The Supreme Court Friday asked the Bombay High Court to initiate steps to speed up cases related to the 1992-93 communal riots that are dormant owing to the accused being untraceable or absconding.
A bench of Justices S K Kaul, A S Oka and Vikram Nath also set up a committee to monitor efforts to compensate the families of 108 persons “missing” following the incidents.
The court said this in its judgement on a 2001 petition which sought directions to the Maharashtra government “to accept and act on the finding of the Sri Krishna Commission”.
The bench noted that of a total of 253 riot-related criminal cases, one was still pending while 97 are dormant, as pointed out in an affidavit submitted by the state.
It directed the sessions court to dispose of the pending case at the earliest. The top court also asked the High Court to issue appropriate directions to the courts in which these cases are pending. “The High Court must ensure that the concerned courts take appropriate steps for tracing the accused. The state government will have to set up a special cell for tracing the accused,” it said.
Nine hundred people died and 2,036 people were injured in the violence and police firing. The court said “there was a failure on the part of the state government to maintain law and order and to protect the rights of the people”.
Stressing that they had a right to seek compensation from the state, it said “the houses, places of business and properties of the citizens were destroyed. These are all violations of their rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. One of the root causes of their suffering was the failure of the State Government to maintain law and order. Therefore, the affected persons had a right to seek compensation…”
The state government had through a resolution dated July 8, 1993 decided to give financial assistance to persons affected by riots and the serial bomb blasts. On July 22, 1998, it was also decided by way of a second resolution to provide compensation of Rs2 lakh to legal heirs of the missing persons.
The state had provided the top court the break-up of the compensation paid and added that while a total of 168 were missing, the families or other details of 108 persons could not be traced and therefore could not be paid.
Taking note, the Supreme Court set up a committee headed by the Member Secretary of the Maharashtra State Legal Services Authority to look into the records relating to 108 missing persons and asked the state government to nominate a Revenue Officer, not below the rank of Deputy Collector and a police officer not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police as its other members.
“The Committee shall monitor the efforts made by the state government to trace the family members of missing persons, whose addresses are not available and also to ensure that those eligible persons who have not made procedural compliances are assisted to make necessary compliance”, the SC said, adding it will also have to also monitor compliance with the directions issued by it as regards payment of compensation to all categories of victims.
On the plea for action against erring police officials, the SC noted that in terms of the recommendations of the commission, FIRs were registered against nine police officials.
Two of them were discharged and seven were acquitted, which was also upheld by the SC.
Pointing out that the state did not challenge these acquittals, it said: “The state should have been vigilant and proactive in these cases. Now it is too late in the day to direct the state to examine whether the orders of acquittal deserve to be challenged.”
The SC said that though the state according to its affidavit had accepted most of the recommendation of the committee on police reforms, “but what remains is the implementation part”. It added that “the state government cannot ignore the recommendations made by the Commission for the improvement and modernisation of the police force and the recommendations shall continue to guide the state government”.
Source: india Express