Tribal school teacher Soni Sori who was accused of helping maoists was granted permanent bail by Supreme Court. She can visit Chhattisgarh again, after removal of an earlier restraint order put against her.
Soni, who hails from Dantewada was arrested by the Delhi Police crime branch on behalf of the Chhattisgarh police in 2011.
During her imprisonment, she has claimed, that she tortured and sexually assaulted by Chhattisgarh police. By April 2013, the apex court acquitted her in six of the eight cases against her due to lack of any substantial evidence.
The first arrest warrants against Sori, her husband and nephew were issued in 2010 for allegedly attacking Congress leader Avdesh Gautam who escaped unhurt.
“Giving electric shocks, stripping me naked, shoving stones inside me – is this going to solve the Naxal problem,” she had once asked in a letter to the Supreme Court.
In her many letters, Sori complained of bad health and being denied sustenance.
Human rights activists insisted that Sori was jailed for questioning violations of law by the police and security forces in the state.
The case so far:
On 9 September 2011, Chhattisgarh Police stated that they had prevented an exchange of extortion money from the Essar Group to the Maoist group CPI (Maoist).
Earlier, WikiLeaks had also revealed that the Essar Group pays a significant amount of protection money to Maoists to safeguard its operations in the state.
Despite Soni Sori’s statement to a court that she feared for her safety, she was transferred to the custody of Chhattisgarh state police in Dantewada. She was then interrogated on October 8 and 9, during which time she alleges that she was stripped naked and tortured with electric shocks at the orders of then-district police superintendent Ankit Garg.
On January 8, 2013, Supreme Court of India allowed Sori’s request for shifting from the Raipur Central Jail to the Jagdalpur Jail. Court recorded that she had been shifted to the Raipur
Central Jail on her own request. Sori had complained of sexual harassment from jail officials at the Raipur prison.
The Chhattisgarh government submitted to the Supreme Court of India that the entire allegation was being orchestrated by certain vested interests to malign the Chhattisgarh Police.
In January 2012, Human Rights Watch called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to launch an independent probe, criticising the failure of the Chhattisgarh government to begin an investigation and the lack of inquiries by the national government.
Amnesty International stated that it considered Sori a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned for her critique of human rights violations by both Maoist rebels and Indian state forces. On International Women’s Day 2012 (March 8), it launched a campaign calling for her unconditional release and an investigation into her torture allegations
A group of 250 activists and intellectuals wrote to Prime Minister Singh on April 30 expressing concern over Sori’s “rapidly deteriorating” condition in prison and demanding that she receive immediate medical attention.
After being refused by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences the previous day, Sori was later admitted to the hospital on May 10 for treatment. She was found to be suffering from severe blisters in her genital area, and a government inquiry was instituted to learn why the hospital had initially refused her.
Page No.1 of 4
ITEM NO.1 COURT NO.9 SECTION IIA
S U P R E M E C O U R T O F I N D I A
RECORD OF PROCEEDINGS
Petition(s) for Special Leave to Appeal (Crl) No(s).7898/2013
(From the judgment and order dated 08/07/2013 in MCRC
No.2806/2013 of the HIGH COURT OF CHHATTISGARH AT BILASPUR)
LINGARAM KODOPI Petitioner(s)
STATE OF CHHATISGARH Respondent(s)
(With office report)
SLP(Crl) NO. 7913 of 2013
(With appln.(s) for permission to file synopsis and list of
dates and office report)
Date: 12/11/2013 These Petitions were called on for hearing
HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE SURINDER SINGH NIJJAR
HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE FAKKIR MOHAMED IBRAHIM KALIFULLA
SLP(CRL.)7898/13 Mr. Prashant Bhushan, Adv.
Mr. Ramesh K. Mishra, Adv.
SLP(CRL.)7913/13 Mr. Colin Gonsalves, Sr. Adv.
Ms. Amiy Shukla, Adv.
Ms. Jyoti Mendiratta, Adv.
For Respondent(s) Mr. V.A. Mohta, Sr. Adv.
Mr. A.P. Mayee, Adv.
Ms. Bansuri Swaraj, Adv.
Mr. Sanjeev Kr. Choudhary, Adv.
Mr. Nilkant Nayak, Adv.
UPON hearing counsel the Court made the following
O R D E R
Although in view of our order, dated 1st
November, 2013, the relevant record has been
produced, but no responsible officer familiar
with the record, who could assist the Court
Page No.2 of 4
in examining the same is present. Only some
police officers who are unable to assist the
Court have produced the record.
Mr. V.A. Mohta, learned Senior Counsel
appearing for the State of Chhatisgarh, has
submitted that no officer could attend as they
are all on election duty. He, therefore, seeks
an adjournment for two weeks, so that the
concerned officer can attend the proceedings.
It has been stated by the learned counsel for
the petitioners that the petitioner-Lingaram
Kodopi- in Special Leave Petition (Criminal)
No.7898 of 2013 has been in custody since 9th
September, 2011 and the petitioner-Soni Sori in
Special Leave Petition (Criminal) No.7913 of 2013
has been in custody since 4th October, 2011. Since
it is going to take some time before a
responsible officer can be present in Court in
assisting the examination of the record, we are
of the opinion that it would be unjust to
continue the incarceration of the petitioners
during the pendency of the applications for bail.
We are also mindful of the fact that Soni Sori,
petitioner in Special Leave Petition (Criminal)
No.7913 of 2013 has been acquitted in five
earlier cases. Similarly, petitioner Lingaram
Kodopi in Special Leave Petition (Criminal)
No.7898 of 2013 was also acquitted in the ealier
Page No.3 of 4
matter. It has also been stated that B.K. Lala,
co-accused has also been granted bail on 4th
February, 2012. In these circumstances, we are
of the opinion that it would be appropriate to
direct that the petitioners be released on
interim bail during the pendency of the bail
applications. However, keeping in view the
submissions made by Mr. V.A. Mohta, learned
Senior Counsel appearing for the State of
Chhatisgarh, it would be in the interests of
justice to direct that the petitioners shall not
enter the State of Chhatisgarh during the period
in which they are granted interim bail. It is
At this stage, it has been brought to our
notice by Mr. Colin Gonsalves, learned Senior
Counsel appearing for the petitioner in Special
Leave petition (Criminal) No.7913 of 2013 and Mr.
Prashant Bhushan, learned counsel appearing for
the petitioner in Special Leave petition
(Criminal) No.7898 of 2013 that the petitioners
have not met their families for a long time and
it would be only humane if they are permitted to
meet their families before they travel to Delhi.
In view of the above, we direct the concerned
Senior Superintendent of Police to depute some
responsible police officers to escort the
petitioners to their respective villages so that
Page No.4 of 4
they can meet their families for a period of 24
hours. On the following day, the petitioners
shall be escorted to Delhi. They shall be
permitted to reside in any locality of their
choice in Delhi. Once the petitioners reach
Delhi, they are directed to report to the Incharge
of the local Police Station once a week.
They shall report to the In-charge of the local
Police Station every Sunday at 11.00 a.m.
Let the matters stand over till 3rd December,
We reiterate that it is necessary that some
responsible officer who is familiar with the
entire investigation should be present in Court
on the next date of hearing to explain the entire
record to the Court and also to clarify any
doubts which may be raised by the learned counsel
for the petitioners.
This order shall be faxed and communicated to
the Welfare Officer, Central Jail, Jagdalpur,
Chhatisgarh and the concerned authority today
itself for necessary action.
(INDU BALA KAPUR)
From The Hindu – November 13th 2013
The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted interim bail to Soni Sori, a tribal schoolteacher of Dantewada, and her relative, journalist Lingaram Kodopi, who are facing trial on the charge of having helped to arrange ‘protection money’ payoffs from steel giant Essar to Maoists in Chhattisgarh.
Ms. Sori and Mr. Kodopi were granted bail since the Chhattisgarh government did not produce an officer for assisting the court in examining the case records it had submitted earlier.
V.A. Mohta, senior counsel for Chhattisgarh, said none could be assigned as all officers were deployed on election duties.
The next hearing is scheduled for December 3, when the State is expected to file its reply.
Ms. Sori, 38, and Mr. Kodopi have been in jail for the past two years, facing multiple criminal charges, ranging from manslaughter to criminal conspiracy. Ms. Sori is alleged to have been tortured in police custody and is still suffering from multiple injuries. Mr. Kodopi, who played a decisive role in exposing the massacre of villagers at Tadmetla in Bijapur district, claims his life and career have been ruined.
Amiy Shukla, one of Ms. Sori’s lawyer, said Ms. Sori was acquitted in six of the eight cases filed against her. Her husband, Anil Futane, co-accused in another case, died during this time. The children separated from the family.
D.V.C.S. Verma, general manager at an Essar steel plant, and B.K. Lala, an Essar contractor, were also arrested. However, they were granted bail in the first few months of their arrest.
25 October, 2013
On Monday, 28th October, the Supreme Court of India will take up the bail petitions of Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi, adivasi prisoners in Chhattisgarh who have been incarcerated for more than two years. The arrest and the subsequent torture of Soni Sori in October 2011 drew international condemnation . Much less widely known has been the arrest the previous month of Sori’s nephew, Kodopi, who was also subjected to torture by the Chhattisgarh police .
False charges were subsequently foisted on both of them, with Sori being implicated in eight cases and Kodopi in two cases. Sori was acquitted in all but two of the cases and Kodopi in one of the two cases. Sori was also granted bail in one of the two remaining cases . The one remaining case against both of them relates to allegations of acting as a courier between Essar, a business conglomerate with steel manufacturing operations in Chhattisgarh, and the outlawed Maoist Communist Party of India. Though two other accused in this case, the general manager of the Essar operations in the state and a contract worker, were granted bail within months of their arrest, the trial court and the state High Court have denied Sori and Kodopi bail earlier this year  and it is their appeal against this decision that the Supreme Court is expected to hear on Monday.
Sori was arrested on October 4, 2011 in New Delhi, where she had gone seeking legal help, and taken by the Chhattisgarh police to Dantewada. As detailed in her letters from prison, she was tortured in police custody and sexually abused. Her allegations were substantiated by independent medical examinations conducted in Kolkata under the directions of the Supreme Court. While imprisoned in Raipur, she continued to face abuse and denial of medical care from the police and the jail authorities until the Supreme Court ordered that she be taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences for treatment [5,6].
Sori’s husband Anil Futane died last August 2nd, soon after being released from jail . He was arrested in July 2010 and accused of involvement in the attack on the home of Congress politician and contractor Avdesh Gautam. Sori, Kodopi and 14 others were also falsely implicated in this case but all of them were acquitted. According to other jail inmates, Futane was beaten so severely in the prison that he was paralyzed. They attribute his death to health complications resulting from torture and the failure of prison authorities to give him medical care.
Kodopi himself has undergone serious abuse and torture since his detention without charges in 2009, when he was locked up inside a toilet in a police station for 40 days. He was freed the following year only after the intervention of the Chhattisgarh High Court responding to a habeas corpus petition. Facing continued threats from the police and the Maoists, he went to Delhi where he studied journalism for a year. During his time in Delhi, he spoke out against the atrocities committed by the police on the Adivasi communities. Soon after he graduated from his journalism program in April 2011, he returned to Chhattisgarh where police and paramilitary forces had burnt down the villages of Morpalli, Timmapuram and Tadmetla, killed three people and raped three women. He documented the scenes of these crimes and recorded video testimonies of the survivors .
The cases of Sori and Kodopi are not isolated. Especially (but not exclusively) in Chhattisgarh, thousands of other prisoners are known to be held for years on spurious charges. The draconian provisions of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act enable the state police and other security officials to arrest and imprison anyone on dubious grounds, often to silence critical voices. Many of these prisoners are also known to undergo torture, sexual and other abuse at the hands of police and prison officials.
During her more than two years of incarceration, the Supreme Court of India has been the only institution from which Soni Sori has been able to get any judicial relief. We are hopeful, therefore, that this time too, the Supreme Court would decide in her and Kodopi’s favor and grant them bail. However, as we have pointed out many times and as corroborated by human rights organizations and groups such including PUCL, PUDR, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi deserve to be free. Now bereft of their father, Sori’s three young children need to be urgently reunited with their mother. Therefore, we reiterate our demand that the Chhattisgarh government
- Drop all charges against Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi
- Compensate them for all the suffering and cruelty inflicted on them,
- Conduct an impartial and expeditious investigation of all the cases of prisoners in the state and release all those facing spurious charges, and
- Punish the police and other officials responsible for carrying out torture and for filing spurious cases against them.
 They dared to speak up, but that’s not done in Chhattisgarh, Tehelka, 30 June, 2012. http://www.tehelka.com/they-dared-to-speak-up-but-thats-not-done-in-dantewada/
 Activist Soni Sori gets bail in one more case. The Hindu, 31 May, 2012. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-newdelhi/activist-soni-sori-gets-bail-in-one-more-case/article4767974.ece
 Soni Sori, Lingaram Kodopi denied bail by Chhattisgarh High Court, The Hindu, 8 July 2013. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/soni-sori-lingaram-kodopi-denied-bail-by-chhattisgarh-high-court/article4895096.ece
 The Government will kill me, Tehelka, 7 April, 2012. http://www.tehelka.com/the-government-will-kill-me/
 Reading Soni Sori’s Letters from Prison: An International Women’s Day Video Montage. https://iadhri.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/reading-soni-soris-letters-from-prison-an-international-womens-day-video-montage/
 Soni Sori’s Husband, Anil Futane, Passes Away, Tehelka, 3 August, 2013. http://www.tehelka.com/soni-soris-husband-anil-futane-passes-away/
 The very right of living in this country has been snatched from me, Tehelka, 4 May, 2012. http://archive.tehelka.com/story_main52.asp?filename=Ws040512country.asp
Republic Day of India, 2013
Calls for investigation and punishment of police officials Garg and Kalluri and withdrawal of their presidential medals
On January 26th, 2013, India celebrates its 64th Republic Day. The anniversary of the Indian Constitution’s adoption is always a time for not just celebration, but for reflection; a time to take stock of how far the nation has come in securing, for all its citizens, justice, liberty and equality as enshrined in the Constitution.
Over the last month, the rape and subsequent death of a young woman in Delhi – a particularly brutal incident, yet only one in an endless series of similar crimes that are reported, month after month, if they are reported at all – triggered international shock and outrage. The incident served as a stark reminder that, decades after the adoption of the Constitution, the liberty to live our lives without fear remains unsecured. For women in many communities across the country, especially those on the economic and social margins, such as dalits and adivasis, this insecurity permeates the fabric of day to day life – sexual assault, violence, imprisonment and threats thereof are commonplace. In any discussion of the questions that the gang-rape in Delhi raises, it is to these women and to these communities that we must look: the truest measure of a society lies in how it treats those who have the least power. None of us is safer or freer than the most vulnerable among us.
In the last few weeks, there has been much discussion on how to make sure that survivors of rape and violence receive justice consistently and rapidly. It is worth remembering, as these discussions take place, the spectacular failure of our judiciary and democratic processes in delivering justice to Soni Sori, the adivasi school teacher and mother of three from Chhattisgarh who has been incarcerated since October 2011 . A year ago this January 26th, India awarded the Police Medal for Gallantry to an officer, SP Ankit Garg, despite compelling medical evidence that Sori was tortured and sexually assaulted while under his custody .
This is not an isolated case, but part of a pattern of such incidents. In a bizarre repetition of last year’s act of rewarding-the-perpetrator, the Government of India has decided to confer the President’s Police Medal for Meritorious Service this Republic Day, January 26th 2013, to Inspector General of Police S.R.P. Kalluri, who has well-documented rape accusations against him in Chhattisgarh [3, 4].
Sori’s petition in the Supreme Court as well as the cases in which Sori has been falsely charged have been subject to repeated delays. In the interim, neither the elected Government, nor independent bodies such as the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the National Commission for Women (NCW), have instituted serious investigations into the indications that Sori was tortured- her fingers seem to have been blackened from electric shocks and doctors recovered stones that had been thrust into her vagina and rectum. Indeed, the NCW revealed last October that it had closed its inquiry into the case, and has remained silent since, apart from making an anodyne recommendation of providing psychological counseling to Sori . Although, on January 8th 2013, the Supreme Court granted Sori’s plea to be shifted to Jagdalpur jail, to be closer to her family , she remains in the custody of those who stand accused of torturing her.
Sori has spoken to a legal team of the humiliation and violence that she and other women prisoners are routinely subjected to. Besides this, jails in Chhattisgarh have an occupancy rate of around 256%, with 13,918 individuals incarcerated in space built to accommodate 5,430. The all-India rate is 110% . Between 2001-2010, an average of four individuals died each day in police custody .
What makes these statistics all the more disturbing is that a majority of those imprisoned are under-trials such as Sori, who have not been convicted of any crime. The prolonged detention of these individuals – often for years altogether, as their cases move sluggishly through the judicial system amounts to an unconstitutional deprivation of the liberty of lawfully innocent citizens.
Indeed, the state increasingly uses the process of trial as a punishment in itself, as in the case of Kartam Joga, a man who, for years, tirelessly sought accountability for human rights violations by state forces in Chhattisgarh. On January 7th, 2013, a trial court acquitted Joga of all of a panoply of fabricated charges ; an innocent man thus spent the past two and a half years of his life in jail. Lingaram Kodopi (Sori’s nephew), a 25-year old journalist who worked to document abuses by security forces, remains imprisoned, awaiting trial, even as local police officers have been recorded admitting that the charges against him are fabricated . Kodopi has also suffered custodial violence . Numerous others have been thus imprisoned on the weakest of grounds seemingly as punishment for criticising the state’s actions or for otherwise challenging local authorities. Although we welcome the release of Kartam Joga and others who have been put through similar ordeals, the state must cease its intimidation and harassment of those who seek to hold it accountable to its own people.
In the 2G spectrum case, the Supreme Court recently commented that “this court has time and again stated that bail is the rule and committal to jail an exception… The courts owe more than verbal respect to the principle that punishment begins after conviction, and that every man is deemed to be innocent until duly tried and duly found guilty” . This is a sound and practical principle; we ask that it be invoked not only in the trials of the influential but also in the trials of the weak and marginalized.
If we are to continue to place our trust in the rights that the Constitution upholds and seeks to guarantee every citizen in India, if we are to address the deep-rooted issue of violence against women, then we must be able to ensure liberty and justice to those who are the most vulnerable in our societies. To that end, we demand:
Ensure a speedy, free and fair trials for Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi.
Conduct an independent and impartial investigation of incidents of sexual violence against women, including Soni Sori, committed by the police and other security forces; prosecute the responsible officers and impose exemplary punishment on those found guilty. Withdraw the Presidential Gallantry Awards given to Police Superintendent Ankit Garg and Inspector General of Police S.R.P. Kalluri.
Grant unconditional bail to undertrials from socially and economically marginalised communites, languishing in jails in Chhattisgarh and across India.
Ensure that all cases, particularly those against individuals from marginalised communities, are disposed of in a timely manner so that the process of securing justice is not a punishment in itself.
Constitute a grievance redressal mechanism for individuals who have been wrongly detained or subject to custodial violence.
International Alliance for the Defence of Human Rights in India (IADHRI)
 Tehelka: ‘The Inconvenient Truth Of Soni Sori’
 The Hindu: ‘Soni Sori case: HRW wants PM to order impartial probe on torture’
 Statement of protest and demand for withdrawal of Meritorious Service award to S.R.P. Kalluri
 Ledha Bai’s Statement Against S.R.P. Kalluri
Tehelka: ‘NCW first shuts, then reopens Soni Sori’s case’
 Press Trust of India: ‘SC allows Soni Sori to be shifted to Jagdalpur Central Jail’
National Crime Records Bureau: http://ncrb.nic.in/PSI-2011/TABLE-2.1.pdf
Tehelka: ‘Four custodial deaths daily over the last decade’
Amnesty International: ‘India frees prisoner of conscience Kartam Joga’
 Committee to Protect Journalists: ‘In India, imprisoned journalist’s plea for help’
 The Hindu: ‘‘Respect principle that punishment begins after conviction’’
Press Release: Women’s Delegation Meets President Pratibha Patil on Custodial Sexual Torture of Soni Sori
A delegation of women comprising of, Brinda Karat (M.P.), Annie Raja (NFIW), Uma Chakravarty, Vrinda Grover and Indira C, met with President Pratibha Patil today (14th May), and handed over a memorandum, detailing the gross violation of the human rights of tribal teacher, Soni Sori. The memorandum was also signed by Aruna Roy (MKSS), Kavita Srivastava (PUCL) and Vani S. on behalf of Saheli.
The delegation drew the attention of the President to the brutal custodial sexual torture inflicted on Soni Sori by the Chhattisgarh police and the medical report of Kolkata Hospital which had confirmed the same. The President expressed surprise when she heard that S.P. Ankit Garg, under whose direction the custodial sexual violence was alleged to have been inflicted, had received the President’s Gallantry award. The delegation suggested that an independent enquiry be initiated into the gallantry award given to S.P. Ankit Garg. The delegation also expressed apprehension that many other tribal women prisoners in Chhattisgarh jails had suffered similar violations.
The President heard the delegation attentively and assured them that she would write to the concerned governments and authorities.
The Memorandum submitted by the delegation is available here.
Finally, Soni has been admitted in AIIMS -with two women cops and one male cop on duty at her room.
Her lawyer, Colin went to see her. He says she seems weak and anemic, and is complaining of burning and pain in her stomach, burning and blisters in her genital area, and complained that the Hospital in Raipur didn’t treat her properly as per the recommendations of the NRS Hospital Kolkata.
We hope that AIIMS will examine and diagnose her with due diligence and treat her accordingly.
It is long overdue for Soni to get good medical care. Next step justice. Besides that, things that have happened are:
- Dr T N Seema, CPI (M), Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) raised the question in Parliament on what basis the admission was rejected at AIIMS, in whose custody Soni has been, why there has been no enquiry into her allegations and instead a gallantry award given to the SP Ankit Garg, etc today. Tribal Affairs Minister Kishore Chandra Deo has said he will look into the matter. So its a good piece of action.
- It is also clear that she was kept in police custody last night – THOUGH she should have been kept in judicial custody
- A letter was sent to the Home Minister seeking an explanation, and demanding that she be brought immediately to the hospital and admitted, as per the SC orders.
- Delegations have met the NCW and NHRC seeking that they at least take her statement – since they have done nothing else so far. But they are hiding behind the excuse that the matter is sub-judice. NHRC said they will discuss and decide whether they can do so. NCW has said they will see what interventions are now possible within their remit. We will follow both up.
Meanwhile, see The Hindu. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/article3403013.ece
Also, the PTI news piece (warning: it calls her a naxal sympathiser!): http://www.business-standard.com/generalnews/news/aiims-refusal-to-admit-naxal-sympathiser-to-be-probed-govt/6790/
– from concerned citizens
Soni Sori was taken in the early hours of 9th May from Raipur Central Jail to be brought to AIIMS, following the SC orders of 2nd May. However, she was not admitted there and as of late night of 9th, there was no information about her whereabouts!
Hospital authorities have cited various reasons for not admitting her: that their medical review board had not yet been constituted, that she was produced at AIIMS after 4.00 PM and therefore could not be admitted, etc. None of these are convincing because the Supreme Court order clearly states Soni Sori should be admitted, evaluated by the review board and treated as required at AIIMS itself, and all necessary arrangements for her stay be made.
Of course, concerns for Soni’s safety and well-being run very deep, because of the horrific experiences she has had with the Chattisgarh Police.
The government should ensure that Soni is brought to AIIMS immediately and the authorities at AIIMS should admit her. The authorities need to demonstrate firmly that they respect, and will abide by, the order of the Supreme Court without any further delay.
IADHRI Cautiously Welcomes Supreme Court Order To Bring Soni Sori to AIIMS for Independent Medical Treatment
May 8, 2012
The Supreme Court of India on May 2nd, 2012, ordered the government of Chhattisgarh to bring Soni Sori to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi for immediate and independent medical evaluation and treatment. The order came after a special hearing following reports of serious problems with Soni Sori’s health and complaints of denial of treatment by Chhattisgarh jail authorities. The International Alliance for the Defence of Human Rights in India (IADHRI) welcomes the Supreme Court order, but with serious reservations.
Prior to the Supreme Court hearing, IADHRI had submitted to the Prime Minister and other senior officials an open letter endorsed by more than 200 individuals, including Aruna Roy, Jean Dreze, Prof. Noam Chomsky and several other activists and other concerned individuals from around the world#. We have been distressed and extremely concerned about the unethical behaviour of doctors at the Raipur hospital, who have not taken her medical complaints seriously. The Supreme Court order validates our demand that Soni Sori should be given immediate access to health care outside of Raipur.
While we are hopeful that Soni Sori may finally receive at AIIMS the medical treatment that she has long needed, we also have several concerns:
Sori is going to be under the control of the Chhattisgarh police while undergoing evaluation and treatment at AIIMS. It is this same police who subjected her to severe torture and sexual abuse. As the Supreme Court observed in its order, the investigating authorities have not satisfactorily explained the discovery of stones lodged inside Sori’s private parts. And there has been no investigation until now to hold the responsible officials accountable. Therefore, in the same spirit in which the Supreme Court ordered independent medical examination and treatment for Soni Sori, it should also have entrusted her to the independent custody of the Delhi police.
We are also concerned because the Chhattisgarh police has a history of willful violations of Supreme Court orders. Of particular relevance here is the case of another adivasi woman, Sodi Sambho, who was a witness to a massacre committed by security forces on October 1, 2009, in the village of Gompad in Chhattisgarh. In January 2010, while she was en route to seek medical treatment at St. Stephen’s Hospital in Delhi for a bullet wound she had suffered during the massacre, Sodi was seized by the Chhattisgarh police and forcibly brought to AIIMS. This was in clear contravention of a Supreme Court order of January 7, 2010, which explicitly directed the police not to interfere with Sodi Sambho in any manner. The AIIMS security staff, in collusion with the Chhattisgarh police, prevented concerned citizens and those who had accompanied her from meeting with Sodi at AIIMS. Sodi’s current whereabouts are unknown. A writ petition regarding the massacre Sodi witnessed is still pending before the Supreme Court.
Soni Sori has undergone severe physical and psychological trauma resulting from torture and its aftermath, which was further aggravated by the hostility, ridicule and indifference she has encountered from the jail and medical personnel in Chhattisgarh. We ask that the Board of Doctors constituted by the Supreme Court evaluate both physical and psychological aspects of her condition and provide appropriate treatment and counseling.
The Supreme Court order makes clear that Sori’s advocate Colin Gonsalves will be entitled to visit her in AIIMS to ensure that the order is properly carried out. We are concerned that the Chhattisgarh government would interpret this restrictively and prevent others from meeting Sori while she is undergoing treatment at AIIMS.
Sori is the mother of three young children. These children and their guardians should be allowed to see her in the hospital.
As is well-known, Sori has been falsely implicated in several criminal cases. All her lawyers should be entitled to meet her while she is at AIIMS.
Even convicted prisoners are allowed to have visitors. Undertrial prisoners like Sori have even more rights. They are allowed to receive a reasonable number of visitors including family, friends, advocates and their juniors,. It would be an unreasonable restriction on Sori and an arbitrary punishment that she receive no visitors at AIIMS other than two named advocates, one of whom represents the state.
N. Baijendra Kumar, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, had assured a women’s group in New Delhi last October of Sori’s safety and invited the group to visit her in the Raipur jail. However, a delegation sent by the group in January was turned away by the Raipur jail authorities. Considering the nature of abuse and her continuing custody with the accused police force, it is essential that representatives of concerned women’s groups be able to visit Sori at AIIMS to ensure that she is not subjected to further torture or harassment.
Bearing these concerns in mind, we call upon the government of Chhattisgarh to carry out the Supreme Court order in letter and spirit immediately and faithfully this time.
We also call upon the administration and the medical staff of AIIMS to follow the Supreme Court order and to remember their legal and ethical obligations. While examining and treating Soni Sori, AIIMS personnel, including the medical doctors, must bear in mind that:
Standards of medical ethics and the law require that AIIMS personnel provide the same high quality care to Sori that they would provide to any other patient.
The medical doctors must examine both her physical and her psychological health and provide the required treatment remembering that she is a victim of torture and abuse.
Torture is unconstitutional and illegal under Indian and international law. Assisting torture in any way, including in its cover-up, is also an offense under these laws. It would also be completely unethical since medical professionals are duty-bound to alleviate the suffering and pain of their patients.
They should make sure that the Chhattisgarh police do not further harass or torture Soni Sori, physically or mentally, while she is in the hospital.
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WP (Crl.) 206/2011 1 ITEM NO.1 COURT NO.2 SECTION X S U P R E M E C O U R T O F I N D I A RECORD OF PROCEEDINGS CRL.M.P. NOS.1104, 4981 and 8976 OF 2012 IN WRIT PETITION (CRL.) NO.206 OF 2011 SONI SORI & ANR Petitioner(s) VERSUS STATE OF CHHATISGARH Respondent(s) (With appln(s) for directions) Date: 02/05/2012 This Petition was called on for hearing today. CORAM : HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE ALTAMAS KABIR HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE J. CHELAMESWAR For Petitioner(s) Mr. Colin Gonsalves, Sr. Adv. Ms. Amiy Shukla, Adv. Ms. Jyoti Mendiratta, AOR For Respondent(s) Mr. Atul Jha, Adv. Mr. Sandeep Jha, Adv. Mr. Dharmendra Kumar Sinha, AOR UPON hearing counsel the Court made the following O R D E R This writ petition has been filed by one Ms. Soni Sori and another, complaining of brutality in custody and, inter alia, praying for a Special Investigating Team to be constituted for investigating the complaints made by her. WP (Crl.) 206/2011 2 Continue reading →