The National Human Rights Commission has sent a notice to Chhattisgarh government over alleged rape, sexual and physical assault of 16 women by the state police personnel, and observed the government is "vicariously liable" for it.

The Commission, in a statement also said that it awaits the recorded statement of about "20 other victims". "The NHRC has found 16 women, prima facie, victims of rape, sexual and physical assault by the state police personnel in Chhattisgarh," it said. The Commission has issued the notice to the "government through its Chief Secretary, to show cause why it should not recommend interim monetary relief of Rs 37 lakh to them.

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"This includes, Rs 3 lakh each to eight victims of rape, Rs 2 lakh each to six victims of sexual assault and Rs 50,000 each to two victims of physical assault." The NHRC has observed it is of the view that prima-facie, human rights of the victims have been "grossly violated" by the security personnel for which Chattisgarh government is "vicariously liable". It also found that the grave allegations of "physical as well as rape/sexual assault committed by security personnel of government of Chhattisgarh, made in the FIRs, were reiterated before the NHRC Team, which conducted spot investigation before the magistrate."

The Commission said that after careful consideration of the material on record, it found that there are in "total 34 victims mentioned in police complaints." "The material includes copies of statement of victims recorded by the NHRC Team as well as those recorded u/s 164 CrPC in case FIR No. 22/15, FIR No. 2/16 and FIR No. 3/16 in respect of 15 victims, sent by the IGP, Police Headquarters, Raipur vide letter dated November 12, 2016," the NHRC said in the statement. The Commission has also noted that the NHRC Team "could record the statements of only 14 victims out of the 34 victims mentioned in the FIRs. Thus, statements of 20 victims are yet to be recorded by it."

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"The statements u/s 164 CrPC have been recorded by the magistrate only in respect of 15 victims. Thus, statements of 19 more victims are yet to be recorded. "Almost all the victims in these incidents, covered under the three FIRs, are tribals. However, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act has not been invoked in any of the cases. As a result of this, the due monetary relief under the SC/ST (PoA) Act has not been paid to the victims," it added. P

The Commission said it has directed the DIG (Investigation) to depute a team of officials from the Investigation Division and Law Division to record the statements of 15 victims whose statements were not recorded either by the NHRC Team or by the Magistrate u/s 164 CrPC and submit the same to the Commission within one month.

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"The Additional Director General of Police (CID), government of Chhattisgarh has been directed to get the statements of 19 more victims u/s 164 CrPC recorded before the Magistrate and forward the same to the Commission within one month," it added.

The Additional Director General of Police (CID) has also been directed to ensure that SC/ST (PoA) Act is invoked in all the cases the victims belonged to Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes, the Commission said. The Chief Secretary has been directed to ensure that monetary relief, if any, under the SC/ST (PoA) Act is paid to the victims at the earliest, the NHRC added. The Commission has also made it clear that the above directions are of "interim nature and a final view will be taken in respect of other victims and also with regard to other issues involved in this matter in due course of time".

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"It was reported that women from five villages Pegdapalli, Chinnagelur, Peddagelur, Gundam and Burgicheru had alleged that state police personnel had sexually harassed and assaulted more than 40 of them and gangraped at least two in Bijapur district," it added. The news report depicted other "brutalities" of the security forces also. Considering the gravity of the allegations and brutality of sexual violence upon hapless women, the matter was considered by the full bench of the Commission on February 22 last year. The Investigation Team of the Commission recorded statements of several persons including the security personnel and some of the victims.

"The Team could not however, record the statements of all the victims that were mentioned in the three FIRs in question because of the time constraint, prevailing security situation, non-availability of victims and physical barriers," the NHRC added.

(Feature image source: PTI)