New Delhi, August 21
The Supreme Court today asked the Punjab and Haryana High Court to look into rehabilitation of the Dalit victims of Mirchpur village in Hisar district. About 150 families had fled the village following an attack on them in April 2010.
The apex court’s Social Justice Bench comprising Justices MB Lokur and UU Lalit passed the order while transferring a public interest litigation filed by the victims to the HC. The Bench pointed out that the Haryana Government had accepted the recommendations of the Justice Iqbal Singh Commission, which had gone into the violence and the relief work, and decided to place it in the state Assembly as required under the Inquiry Commission Act.
Tara Chand, a 70-year-old Dalit, and his physically-challenged teenage daughter were killed in the violence by a mob that set ablaze the houses of the Balmiki community on April 21, 2010.
Appearing for the state, advocate Nupur Choudhary said the inquiry commission had acknowledged in its report that the government had compensated the victims in excess of their entitlement under the SC/ST Atrocities Prevention Act and did not have to do anything more.
The state had spent more than Rs 20 crore on them, she said. The Bench wanted to dispose of the PIL in view of the commission’s report, but senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, arguing for the victims, pleaded that the SC should ensure the resettlement of his clients who were not in a position to return to their village as they feared for their lives.
After hearing the case for over five years, the apex court should not leave the victims at the mercy of the government, he said.
At this, the Bench asked the victims to file a fresh PIL in the HC. Gonsalves pleaded that the poor victims who were staying in make-shift camps did not have the means to file a fresh case. Accepting the contention, the Bench transferred the PIL pending with it to the HC, but clarified that the HC would deal only with rehabilitation.
A trial court in Delhi had convicted 15 of the 97 persons charged with the assault on the Dalits. Three of them were given life sentence, while five got imprisonment for varying periods up to five years. Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau let off the remaining seven convicts on probation for one year. The convicts have gone to the Delhi HC in appeal.
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