Yesterday was World Torture Day. While there is no need to explain the prevalence of torture in our country, I’d like to use this opportunity to show the attitude of the Courts towards this grave violation. This I’d do by critiquing the case of Masooda Parveen v. Union of India, the judgment which was announced in May this year.

The deceased and husband of the petitioner, Ghulam Mohi-uddin Regoo was one day taken by 17 Jat Regiment soldiers an  brutally tortured. The reason that the wife and most witnesses gave was because he had refuse to pay an extortion fee to the soldiers. The petitioner alleged that her husband was tortured to death by the army and later his body was returned in pieces to her. The explanation given by the Army was that he was leading them to a hideout which was blown up the moment he reached there with the soldiers. Surprisingly no soldier was injured by the blast and the only fatality was Ghulam’s death. Ghulam’s wife, Masooda filed a petition before the Court demanding compensation and a job on “compassionate grounds.”

The Army said that Ghulam was a militant so no ordinary law would apply to them in this regard. They went on further to say that since Ghulam was a militant, Masooda would have to suffer for her husband’s wrongdoing. The Army’s rationale was readily accepted by the Supreme Court which stated that since there is ‘no evidence to say that he was not a militant, so he is presumed one’. It indirectly stated that if the Army identifies a person as a militant he is one until proved otherwise. There was no evidence produced by the Army to support this notion and nothing on record about Ghulam’s mode of death. From what I understand, in a petition for habeas corpus, it is upon the state to show that death was incidental and it is all the more onerous on the state to show so. It further stated,

“We are not unmindful of the fact that prompt action by the army in such matters is the key to success and any delay can result in leakage of information which would frustrate the very purpose of the army action.”

So the Court has violated the ruling in Naga People’s Movement v. Union of India, and given an upper hand to the Army to indulge in such nefarious activities. These are troubled times for the judiciary. An organ that is supposed to be a guardian of human rights and injustices disappoints us by relying on irrational convictions. The support of the Army by the judiciary is unprecedented as is evident in this case. The judicial sanction of torture in the name of national security is a pandora’s box in its true sense. Absolute power corrupts, its usage without any checks is the cornerstone of evil. This time Ghulam was picked up and killed, tomorrow its going to be someone else. The matter could have also been simply resolved by given compensation on compassionate grounds and not accepting guilt as asked for by Masooda. But the Army argued otherwise and now a bad precedent has been set. So we should now be prepared for more people to be branded as terrorists by the Army.

This case did not get the publicity that a situation like Jessica Lal got. It is a reflection of what we Indians think of such instances. ‘We don’t care is someone is blown up into pieces. We would like a rapist to get a death sentence. Kashmiris are likely to be terrorists so they deserve it.”

Such notions are bad publicity. Human rights concerns are non existent in a majority of Indians. For them, torture is good if a person is caught. But what if the person might not be a terrorist? I used to admire Dershowitz a lot. Lately he stated something to the effect that torture is good if it produced desired results (don’t know for sure). I am losing faith in the system. There is injustice everywhere. Right from my college to international issues. To what extent can one stand all this is the question? Do I just sit and watch or is there something I can do?

 

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