Mangaluru: A People’s Tribunal comprising retired Justice V Gopala Gowda, BT Venkatesh and Sugata Srinivasaraju was formed to conduct public hearings to hear from those who were affected by the police firing on December 19 during violent Mangaluru CAA protests and to report on the observations made by it.

In its report, the tribunal said that the action of the police personnel seem to violate significant limitations on their powers, as provided for in the Karnataka Police Manual. The tribunal further pressed for constitution of a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to probe the incident.

The tribunal had heard testimonies from victims, victims’ families, families of the deceased, media, doctors and hospital administrators. The testimonies helped the tribunal to ascertain the nature of the events that transpired on December19.

The tribunal had also collected copies of the complaints lodged by the aggrieved, video footage, photos, medical records, and other material evidence to check the veracity of the claims made regarding the violence.

 

The panel has observed that imposition of prohibitory orders under section 144 of CrPC was unwarranted and its imposition on the evening of December 18 was not effectively communicated to the residents of the area.

It also stated that after the imposition of the prohibitory orders, permission that was earlier granted was subsequently revoked/cancelled but the same was not effectively communicated. As a result of a complete breakdown of communication, civilians who had no connection with the protest were subjected to indiscriminate lathicharge and police firing.

It is said that the testimonies of the victims presented before the tribunal displayed a complete abdication of responsibility by the cops present at the site of violence.

One of the main responsibilities of police officials, as stipulated in Chapter 1 (Code of Conduct of the Karnataka State Police Force) is to uphold the rights of citizens in accordance with the Constitution of India. As a result, the police officials must "respect the limitations of their power and functions," said the report.

Apart from failing to issue warnings to the public before the lathicharge and firing commenced, victims and other eyewitness have alleged that police present in the area used communal slurs and used deplorable language in order to provoke the protestors.

The statements of former mayor Ashraf and Afnan detail the use of communal slurs and abusive language by police authorities, who were tasked with maintaining law and order.

The report says that one of the main reasons cited by the Mangalore City Police to justify the use of extreme force against civilians was the supposedly "grave" damage caused to the MM Kini Rifle Shop and attempts to storm Bander Police Station by members of the public.

According to reports, this has also been mentioned in some of the FIRs registered.  However, CCTV footage regarding either of these events has not been furnished by the authorities despite repeated requests by the families of the victims.

The report speaks on behalf of the families and said, "Victims have suffered immense financial hardship as a result of the atrocities committed on 19th December." Given the allegations of communalism against the police in question and the palpably disproportionate use of force, it is clear that the state and the officials in question are jointly liable for such transgressions.

Referring to Article 2 of The Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials which states that law enforcement officials must respect human rights norms and uphold human dignity at all times, the report said that such words ring hollow in the context of the events of December 19 and the manner in which extreme force was used against civilians.

Proportionality is an important aspect of the use of force in the context of policing unlawful assemblies.

Regarding the maintenance of the rule of law, it is imperative that extra-judicial killings are thoroughly investigated. The Supreme Court in the case of People’s Union for Civil Liberties vs State of Maharashtra & Ors has laid down important guidelines to ensure independent investigation of such killings.