Chhattisgarh govt yet to take action on submissions by Sarkeguda judicial panel
With the judicial commission headed by retired Justice VK Agrawal submitting its report on Wednesday to the government on the Edesmeta encounter, which took place in 2013, it has been found that no action has yet been taken by the state government on a report submitted about 22 months ago on the Sarkeguda encounter.
In the Sarkeguda encounter, 17 people were killed in June 2012 after which a judicial commission was formed, which in turn submitted its report in December 2019. The security forces had then claimed that they had an exchange of fire with Maoists during their operation based on inputs about the presence of Maoists in the area. In the Edesmeta encounter, eight tribals including four children were allegedly killed by security forces in May 2013.
Officials said that they are still taking legal opinion before initiating any action against security forces for the Sarkeguda encounter case.
The Sarkeguda encounter report which was submitted on December 1, 2019 to the Chhattisgarh government stated that security forces had unilaterally fired on villagers and concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that any of the deceased was a Maoist. The report was tabled in the state assembly on December, 3, 2019 by Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel.
Baghel then assured that the facts of the report will be taken into consideration and action will be taken against the culprits because the report indicated that innocent tribals were killed in the encounter but no action had been taken till date.
“Even the first basic step of filing an FIR has not been done till now. The government is neither concerned about truth nor justice,” said Bela Bhatia, a human rights activist, who raised the issue when the encounter took place in 2012.
The Director of General of Police (DGP), Chhattisgarh, DM Awasthi told HT that the Sarkeguda judicial commission report had been sent to the Bastar IG for further action.
Bastar police, meanwhile, claimed that they are yet to initiate action because legal opinion about the report is pending.
“We have received the recommendations of the Justice Agrawal judicial commission report on Sarkeguda incident through the state government for further necessary action. In June 2012, a FIR was registered in Basaguda Police Station of Bijapur district for the investigation of an encounter in which charge sheet was submitted in the concerned jurisdiction court and the trial was carried out. Based on the recommendations of the judicial commission report, now we are taking legal opinion whether to re-open and investigate the previous case or to re-register a fresh FIR,” said Sunderaj P, inspector general of police, Bastar range.
On June 29, 2012 a team of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Chhattisgarh Police allegedly gunned down 17 people, including seven minors at Sarkeguda village in Bijapur of Bastar region.
Justice Agrawal’s report concluded that “the security forces opened fire unilaterally on members (villagers) of the meeting from close quarters, killing and injuring many of them. There was no firing by members of the meeting. This firing probably resulted out of panic of some security personnel when they were confronted with an unexpected group of villagers so late at night. Injuries to six security personnel occurred due to firing by fellow troopers,” the report stated adding that there was no satisfactory evidence that Maoists were present in the area.
Slamming the government over the delay on taking action over the judicial commission reports, activists and lawyers claimed that governments never take action against policemen in their atrocities even after clear recommendations of probe committees.
“Whether the government is of Congress or BJP, they never act on the recommendations of judicial commissions because they are under pressure from the police force. The governments believe that the cases will discourage the security forces. The whole exercise of forming a commission over atrocities is eyewash. This also hampers the peace-making process in Maoist areas,” said Sudiep Shrivastava, a human rights lawyer based in Chhattisgarh.