Scheduled Castes Body Issues Notice to States on Rights Violations in Jignesh Mevani’s Arrest

While being arrested twice in the span of a week, the police reportedly failed to make the FIR in Mevani's arrest available immediately and did not allow him to meet his lawyer, among other violations.

Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: The National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) on Tuesday, April 26, issued notices to the chief secretaries of Assam and Gujarat for alleged human rights violations by the police while arresting Vadgam MLA Jignesh Mevani.

The NCSC, acting on a petition filed by Kirit Rathod, convenor of Dalit Adhikar Manch, gave the secretaries of the two states 30 days to respond to the notice by submitting the “facts and information on the action taken on the allegations”, according to a report by the Indian Express.

Speaking to the newspaper, Rathod noted that Mevani’s rights were violated in that a copy of the first information report (FIR) carrying the charges under which he was arrested was not immediately made available, that he wasn’t allowed to meet his lawyer, and so on.

Moreover, Rathod said that since Mevani is a sitting MLA, the Gujarat assembly speaker should have been made aware of his arrest.

Mevani was arrested by the Assam police from Gujarat’s Banaskantha district at 11:30 pm on April 20. He was reportedly arrested for tweets he posted in which he called Prime Minister Narendra Modi a supporter of Nathuram Godse, the man who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi, saying that Modi “considers Godse aa God.”

The police who arrested him were reportedly not carrying a copy of the FIR and only after the intervention of Congress leaders at the Ahmedabad airport were the charges revealed.

Mevani was accused of criminal conspiracy (section 120-B); imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration (153-B); deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class (295-A); intentional insult and provocation to breach public peace (504) and intention to cause fear and alarm in the public to commit an offence against the state or against public tranquillity (501-1B) besides charging him under the Information Technology Act.

The complaint was filed by Anup Dey, a leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Assam.

Mevani was elected to the Gujarat assembly as an independent candidate, but had extended his support to the Congress in 2021. Mevani’s arrest is being seen as an attempt by the Union government to silence the opposition ahead of the crucial assembly polls in the state, scheduled for December this year.

Mevani’s arrest drew criticism from opposition leaders, activists and rights organisations alike who accused the Modi administration of attempting to quash dissent and exact political vengeance.

After initially being denied bail by an Assam court, Mevani was eventually granted bail on April 25. Assam’s Barpeta police was given Mevani’s remand and he was to be transported from Kokrajhar, where he was being held, to Barpeta where his lawyer, Angshuman Bora, could file a fresh bail plea.

However, soon after this, Mevani was arrested by the Barpeta police on the complaint of a woman police sub-inspector who was escorting him to Barpeta.

The sub-inspector accused Mevani of using “slang” terms against her, pointing fingers at her and threatening her, “assaulting” her by pushing her and touching her inappropriately while doing so.

As such, a new case was registered against the independent MLA under IPC Sections 294 (obscene act in any public place), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) and 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty).

He was denied bail in the second case on April 26.

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