On a day when former director general in the Union Ministry of Corporate Affairs BK Bansal and his son committed suicide in Delhi nearly two months after the senior bureaucrat was arrested by the CBI on graft charges, the Supreme Court has decided to hear a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking norms be set up for those who conduct raids and issued notices to the Centre and CBI in this regard.
In many cases, reportedly, during the raids those raided are harassed and humiliated, resulting in suicides.
Bureaucrat Bansal’s wife and daughter had committed suicide in July, two days after CBI personnel allegedly harassed and humiliated them during raids relating to a corruption case.
The PIL filed by south Delhi resident Upendra Rai pointed to the often “reckless behaviour” of CBI search and seizure teams. It said such teams often misbehaved with family members, ransacked the whole house, littered at will and even make offensive remarks. The petition sought framing of proper guidelines for such raids so that none is humiliated and harassed as no one should be held to be guilty unless proved beyond reasonable doubt.
The Supreme Court in DK Basu vs. State of West Bengal case had issued mandatory guidelines for even arresting a person. It said that in even in the case of arrests, fundamental rights of the person arrested remained intact. However, SC guidelines are often violated with impunity. Rai’s petition, in the instant case, has quoted family members of the former bureaucrat as saying that the raiding team ransacked even household items and demanded tea and snacks to be prepared.
However, Chief Justice of India (CJI) TS Thakur recused himself from hearing the PIL on the ground that it mentioned CBI raids at the residence of Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh even as arrangements for his daughter’s marriage was going on. Justice Thakur stated in the open court that he knew Singh for a long time and it was inappropriate for him to hear the PIL and transferred the same to another bench.
The bench, now of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice PC Pant, has issued notices to the Centre and the CBI to answer the PIL seeking to set norms during raids.
In a related development, the apex court also issued notices to the Centre on a PIL by former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar Upadhyay seeking a direction to enact a separate law for preventing custodial torture by police. Custodial deaths are not new to this country and guidelines are respected only in their violations with impunity.
A Bill during the UPA regime christened as the Prevention of Torture Bill 2010, passed by both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha has been referred to a 13-member select committee and, perhaps, kept in the cold storage.
The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1984. But India did not sign that. It resulted in a Danish court order refusing to send Kim Davy, an accused in the Purulia arms drop case as the Danish court held that he might be tortured under custody. Cases of custodial torture are also not reported to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). However, the NHRC has registered over 2,000 such cases. If the Indian apex court takes proper steps in such matters, it would go a long way rather than wrangle over “collegium” or NJAC or NJC.