Girija Vyas: Unfit to head National Commission for Women
by Sandhya Jain on 11 Dec 2008 0 Comment

Girija Vyas has disgraced the office of chairperson of the National Commission for Women and must either be sacked outright, or forced to resign. Not only has the lady been utterly negligent in fulfilling the mandate to care for the legal and constitutional rights of Indian women – the raison d’etre for setting up the NCW in 1992 – but she has used her sinecure in the Commission to openly and shamelessly canvass for the Chief Ministership of Rajasthan.

At a time when the sensational arrest of Sadhvi Pragya had the nation agog, and news of her sworn affidavit in which she alleged torture and harassment at the hands of the Maharashtra Anti Terror Squad was hitting headlines all over the country, Ms. Girija Vyas was nowhere to be seen.

Enquiries at the office of the NCW revealed that Ms. Vyas was on leave for at least the entire week ending 21 November 2008, and it was innocently let out that she was campaigning for the Congress party in Rajasthan! Shocked as some of us were by this news, we decided not to make an issue of it, and quietly submitted a petition requesting the National Commission for Women to take notice of Sadhvi Pragya’s sworn affidavit alleging illegal detention, followed by police custody (23 days in all), without the presence of female constables.

The allegation of the absence of female police officers throughout the Sadhvi’s custody was never denied by the ATS, even when its chief Hemant Karkare was alive. It remains uncontested to this day, and this is no small indictment of the manner in which the ATS conducted itself in the case. Both the National Commission for Women and the National Human Rights Commission should have taken suo moto cognizance of this crime, and it is somewhat gratifying that the NHRC did issue notices to the Maharashtra home secretary after concerned citizens took a delegation led by former Punjab Director General of Police, Mr. K.P.S. Gill, to it on 21 November 2008.

The National Commission for Women, however, has remained oblivious of the matter to this day, even though a women’s group submitted a petition the same day (bearing 62 signatures), and took the precaution of getting a copy stamped! 

Yet Ms. Girija Vyas, who returned to office after her leave/campaigning on 24 November 2008, when the issue was still hot, had the nerve to tell a news channel that she had received no complaints on the issue of the illegal custody and treatment of Sadhvi Pragya! The truth is that besides the petition to her office, scores of citizens sent email petitions and letters by courier to the Commission. An enquiry should now be ordered into how Ms. Vyas conducts her office if the Commission does not have the courtesy to even read its mail and act according to the law. 

Till the time of posting this article, the Congress party could not decide its chief ministerial candidate for Rajasthan, because Ms. Vyas is among those who have put a spanner in the works. Having thoroughly neglected her job as Chairperson, NCW, she is busy lobbying for the post of CM

There is need for political parties to amend the Constitution to ensure that persons holding statutory posts cannot move in and out of electoral politics to suit their personal convenience, as this seriously undermines the dignity and neutrality of these offices

Our petition to the NCW demanded action in the matter of the violation of the human rights, dignity, civil liberties, and reputation of Sadhvi Pragya by the Maharashtra ATS. As per her 17 November 2008 affidavit in court, the ATS had behaved in a most cavalier fashion, disrespecting the law of the land and the various judgements of the Supreme Court while investigating the Sadhvi and others arrested since 20 November 2008 for alleged involvement in the 29 September 2008 Malegaon blasts; the accused are now booked under MCOCA.

We asked the National Commission for Women to take note of the fact that in her affidavit, Sadhvi Pragya made the shocking claim that 1] she was illegally detained for 10 days and shifted from one place to another; 2] she was physically assaulted and mentally tortured in custody, and this necessitated treatment in two hospitals; 3] she was robbed of her dignity by the ATS which questioned her chastity; 4] no female police officers were ever present during her interrogation and transfer from one place to another, which is a blatant violation of the law and a double indignity in view of the fact that the woman arrested and mistreated was a Sadhvi; and 5] she was denied the right to contact her family and her lawyer. 

Sadhvi Pragya’s emotional trauma was so immense that she even contemplated committing suicide. She was subjected to narco-analysis and brain-mapping tests without her consent; besides lie detectors and other methods of interrogation. The former methods of interrogation are used mainly to fill the gaps in a crime sequence as the persons subjected to these devices are unable to lie and thus invariably incriminate themselves. These are tests of the last resort; and though they were repeatedly invoked as the first tool of interrogation in this case in order to invent of a category of “Hindu Terrorists” for the ruling parties at the Centre and in the State, they repeatedly failed to achieve this objective.

It should follow that the Sadhvi and her fellow accused are all innocent citizens deliberately framed by some criminal mind. [Her affidavit was published in toto by The Pioneer, New Delhi, November 19, 2008, and is available on the internet]. 

If the National Commission for Women was true to its charter, it would by now have taken the strongest steps to bring the culprits against Sadhvi Pragya to book. It has taken no notice of the case at all even after the MCOCA court refused to give the ATS further custody of the Sadhvi and other accused, which itself is a blistering indictment of the ATS’ absolute inability to submit even prima facie evidence against the accused.

NCW could have made up for past negligence by issuing notices after the MCOCA court refused further police custody. That it chose to cover itself in ignominy is a testimony to the sheer obduracy of its chairperson, who cares two hoots about the denial of liberty, dignity and reputation of women, even when they are religious figures, and is incapable of seeing anything other than the chief minister’s chair.

By according such low value to the office of Chairperson, National Commission for Women, Ms. Vyas has proved she is unfit for this post. She must go.


The author is Editor,

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