”
The NHRC, has however, sought a report from DGP, Uttar Pradesh within 4 weeks on the threat to life and threat of false implication of cases against journalist Dharmendra Mishra who had alleged police inaction in the Sultanpur rape case.
In the light of the many incidents whereby journalists are being attacked, are being detained or efforts are being made to stifle the freedom of press, this cognizance by the NHRC, on the petition of CJP, is a significant development. The well being of journalists who raise their voice for truth and against the establishment, is under serious threat, and such action by the NHRC seeking report from the state police should effectively deter such unwarranted attacks on members of the fourth estate.