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Rights panel notice to Kerala on minister's remarks against protester

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Rights panel notice to Kerala on ministers remarks against protester
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New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission Monday issued notice to the Kerala government after a woman who is protesting against sand mafia alleged that the state revenue minister made defamatory comments against her.

According to a statement issued by NHRC, the commission has issued a notice to the Secretary of Revenue Department in Kerala asking for state government's response on the complaint by the woman Jazeera V within four weeks.

The woman alleged that Kerala Revenue Minister Adoor Prakash has made baseless and defamatory allegations against her in the wake of her agitation against sand mafia and action taken report sought by the NHRC from the state on the issues raised by her.

The Revenue Minister had allegedly said that "she connection with terrorist organisations" and that she "got financial support from a fundamental outfit". In her complaint dated November 4, Jazeera has stated that she had met the Minister in person and demanded in writing that either he should prove the allegations or withdraw them.

Since no response has come from the Minister even after two weeks, she has requested the Commission to ensure she gets justice in the matter. The Commission observed that if the allegations of Jazeera are correct, she indeed would be feeling hurt and aggrieved.

The statements attributed to the Minister amount to attempt to malign a citizen who, in exercise of her fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression, is agitating against the illegal mining of sand from riverbeds and seashores of Kerala. The Commission asked the Secretary, Revenue Department that if the statements attributed to the Minister are correct, Government may furnish the materials to support the statements within four weeks.

Meanwhile, the commission sought further clarificationswithin four weeks from the Secretary and Kannur DistrictCollector after it found that in response to its earliernotice they have not explained the legislative and administrative actions taken for preventing illegal and indiscriminate sand mining from the seashores in the state. The Commission had issued the notice after taking suo motu cognisance of Jazeera's allegations that the state government was not acting against the sand mining mafia despite the Chief Minister's assurance.

In response, the District Collector, had given a detailedaccount of the action taken by the administration to prevent illegal sand mining in Neerozhukumachal area. The Commission had sent this letter for comments of Jazeera V. In response, she stated that her demand for prevention of illegal sand mining was not limited to that area but was for the entire state of Kerala.

The Secretary also gave details of the action taken by the state government under the Kerala Protection of River Banks and Regulation of Removal of Sand Act, 2001 and Kerala Protection of River Banks and Regulation of Removal of Sand Rules, 2002.

The Commission observed that the said Act and the Rules do not apply to seashores and removal of sand from seashores. "It is to protect river banks and riverbeds from large scale dredging of river sand and to protect their bio-physical environment system....The Government or the District Collector has not explained the legislative and administrative action taken for preventing illegal and indiscriminate mining of sand from seashores."

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