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    Posted on 10 October 2012
    CURRENT AFFAIRS  
    CHHATTISGARH

    NCW first shuts, then reopens Soni Sori’s case

    Despite repeated appeals by women’s rights organisations to look into Sori’s case, NCW had turned a blind eye to the issue

    Shazia Nigar
    New Delhi

    In a shocking revelation over the Soni Sori case, the National Commission for Women (NCW) on Wednesday 10 October claimed that it had shut its own inquiry into the matter. The decision came to light when around 60 activists had gathered at the NCW office on Delhi’s Deen Dayal Upadhayay Marg on Wednesday to push for action in the Soni Sori case. Soni Sori, 36, is a tribal school teacher from Chhattisgarh, who was arrested on 4 October 2011 by the Delhi Crime Branch and the Chhattisgarh Police on charges of being a “Maoist on the run.”


    Explaining its decision, NCW member secretary Charu Wali Khanna said, “Since this matter is sub judice in the Supreme Court, it will not be proper for us to intervene.” Curiously, the NCW did not bother to convey its decision to Saheli, the women’s rights group that is the main complainant in the case. However, after the activists pointed out the provisions of the NCW Act, which empowers the commission to intervene and/or assist in any pending case, the commission agreed to reopen and pursue the Soni Sori case. The decision to shut the case was taken on 4 October.

    Ironically, when Sori was battling charges of being a “Naxalite accomplice”, the Maoists attacked her father’s house and shot him in the leg. She is currently being tried under IPC section 121 (waging war against the state); 120 (B) (conspiracy); 124(A) (sedition); section 39(1) and 40 of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (offence related to contributing to terrorist activity and raising funds for terrorist activity). While in jail, Sori had been sexually tortured following which the Supreme Court had ordered a Special Medical Board to look into her treatment and ascertain the charges that have been slapped on her.

    Reacting to the development, Kavita Krishnan, president of All India Progressive Womens Association, who was present at the protest, said, “The NCW is empowered suo moto to take up its own investigation, assist in court and set up a fact finding team. Its decision to shut the case on grounds of the matter being sub judice does not stand.”

    When women’s groups had approached the NCW regarding the case in September this year, Hemlata Kheria, member-in-charge of Chhattisgarh, was not even aware of Sori's troubles. It was only then that the NCW realised that an Action Taken Report given by the Chhattisgarh Police had been lying with them since February. However, this is not the only ground on which the NCW has failed Sori. When Sori had been admitted in All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi after having suffered sexual torture in custody, women's groups had approached the NCW to meet her once. The NCW had refused then. Sori had also written a letter to the NCW, apart from activists and academicians, pleading for support. That too was ignored.

    Saheli activist Kalpana Mehta, who had met members of the NCW regarding the case before, said, “We first requested the NCW to intervene in the matter on 10 October 2011, as soon as there was news of Soni Sori being tortured. It has been one year and yet no action has been taken.” Women's groups had met the NCW on at least five other occasions as well. However, no action was taken by the NCW.

    The question that remains unanswered is if the NCW can reopen the case now, it clearly had the option of doing so earlier. On being asked why the NCW didn't act before, Charu Wali Khanna chose to walk out of the room.

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    Posted on 10 October 2012
 

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