The Supreme Court has scrapped the standard guidelines for shelving the complaints prepared by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
A division bench of Justices Om Prakash Mishra and Jagadish Sharma Poudel on Tuesday issued the order in favour of conflict victims who demanded a stay order against the rules.
Fifteen victims, including former Constituent Assembly member Binay Dhwaj Chanda, had in September lodged the petition arguing that the commission should look into all the complaints it has received.
The commission has registered 58,000 complaints, while it expects a couple of hundreds more that are yet to be arrive via post from remote districts.
The commission is mandated to look into incidents of rights violations that took place between February 13, 1996 and November 21, 2006 during the Maoist insurgency.
With the verdict, the commission is required to look into all the complaints even if the incidents are not related to the conflict.
The petitioners argued that the criteria would leave a significant number of complaints out of the investigation process, denying the victims their right to justice.
They claimed that the criteria excludes those who were extorted, forced to leave their profession, child soldiers, and those who were used as human shields in crossfire. Land seizure and displacement also do not fall under the criteria of investigation according to the guidelines.
“It is the responsibility of the commission to establish the truth by collecting evidences,” said Advocate Gyanendra Aaran, one of the petitioners. “The commission should not drop the complaints of the victims on any pretext.”
The commission had set the criteria to shelve anonymous complaints, meaning that proceedings on the complaints would be suspended if nobody comes forward to verify the occurrence of the incident.
According to the guidelines, the incidents should be directly related to the armed conflict. The commission would postpone the proceedings if the cases are not related to the warring parties–the then rebels and the state–or are sub judice in court.
Clause 21 of the Act and Rule 7 of the commission’s regulations state that the complaints will be shelved “if there is no sufficient ground to take action upon conducting an investigation into a complaint or information filed with or provided to the commission.”
These provisions still hold as the court order is silent on the regulation of the commission. “It is true, but we objected to 10 provisions added to the commission’s regulation,” said Aaran.
This order categorically addresses the concerns of those victims whose perpetrators were punished by their affiliated organisations. For instance, the commission is now compelled to look into the complaints against then-Major Ram Mani Pokharel, who had led a division of soldiers to Doramba, Ramechhap, arrested 21 villagers, shot them in the head and buried them. The incident took place in 2003 during a ceasefire.