SC refuses to hear petition for identification of missing persons in Punjab post 1984

SC refuses to hear petition for identification of missing persons in Punjab post 1984

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court today refused to entertain a petition seeking the identification of over 8,000 missing persons during the period of militancy and counter insurgency in Punjab starting from 1984.

The petitioner organisation has been asked by the Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and MR Shah to approach the Punjab & Haryana High Court.

The PIL pertains to the “enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings, and mass cremations” of over 8,000 persons who were allegedly either killed using extra-judicial means or abducted by security forces in Punjab during the counter-insurgency period post 1984.

It is averred that an investigation conducted for over a period of ten years has uncovered the mass cremation of the bodies of over 8,000 victims between the period of 1984 and 1995. These figures have been arrived at after collection of information from RTI replies, records presented before Courts, an investigation conducted by human rights organisation called Punjab Documentation & Advocacy Project (PDAP), as well as First Information Reports filed.

This data was collected from nearly 26 districts and sub-districts and 1600 villages in Punjab that were affected by militancy and counter-insurgency operations. Nearly 1200 FIRs and 150 RTI replies have been relied upon to detail instances of alleged mass cremations.

The petitioners are the kin of the victims. The 1200 FIRs filed in relation to the issue form part of this petition. It is stated that investigation into the FIRs shows that a majority of these victims were “abducted” from their homes, and seen to be in illegal custody of the police by eye-witnesses before allegedly being shot, Subsequently, it is alleged, their bodies were “illegally disposed of by cremating them as ‘unclaimed and unidentified’.”

It is also alleged that these cases were closed without any wider inquiry. The petitioners allege that the bodies were sometimes cremated together in a single pyre and victims were labelled as unidentified.

“The PIL details the information collected from 150 RTI applications resulting in data of several cremation ground between 1984-95, and how this data is just “the tip of the iceberg”. This latest attempt for the survivors and victims for justice follows a two-decade long struggle for the truth and accountability”, a press note issued in this regard states.

The petition invokes Article 21 of the Constitution of India and raises the obligation on the State to investigate State crimes while ensuring rehabilitation of victims and prosecution of perpetrators of such alleged crimes.

The petitioners were represented by Senior Counsel Colin Gonsalves and Advocate Satnam Singh Bains.

In December last year, the Delhi High Court convicted Congress leader and former Member of Parliament (MP) Sajjan Kumar for his role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

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