National Human Rights Commission
RE: CASE # 541/33/3/2011 + 610/33/3/2011-OC
This is regarding our earlier complaints to NHRC in October and November 2011, regarding the custodial torture and sexual violence against Soni Sori, the reference numbers for which are as given above (copy of acknowledgement from NHRC enclosed). Presently Soni is in Raipur Central Jail in Chhattisgarh, after suffering brutal custodial torture, including sexual violence, by several policemen inside the Dantewada Police Station(copy of 3 letters to NHRC from citizens enclosed).
It may be recalled that Soni Sori is an adivasi school teacher from Dantewada, who had come to Delhi to escape harassment by the Chhattisgarh police and file a legal complaint against them for fabricating false cases against her of being a maoist supporter. She was arrested on October 4th and transferred back to Chhattisgarh before her petition could be filed before the Supreme Court. While in police custody in Dantewada, she was sexually tortured by the Chhattisgarh police on October 8/9th, under the orders of the then-Superintendent of Police, Ankit Garg. She was verbally abused, stripped naked, electric current was applied to her body parts, and stones, pebbles, batons etc. were shoved into her private parts.
Such barbaric behaviour by police had been foreseen even before Ms. Sori was taken into custody and had been clearly placed before the Sessions Court and High Court in Delhi, when her custody was sought by the Chhattisgarh police. In consideration of her well-grounded apprehensions about her safety in hands of the Chhattisgarh police, the Delhi High Court issued directions to them to ensure her safety while in their custody and had specifically ordered the Commissioner of Police in Chhattisgarh to file an affidavit in the Delhi High Court outlining steps taken to keep her safe. But, in what can only be termed to be an act of flagrant contempt of court and of all constitutional safeguards, the Chhattisgarh police brutally tortured her for the two days she was in their custody.
A special medical examination at NRS Medical College Hospital Kolkata, ordered by the Supreme Court after senior advocates and human rights activists filed a writ petition on Soni Sori’s behalf, has unearthed irrefutable evidence of custodial violence and sexual torture. Yet, Soni Sori has been consistently denied proper medical care. No action has been initiated against the SP; on the contrary he was awarded the President’s Gallantry Award in January 2012.
A team of women that had visited Raipur in January to meet her was shunted around by the officials and denied permission to meet her, which is a violation of her rights as a prisoner. Her repeated complaints of ill-health have also not been attended to properly, and she is not receiving proper medical care and treatment, which is yet another violation of prisoners’ rights. Not only are they not being attended to, there is an attempt to dismiss them by saying that she is making them up, that she is a `malingerer’.
Recent reports from her lawyer who visited her on 26th April are alarming and a cause of great concern to us. She appears to be suffering from several ailments arising from the injuries inflicted upon her in custody, and her health condition has significantly deteriorated. In addition, she has said that she was taunted by the doctors and not given proper treatment when she was taken to the hospital in Raipur (copy of letter from lawyerenclosed).
Such custodial violence and brazen disregard of the constitutional safeguards is of grave concern, especially when meted out by the protectors of the law. If ignored and left unpunished, it sets dangerous precedents for the democratic fabric of the country. We seek your urgent intervention in this regard.
We urge you to take this matter up and intervene to ensure that Soni Sori’s rights as an under-trial prisoner are not violated, that she is given prompt and due medical care and treatment, and moved to a safe place, in consultation with her through her lawyers, where the policemen cannot interfere with the course of justice (copy of letters from Soni Sori enclosed).
We demand the following actions immediately by the NHRC:
i. NHRC must enquire into the allegations by Soni Sori of custodial torture while in police custody on the night of 8th – 9th October 2011.
ii. NHRC must ensure that she immediately gets medical attention in a way that her dignity is not violated and so that her acute medical condition is not trivialized.
iii. NHRC must ensure that her other rights as an under-trial are not violated, and that friends and relatives be permitted to meet her.
iii. Punitive action must be initiated against SP Ankit Garg and other police officials involved in her custodial torture.
iv. NHRC must re-state firmly the guidelines and safeguards instituted to ensure safety of the other under-trials and many innocent tribals currently detained in jails in several parts of the country.
Dr Uma Chakravarti, SAHELI
Sudha Sundararaman, AIDWA
1. Communication from NHRC dt December 8 2011 assigning complaint number
2. 3 petitions to NHRC from citizens, dated 20.11.2011, 18.10.2011, and 10.10.11, seeking action on the custodial torture of Soni Sori
3. Communication from Soni Sori’s lawyer in Raipur after meeting her on 26.04.12
4. Two of the several letters written by Soni Sori to the Supreme Court and her lawyer.
- Immediate Release-Reading Soni Sori’s Letters from Prison – Video Montage Marks International Women’s Day (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- Activists like Aruna Roy, Jean Dreze write to PM demanding medical attention for Soni Sori (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- Soni Sori’s “Crime” in the Land of the Robber Barons (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- Chidambaram promises action in Soni Sori case (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- Human Rights Watch writes to PMO re Soni Sori’s case (kractivist.wordpress.com)