Chandigarh — Recent instances of the violation of the rule of law in general and the provisions of the National Security Act (NSA) in particular in Punjab have come to light. Despite express directions of the Supreme Court, minors are still in jail and many NSA detainees have been wrongly confined. There are also reports that detainees have been tortured while in judicial custody.
Following a writ petition by Mrs. Kamladevi Chatopadhyay, on September 21, the Supreme Court had ordered the immediate release of four women and 22 children held in Ludhiana jail since the Army action in June, 1984. The children were between one and 16 years of age. However, as the matter of minors in Nabha Jail did not come up some minors continued to be lodged there even after this was brought to the notice of the state government. Two of them, Jaswant Singh and Swaran Singh, were originally confined in Ludhiana jail and then released under the orders of the Supreme Court. But they were subsequently rearrested and detained at Nabha, where they are still believed to be lodged.
The most serious allegation, however, is the torture of detainees at Nabha Jail openly voiced by the detainees. The District and Sessions Judge Patiala, Mr. Cheema was asked to visit the jail at Nabha and Ladha Kothi to look into the allegations. His findings are startling. His report mentioned that from August 30 to mid-January a total of 92 persons had been transferred from Nabha Jail to Ladha Kothi Jail for periods ranging from one to two weeks. “After going around the premises of Ladha Kothi, I got the impression that it was just an interrogation center and possessing very little of the trappings of a central jail, says his report.’’ There seemed no justification for shifting small batches. Their shifting seemed only a camouflage for taking them out from Nabha Jail to bypass the requirement of law to produce them before a judicial magistrate for being remanded to. Police custody for their interrogation in some new case.
Mr. Cheema also attached to his report the statement of six detainees who alleged torture. All of them, except for a 16year old boy, Gurmit Singh, had given almost the same details with regard to their interrogation at Ladha Kothi and the third-degree methods to which they were subjected, stated Mr. Cheema.
“Gurmit Singh, during his stay at Ladha Kothi suffered colic pain. In the beginning the interrogators took him to be a malingerer and when after abusing and _ thrashing him they got convinced that he was really having acute pain, they spared him the torture which others had to undergo.”
The Inquiry report further ‘States ~ “their statements reveal two common modes of torture. One is the use of an extra thick pestle like a mini log which is placed on the things of the detainee with one person or two persons standing on it. The detainees are made to lie on the floor prostrate or supine. The pestle with the load is then rotated over the thighs. If the position is prostrate the lower part of the lung below the knee, is bent over the pestle and pressed against it. As the surface of the pestle is smooth and wrapped in a cloth it does not cause any visible, outward injury on the thigh.
“The second mode of torture which is described to be more painful consists of stretching the legs apart to an unbearable extent. The detainee is ‘made to sit on a plain ‘surface’ with one person ‘supporting his back with his knees and pulling his long hair backwards. The legs are held at the ankle level different by person and pulled apart. The legs on reaching a particular angle cause acute pain and after a while the victim sworns.” The detainees told Mr. Cheema that two of their comrades, Balvinder Singh and Harminder Singh had been so badly tortured that they had been kept back at Ladha Kothi to recover. Mr. Cheema tracked them down and from their statements wrote. In their cases, they were tortured repeatedly and the result was that their groins became pulpy and painful to such an extent that they could not walk properly. They were kept back at Ladha Kothi till they were normal.
Describing the jail at Ladha Kothi, he states that the cells were stinking, had no cots and was screened by a high wall. The entrance was guarded by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). In their statements the six persons have stated that at Ladha Kothi they were interrogated by people both in uniform and in civil clothes and they were also presented before the officials of a Central investigation agency.
The present provisions of the National Security Act (NSA) and the review of the NSA by the advisory boards have created certain anomalies. Though in some cases the detainees have been under detention for several months, they have not been presented before the advisory boards. In a few instances the state government has delayed in the release of detainees by as much as_ two months after their release was recommended by the advisory boards. The Punjab Government recently recommended some amendments in the NSA to the Union authorities to enable it to move the courts against the opinion of the advisory boards in cases where the latter did not find sufficient cause for detention. The state government had also given repeated instructions to the district magistrates that they should consider redetection if necessary and “serve revocation orders and fresh detention orders simultaneously.’’
Article extracted from this publication >> March 15, 1985