Bhubaneswar: The Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC) today began its inquiry into the incident of kneeling down of four home guard constables in the district headquarters town of Baripada on June 25 last, the day Rath Yatra was celebrated.
IG Home Guards Dr. Santosh Bala Mayurbhanj district Superintendent of Police (SP) Anirudh Kumar Singh and accused Reserve Inspector Ashok Kumar Sethi appeared in person before the OHRC and recorded their statements.
According to sources, Bala and Singh in their written reports to the OHRC have stated that Reserve Inspector Sethi making home guard constables kneel down was beyond the scope of his powers.
“The Commission asked me whether Police Manual Rules (PMR) was applicable to home guards. I told the Commission that it doesn’t. The matter is still under inquiry. So it will not be appropriate on my part to make any comments at this point,” said Dr. Bala after coming out of the Commission.
Both Bala and Singh informed the Commission during the hearing that disciplinary action has been taken against Sethi for his act.
The OHRC has directed the controversial Reserve Inspector to submit his report in the matter within three weeks.
“Three of them had appeared in person before the Commission. The reports submitted by the IG and the SP were also discussed today. Then Reserve Inspector Ashok Kumar Sethi also recorded his statement. The Commission has asked him to submit his report in writing within three weeks. IG and SP in their reports have admitted of the incident having taken place,” said young lawyer and rights activist Prabir Kumar Das to reporters.
Nikhila Utkal Gruharakhi Mahasangh, the state-level body of home guards has petitioned the Commission seeking recording of statements of the home guard constables who were made to kneel down.
The next hearing in the matter has been fixed for September 15.
Notably, four home guard constables – including a woman – had been ordered by the Reserve Inspector to kneel down in front of his office at Baripada for violating the dress code. The hapless Home Guards immediately complied and knelt down in full public view. This incident came to light on after a photograph showing the four kneeling down with their hands raised went viral on social networking sites. It caused tremendous public outrage and considerable discontent among their colleagues.
The Reserve Inspector, however, took a stand that he meted out the punishment to instill discipline among the home guard constables who were supposed to wear uniforms when they were on duty.