Rehabilitation for Delhi Violence Victims a Must: Justice Patnaik 

Justice Patnaik visited Shiv Vihar & Mustafabad Eidgah relief camps with ex-SC judges Kurian Joseph & Vikramjit Sen.

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India
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Justice AK Patnaik (R) speaks to <b>The Quint</b> after a visit to NE Delhi along with ex-SC judges Kurian Joseph (L) and Vikramjit Sen (C).
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Following a late night visit to a relief camp, former Supreme Court judge Justice AK Patnaik has emphasised the need for rehabilitation of the victims of the violence that swept northeast Delhi, and urged the Delhi government to appoint a special commissioner to ensure they get adequate compensation.

“Just monetary compensation will not do,” said Justice Patnaik, adding that, “Someone has to go there and see that proper rehabilitation is done – that is the proper course of action for the government.”

On the evening of Thursday, 6 March, three former judges of the apex court – Justices Kurian Joseph and Vikramjit Sen were the other two – visited Shiv Vihar, one of the areas which was engulfed by the communal violence from 23-27 February. They also met displaced persons at the relief camp that has been set up in Mustafabad’s Eidgah.

Explaining why the three retired judges went to the disturbed area, Justice Patnaik said they didn’t go to come up with some kind of report – the idea was for them to get some first-hand information about how the violence had taken place, and what needed to be done now.

“We don’t intend to file a report or anything. We went out of our own concern, to find out what really happened, and assess the situation. We have been judges, and we thought it was important to make a first-hand assessment of what really happened. We had heard all the discussions on television but these didn’t present a clear picture, and there’s been no proper discussion in Parliament yet either.”
Justice AK Patnaik

‘Mostly Muslim Properties Damaged’

Based on what they saw in Shiv Vihar, and their discussions with people from both communities there, he said that it was mostly Muslim properties which have been damaged by fire in the riot-hit areas. They were also told by witnesses and the displaced Muslim families in the relief camps that the violence was perpetrated by outsiders, not locals.

“The attacks happened basically on Muslim properties: houses, a madrasa, all these things. It appears from their talk that some people came from outside and did that for two-three days. They attacked, looted and went away. They came from outside, people from both communities are saying.”
Justice AK Patnaik

Justice Patnaik was one of the judges who was part of the Supreme Court’s special bench which looked into the 2G cases, and has headed several apex court-appointed inquiries, including into the allegations against former CBI director Alok Verma as well as the claims of a conspiracy to blackmail former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and fix benches of the court.

Loss of Confidence in Police

He told The Quint that the judges found the relief camp at Mustafabad – which has been set up by the Waqf Board and the Delhi Minorities Commission – was operational, with medicines being provided to the victims, as was assistance by the Delhi Legal Services Authority.

However, in addition to the loss of their homes, shops and belongings, the displaced persons in the Mustafabad camp – all Muslims – had lost faith in the police to protect them.

“There are sufficient police now in the areas these people came from. But still they are very insecure to go, because perhaps they feel that the police weren’t able to protect them. We can’t be sure of the police’s role in the violence without a proper inquiry, but people have lost confidence in the police.”
Justice AK Patnaik

It was necessary, therefore, for the police to undertake confidence-building measures among the communities affected by the violence.

‘This Was Not a Riot’

While he clarified that the three ex-SC judges were not entirely clear who was responsible for the violence, he said that it would be wrong to characterise what had happened as a riot.

“The attackers came as if to do a particular job, and then they went – it’s not a riot between the communities staying there,” he explained. “Some people had come from outside and they have attacked, targeted houses, looted and gone by the time the police came.”

‘Relief is Going On, Next Step is Rehabilitation’

The most important thing at this time, Justice Patnaik stressed, was for there to be proper efforts for rehabilitation of the victims of the violence.

“All the properties that have been damaged – these aren’t rich people, they’re poor or middle-class people. We have to look at how to restore their houses, they’re in ruins, gutted in the fires. The government should come and see that it’s not just about compensation, but rehabilitation as well. Relief is going on, next step is rehabilitation.”
Justice AK Patnaik

This is about more than compensation, he explained, as rehabilitation is about more than just announcing some compensation amount and being done. He said that it was essential for the state government, ie, the Delhi government to set up a compensation office there, with an officer on the ground to receive all applications for compensation.

“They must go to the field to assess the property damage and decide how much compensation is required. Just saying compensation without application of mind doesn’t mean anything, it may not be paid to the right person also. They must check the actual damage, identify the buildings that are damaged, and ensure proper compensation is given for rehabilitation.”
Justice AK Patnaik

He suggested that the Delhi government should appoint a special commissioner for relief and rehabilitation to carry out this role, in line with practice followed in other states. Once given the brief, this person can then monitor the relief and rehabilitation efforts, and ensure victims get what they need.

‘Take Steps to Ensure This Does Not Recur’

Justice Patnaik clarified that the three former judges had not yet spoken to the central or state governments about their findings.

“We have not talked to anyone. We just saw and came back. We saw that people are now fine. This is my opinion: This should be prevented in future and trust should be built. They should be rehabilitated, and this should not recur.”
Justice AK Patnaik

He also urged the police to properly investigate the violence, and take action against those responsible.

“The police should now be able to find out who was responsible for this,” he said, noting that this was important to prevent such violence from taking place again.

“Find out and take action, irrespective of which community they belong to. That has to be done, otherwise things will happen again in the future.”
Justice AK Patnaik

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