31 yr wait for justice may have eroded Hashimpura massacre victims' faith in state machinery: HC
The 31 year wait for justice may have eroded the faith of victims of 1987 Hashimpura massacre in the state machinery, the Delhi High Court said Wednesday, observing that it was "too little, too late" for the families of those killed.
A bench of Justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel reversed the acquittal verdict of the trial court and sentenced ex-Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel to life imprisonment for murdering "unarmed", "innocent" and "defenceless" persons in "cold blood".
"We are conscious that for the families of those killed, this is perhaps too little, too late. They have had to wait for 31 years for justice. The monetary compensation they have received cannot make up for the lives lost. This case points to the systemic failure that results, not infrequently, in a miscarriage of justice," the bench said.
Senior advocate Rebecca John, representing the victims, said they have received over Rs 1 lakh each as compensation.
The court was informed by the counsel for National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) that many of the victims are illiterate and dependant women whose husbands were killed and merely having a compensation scheme would not serve the purpose unless the persons entitled to it are made aware of their rights.
Therefore, merely having a scheme for compensation under Section 357-A of the CrPC would not serve the purpose unless the persons entitled to compensation are made aware of their rights and are able to access the compensation scheme, the counsel had said.
The court recommended that every State Legal Services Authority should designate a nodal officer to address the needs of the victims' families in the case of custodial killings or state excesses.
"The procedure put in place should ensure that such victims or the families are able to access and seek relief under the scheme and that such relief should not be limited to monetary compensation but other range of reliefs respecting the rights to basic survival and dignity of such families," it said.
The bench said the relatives of the victims who died as a result of the brutal and bone-chilling action of the PAC remained in the dark about not only the fate of the victims themselves, but also about the steps taken to investigate the case and unearth the truth.
"Indeed, their 31 years of waiting for justice may have eroded their faith in the State machinery. The victims who disappeared on May 22, 1987 never returned.
"Even those dead bodies which were fished out from the canal were not returned to their families," it said.
It noted that the injured eye-witnesses have spoken in one voice and although they have not been able to identify the accused, they have spoken clearly about how the incident happened.
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