Guwahati, Nov. 13: Gauhati High Court today sprung a surprise on the government by asking it to place before the Assembly the J.N. Sarma Commission’s “rejected” report on extra-judicial killings in Assam along with the K.N. Saikia Commission’s “horrifying” findings on the same incidents.
The Congress had been planning to corner the AGP by presenting a report that chief minister Tarun Gogoi says will put the perpetrators of the Gujarat carnage to shame. The Saikia panel’s report ostensibly indicts the erstwhile AGP-led alliance in Dispur for the “secret killings” — the victims were mostly relatives and supporters of Ulfa members — between 1998 and 2001.
The Sarma commission’s report was rejected in August 2005 because it allegedly contained “glaring discrepancies” and did not fix responsibility for the killings.
The general secretary of the AGP, Ramendra Narayan Kalita, said the court’s directive could not have come at a better time and that any further delay in tabling the reports would “expose” the government’s intention of politicising the issue ahead of the panchayat elections.
“The government should stop playing politics with the findings of the secret killings. In 2001, it came to power by promising to punish those involved in the secret killings, but till date nothing has happened. Before every election, the Congress raises the issue to derive political mileage,” Kalita said.
Forced to make an announcement in the Assembly, parliamentary affairs minister Bharat Chandra Narah said the Saikia panel’s report would be tabled on Thursday. Legislator Padma Hazarika of the AGP was the first to question why the government had not tabled the report after announcing well before the session that it would do so.
The court’s directive to the government was in response to a petition by Prafulla Kumar Mahanta to make public the findings of the Sarma commission’s report, which reportedly gave him a clean chit in all instances of extra-judicial killings during his tenure as chief minister. A division bench headed by Chief Justice Jasti Chelameswar delivered the verdict.
Mahanta’s counsel, S.C. Khound, said the court observed that the government had no right to reject a report by a commission of inquiry and that the findings must be tabled in the Assembly along with those of the panel constituted afterwards.
Mahanta moved court last year, challenging the government’s decision to reject the Sarma commission’s report.
The first inquiry into the “secret killings” was to be by Justice Meera Sarma. She resigned from the commission by accusing the government of not co-operating. In November 2002, the then Congress government gave Justice J.N. Sarma the responsibility surrendered by Justice Meera Sarma but his report was seemingly not what the ruling party expected to see.
“Everyone knows there were secret killings.....there is no dispute on it. We wanted the commission to find out who were behind the killings and to suggest measures to ensure there is no recurrence of such incidents,” Gogoi said while rejecting that report.
On the other hand, Mahanta recently questioned the impartiality of the Saikia commission, saying it was doing the government and Ulfa’s bidding.