Red sandalwood smuggling: NHRC recommends CBI probe

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Bengaluru, May 29: The National Human Rights Commission has recommended a CBI probe into the killing of red sandalwood smugglers in Chittoor. The NHRC which has been hearing complaints about the encounter recommended a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The NHRC had earlier issued notices to the Andhra Pradesh Government seeking a report on the killing of 20 persons alleged to be red sandalwood smugglers. In the month of April, the Andhra Pradesh police had undertaken an operation in which 20 persons were killed in an alleged encounter after they found to be smuggling red sandalwood at the Sheshachalam Hills in Chittoor District.

Red sandalwood smuggling: NHRC recommends CBI probe.
NHRC probe:

After the killing of the alleged smugglers, there was a debate on the authenticity of the encounter by the police. The matter was taken up to the NHRC which had issued notices to the AP government and also called for the phone records of the police.

Also read: Red sandalwood smuggling: How the kingpin ran his racket?

The NHRC had observed that there were serious violations in the operation and it involved the rights of human beings. Further the NHRC had also stated that opening fire on people cannot be justified on the ground of self defence.

The NHRC had taken up this matter suo motu after several persons had questioned the killings. It was alleged that the alleged smugglers were wood choppers. Further it was also alleged that they had only axes in their hand and hence the opening of fire on them was uncessary.

The Commission while hearing the matter also noted that a similar incident had taken place in the bordering areas of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu in the year 2014. There were allegations that the forest officials had tortured some of these persons.

Also read: Red Sandalwood Smuggling Row: Telugu actress missing, search hunt on in Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Mumbai

CBI probe:

While the NHRC can only recommend a CBI probe it is now up to either the Andhra Pradesh state government or the Union Government to take a final call on the matter.

The NHRC can only recommend a CBI probe and there is no mandate for the central agency to begin probing the matter based on this recommendation. The AP government is however unlikely to order a CBI probe as it has always maintained that the operation that it undertook was a bonafide one.

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