02/18/2010, 00.00
INDIA
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Historic verdict by Supreme Court to allow independent investigations in states

by Nirmala Carvalho
Judges say investigators need not obtain prior consent of State governments before launching probes. For human rights advocates, the ruling will protect minorities like those in Orissa and Gujarat.
Delhi (AsiaNews) – This is a “milestone judgement,” well-known human rights activist Lenin Raghuvanshi told AsiaNews. Now, ordinary people “have one more option [. . .] especially in cases where officials of state governments are involved in crimes.” Raghuvanshi, who heads the Peoples' Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), was speaking about a ruling by the Indian Supreme Court that would allow the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to conduct investigations in any state without the prior consent of the concerned state government.

Hitherto, the CBI required local approval of before it would start any probe, but now the court’s decision removes any doubt as to what it can or cannot do.  This is especially important in India where corrupt State government officials have turned a blind eye on crimes against minorities, the PVCHR chairman said.

Justice will be served in cases where States are not keen on investigations into corruption or genocide, “in Orissa (Kandhamal) or in Gujarat, where State officials are involved in violating the human rights of ordinary people. It is a very important judgement that gives the people of India one more independent instrument to fight for justice.”

A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan reached the unanimous verdict but  added a word of caution, noting that such powers have to be used sparingly in exceptional and extraordinary circumstances in cases having national and international ramifications. Otherwise, the CBI would be flooded with routine cases.

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