Before he died of brain haemorrhage (and not cardiac arrest as the papers incorrectly claimed), Aman Satya Kachroo wrote a note about who beat him up. In the note he named the four accused who are all now in jail. The note reads like a dying declaration and is signed by 12 witnesses. It seems unlikely that even one of the 12 witnesses will have the courage to say in court that they saw the lynching happening before their eyes. Even as they came down to Gurgaon for the cremation, they must have been getting calls from their parents, ‘Beta, just say you didn’t see anything. Why get into these court hassles and potential threats from the families of the accused?’
Even so, the evidence against the four is probably the strongest ever and with the state government determined to punish the accused, it is only a matter of time before they are given rigorous imprisonment. They evidence may not have been so strong had Rohit Dhar, Aman Kachroo’s uncle who reached there as soon as he was informed of the death, allowed Dr Suresh Sankhyan to conduct the post-mortem and write the crucial post-mortem report. Sankhyan who? Same gentleman who happened to be the principal of the college, the same gentleman who didn’t take action over the repeated ragging complaints from freshers! Having presided over a fresher’s death, he wanted to write the post-mortem. Well, because this was the only medical college in Tanda. Mr Dhar must be lauded that even in a state of grief he had the presence of mind to drive the body to Dharamshala and made sure three doctors did the post-mortem.
However, the police in Kangra have another problem at hand. They don’t mind arresting the Suresh Sankhyan, but they don’t know what provision of the law they can do so under! The Supreme Court said in 2001 that principals will be held responsible for not being able to curb ragging, but in 2009 the Himachal Pradesh police don’t know under what provision they can arrest former principal Sankhyan. This is a classic example of how Public Interest Litigation is not, is NOT, a substitute for legislation, notification of laws and setting up a due legal procedure from the police station upwards. That’s not at all a fault of the courts though – why doesn’t Himachal Pradesh have an anti-ragging law? Actually, it did pass an ordinance in 1992 and has elapsed since no one bothered to pass it as a law. The ordinance had a provision against principals and wardens who do not curb ragging: jail for six months. If only this ordinance had back then been made into a law, Sankhyan could have been arrested and a strong message sent out to obstinate Principal types across the country whose wont it is to think that they are the law.
That is the story of anti-ragging legislation at the Himachal Pradesh level. At the central level, a hitherto unreported fact has emerged, which is that the Supreme Court of India did ask, orally, the central government to pass an anti-ragging law in the ongoing suo moto PIL. This was reported yesterday in the Indian Express by Manish Chibber:
…the Union Human Resource Development Ministry has never shown eagerness to come up with a law at the national level.
The Home Ministry too didn’t act on a suggestion of the Supreme Court which, in May 2007, wanted a section to be added to the Indian Penal Code (IPC), making ragging a punishable offence…
…a bench of the apex court had said that apart from ragging, abetment to ragging, criminal conspiracy to rag, causing injury, wrongful confinement, use of force, assault as well as sexual offences should also be included in such a section of the IPC. It also wanted the burden of proof in ragging cases to lie on the accused — not the victim.
Sources in the Home Ministry said that “preliminary discussions” were held on an anti-ragging law after the apex court ruling but “nothing concrete” followed as senior Ministry officials felt that the Supreme Court guidelines were “adequate in dealing with the problem.” The issue was also discussed with state governments to elicit views and to push them to bring about their own anti-ragging laws. Other than a few states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal, most don’t have anti-ragging laws. [Link]
So we have a bizarre situation where the Supreme Court wants the Government to to amend the IPC to make ragging an offence, but the Government feels the Supreme Court orders are enough. Will these lazy bureaucrats please hang their heads in shame?
And not just in the home and HRD ministries but also in the states. The RK Raghavan committee mentions in its report that while seven states have so far passed anti-ragging laws, only two, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have notified them. In other words, Maharashtra, Kerala, West Bengal, Assam and Chhattisgarh have not even cared to notify their laws, so they remain pieces of paper. This is the height of bureaucratic indifference. So many bureaucrats, so many governments, have been this efficient.
The committee report also notes, “In terms of the purpose of the various State laws, we find that other than the Chhattisgarh Act, no other State legislation is intended to prevent ragging – the others only seek to prohibit.” See pages 21 and 22 of the report, as well as the tabulur analysis of the seven state laws in pages 182-183 (2 MB .pdf file here).
We need an all-India anti-ragging law. The Parliament of India has to pass it. NOW.
There’s a candlelight vigil, be there or elsewhere:
Location: Jantar Mantar, Delhi
Time: 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Date: Satarday, 14th March