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SHRC enquiry against Yatish Chandra

Kannur police chief under scanner for imposing corporal punishment on public

The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has taken cognisance on its own of the controversial WhatsApp video that purportedly showed the police making passers-by perform forced squats for venturing out into the open during the lockdown due to the spread of Coronavirus in Azheekal in Kannur on Saturday.

P. Mohanadas, Judicial Member, SHRC, said in his order that the video showed a police officer of the highest rank gleefully punishing ordinary people in public.

Mr. Mohandas said the police had no right to dole out punishments. They should have arrested the curfew violators and produced them in a court of law. The law provides no scope for arbitrary punishment.

Meanwhile, State Police Chief Loknath Behera has sought an explanation from District Police Chief, Kannur, Yatish Chandra.

Officials privy to the process said that Mr. Chandra had told his superiors that he had acted in the public interest.

The police had found it difficult to restrict gatherings in rural Kannur. He thought a token punishment recorded and aired on social media would act as a social deterrent and keep people indoors during the lockdown.

Officials indicated that Mr. Behera had forwarded the officer’s explanation with his comments to Additional Chief Secretary, Home, Biswas Mehta.

They said Mr. Chandra stood the risk of facing disciplinary action, or worse, a criminal case and removal from the current post for sanctioning third-degree treatment of citizens.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who condemned the action on Saturday, was poised to take a final decision in the matter. He had said the incident was a blot on the reputation of the force.

The public punishment and shaming had caused an outcry in the State. Scores of people took to social media to express their disapproval.

Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Mullapally Ramachandran sought stringent action against Mr. Chandra. He said the officer had tread cruelly on the human rights of three ordinary people.

The video showed the officer ordering them people to strike stress positions repeatedly in the sun as their neighbours watched.

Mr. Ramachandran said British colonial police would have shied away from such a brutal act against citizens extremely distressed by the epidemic situation.

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