The court directed the setting up of a three-member panel, headed by joint secretary (Northeast) in the ministry of home affairs, with powers to ensure strict action in incidents of racial discrimination and atrocities and a brief to suggest measures to curb racial hate and crimes. The two other members, one of whom should be a public figure, will be nominated by the Centre.
The court also directed the government to implement the effective monitoring mechanism suggested by the M.P. Bezbaruah Committee and added that the report “should not, like innumerable instances of its ilk, languish on dusty shelves of long-forgotten archives”.
The Bezbaruah panel was set up by the home ministry on February 5, 2014, following the death of Nido Tania, a student from Arunachal Pradesh, in alleged racial violence. The panel’s brief was to suggest “suitable remedial measures” which could be taken in the wake of attacks on people from the Northeast living in Delhi and other parts of the country. It submitted its report on July 11, 2014.
The court was also of the view that involvement of the law enforcement machinery is alone not sufficient to resolve the problem and stressed that mindsets have to be changed – in educational institutions such as universities and colleges, places of work and in society. “Sensitivity and inclusion have to be fostered,” it said. For this, greater awareness of the history and the rich cultural traditions of the Northeast is required to be inculcated, it added. “The governments, both at the Centre and in the states, have a non-negotiable obligation to take positive steps to give effect to India’s commitment to racial equality,” the bench, headed by Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and comprising Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice L. Nageswara Rao, said.
However, the court refrained from passing any direction on the proposal for amending the Indian Penal Code by insertion of two new provisions – Sections 153C and 509A, which was opposed by the Centre on the ground that Sections 153A, 153B and 505(2) already exist as a part of the penal provision and cover racial crimes.
“Whether the law should be amended is for the Union government to decide. A mandamus to legislate cannot be issued,” it said.
The bench said the new committee’s work should be widely publicised in the electronic and print media, including in the northeastern states, and it should be accessible to grievances, suggestions and complaints.
The committee should receive, consider and entertain complaints from individuals and groups of individuals who claim to be victims of racial abuse, racial atrocities, racial violence and racial discrimination and forward it to the National Human Rights Commission and the State Human Rights Commissions and to the police station concerned, as the case may be, for inquiry and necessary action. It should issue necessary directions, including calling for reports on such incidents from the states and Union Territories.
Further, the committee will monitor the initiatives taken by the government to curb and deal with incidents of racial discrimination, atrocities and violence and monitor action on such incidents and suggest measures and ensure strict action.
The bench also enumerated the functions likely to be carried out by the panel, including monitoring, overseeing, pursuing and reviewing the implementation of the Bezbaruah committee’s report.
The court said the panel should meet periodically and preferably at monthly intervals to monitor redressal of grievances.
The apex court pronounced the verdict while disposing of the petition filed by Karma Dorjee and others following several incidents of hate crimes in Delhi against persons hailing from the Northeast. The petitioners said the Bezbaruah panel had recommended changes in the IPC to curb and punish incidents of racial violence targeting people from the Northeast.
[Via: PTI, file pic]
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