The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in India has served notice to the Government of Andhra Pradesh through its Chief Secretary over arrests made when former President Mahinda Rajapaksa visited India in 2014.
According to The Hindu newspaper, the Government of Andhra Pradesh has been directed to pay a compensation of Indian Rs. 20,000 to the complainant S. Gunasekaran, Bureau Chief of Sun TV Network, operating from Salem.
The incident involved a group of journalists from Tamil Nadu who had reached Tirumala on December10 , 2014, to cover the high-profile visit of the then Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The visit assumed importance for journalists as several regional parties and splinter groups had announced to express protest by waving black flags at Mr. Rajapaksa’s entourage. Ahead of the event, several scribes, including Mr. Gunasekaran, were taken into custody by the Tirupati Urban police along with many other agitators under section 15 of Cr.P.C. He approached the NHRC over his ‘illegal detention’ for more than seven hours.
In his reply to the show cause notice in September 2015, the Director-General of Police had faulted the scribe for not disclosing his identity, a theory which was rejected by the NHRC.
The NHRC observed thus: “While making arrest under Section 15 of Cr.P.C., the police officer has to exercise discretion. He can not make indiscriminate arrest. If media persons covering a particular event are also arrested along with trouble makers, such arrest will amount to infringement of freedom of speech guaranteed under the Constitution of India.”
The Commission also took a dig at the excuse given by the Superintendent of Police that the scribe did not disclose his identity, by remarking, “Only a naïve person can believe this explanation.”
The NHRC asked the Chief Secretary to submit a compliance report along with proof of payment within six weeks. (Colombo Gazette)