Sunday, 18 August 2019

Abuse of Coastal Security Police Station at Harbour, Vasco to harass and intimidate Gillnet fishers in Zuari River


Date: 16/08/2019

To,

The Chief Minister,
Government of Goa,
Secretariat, Porvorim,
Goa

Subject: Abuse of Coastal Security Police Station at Harbour, Vasco to harass and intimidate Gillnet fishers in Zuari River

Dear Mr. Chief Minister Dr. Pramod Sawant,

Greetings of Peace!

As you are already aware of the complaints of illegal fishing in Zuari river by Trawlers and Purse seine fishing boats we write to inform you about the abuse of Harbour Coastal Security Police Station, Vasco to harass and intimidate the Zuari River fishing communities by registering fictitious criminal cases and registering charge-sheet and forwarding the to Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Vasco as well as Judicial Magistrate First Class A at Vasco.

Coastal Security Police whose actual mandate is to stop illegal fishing but its actions are directed to intimidate those small scale fishers involved in complaining about various threats to fishing from water sports, purse seine boats, trawlers, marinas, and many more. Criminalization of small-scale fishers has been initiated through State starting litigation against two leaders of the small scale fishers named Sanjay Pereira of Cacra and Cosmo Pires of Siridao one in January 2019 and another in July 2019. 

In 2018 Harbour coastal security police station through Police Sub-Inspector Therron Dcosta initiated the Chapter case no. 01/2018 under section 145 of Code of Criminal Procedure in the Court of Hon’ble Sub-Divisional Magistrate Vasco with two Fisheries officers of the Directorate of Fisheries, Panjim as witnesses. Section 145 of Code of Criminal Procedure empowers Executive Magistrate to interfere in the disputes on land and water that may lead to breach of Peace. Fishers had to pay the Lawyer to appear before the Court of Sub-Divisional Magistrate and subsequent hearings. 

To add to this ongoing case Harbour Coastal Security Police Station moved the same case in the Court of Judicial Magistrate First Class at (A), Vasco-da-Gama and summons were issued under section 61 of Code of Criminal Procedure bearing the seal of the Court to the two accused fisheries leaders of the Zuari River Gill net fishers. Summons served by Police officer asked the two fishers to appear before the Court in person and the court summons state that they are charged under section 143, 147, 148, 323, 324, 341, 504, 506(ii), 384, 511 read with 149 of Indian Penal Code (IPC). They were called for the hearing on August 3, 2019 in the Court. 

It must be noted that this criminalizing attempt is against the leadership of the fishers even though none of the two ever had been arrested in this matter. They are asked to keep the surety worth deposit of Rs.5000/- in the Court. This matter is of September 2018 and surety is asked to be kept in the Court after a period of one year. Normal procedure is to keep the surety at the time of arrest but both the fishers were never arrested and case was registered at Harbour Police Station without any of them being placed under arrests and subsequent bail. They were not arrested anticipating major public uproar and mounting public pressure on State administration.

This criminalizing need further analysis of the criminal provision invoked to so. Section 143 of IPC deals with Punishment for unlawful assembly involved imprisonment up to six months or fine, or both. It is not known as to how the two persons constituted unlawful assembly when the definition of unlawful assembly according to section 141 involves five or more persons. Two people cannot be designated as forming unlawful assembly. The invocation of section 143 is clear indication that the charges are levied to criminalize even though there are no grounds to do so.

Section 147 deals with Punishment for rioting extending up to two years or fine or both. Interestingly Rioting is defined under Section 146 as violence used by an unlawful assembly. Above analysis indicates that two people cannot form unlawful assembly. The invocation of Section 147 is malafide with intention of suppressing expressions of the gillnet fishers of Zuari river. The above two Sections 143 and 147 are not applicable for two persons.

The third section 148 applied is more serious non-compoundable means complaining party cannot withdraw the same and is triable by Magistrate of the first class. It is section that deals with rioting, armed with deadly weapon or anything used as weapon and likely to cause death punishable with imprisonment up to 3 years or with fine or both. State by imposing this section 148, aims to prove that the fisher leaders are anti-social elements all out to destroy peace in society by re-interpreting their engagement with Justice Issues in Zuari River. Since this section is triable only by Magistrate Court fishers will be compelled to incur cost of litigation without escape. This is merely harassment tactic as it is a normal practice that Justice Delays is a rule in Indian Courts rather than an exception. One case lingers for any duration between 5 years to 10 years. How much costs fishers will have to incur to contest financially including lawyer fees and mental tensions besides the fact that Justice delayed is Justice denied?

The fourth section invoked of IPC is Section 323 deals with Punishment for voluntarily causing hurt that extends to one year or fine of Rupees one thousand or with both. This is the case of unprovoked hurt. Harbour Coastal Police has attempted to prove that fisher leaders of Zuari fishers are maniacs that derive pleasure from causing hurt voluntarily even without anyone provoking them. It appears a ground to inflict State violence on fishers by spreading this impression of violence mongers on fisher leaders.

The fifth Section 324 invoked deals with voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means is non-compoundable and triable by Magistrate. This section carries punishment of three years imprisonment or fine or both. State tried to paint fisher leaders as dreaded goons all out to kill people when actually they are rising ecological, Peace, Justice and Public Health issues. Imposition of this section is nothing more than propaganda against small scale fisher initiative which is unbecoming of the State.

Sixth Section 341 involved punishment for wrongful restraint of any person extending imprisonment of one month or fine of five hundred Rupees or both. This section is compoundable and is triable by Magistrate. State by booking fisher leaders of Zuari under Section 341 is attempting to prove that they unnecessarily stopping people in their ways. This is certainly not true and the case is filed only for the reasons of harassing gillnet fishers with likely nexus with nefarious powerful elements who cannot tolerate fishers asserting in defense of ecological health of Zuari River.

Seventh invoked section 504 against the fisher leaders is deals with causing intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace. Punishment for this offence extends up to two years or fine, or with both. This is compoundable and triable by Magistrate. Any expression furthering Justice can be interpreted as offence under Section 504. In a way State has attempted to communicate to the Zuari fishers that they should not speak out against purse seine boats as well as trawler frequently carrying on illegal fishing in Zuari. Imposition of this section is an attempt at gagging. 

Eight Section 506(ii) deals with Punishment for criminal intimidation when threat is to cause death or grievous hurt imprisonment extending up to seven years: invocation of this section on fisher leaders indicate that State intends to create fear and panic amongst fishers of Zuari instead of resolving the nagging problems threatening Zuari river fishery including water sports, marinas, purse seine fishing, trawling and many more.

Ninth Section 384 invoked deals with Punishment for extortion extending for the period of three years or fine or with both. State intends to brand Gillnet fishers of Zuari River as extortionists all out to demand ransoms. This is another way of painting two Gillnet fisher leaders negatively in public thereby defaming the movement of fishers in defense of Zuari river ecology. Offence under section 384 is non-compoundable and triable by any Magistrate.

Tenth Section 511 invoked deals with Punishment for attempting to commit offences punishable with imprisonment for life or other imprisonment. This punishment is flexible for the failed attempts to crime and involved half the period of imprisonment had the attempt to commit such offence was successful. Here State is unsure if fisher have really succeeded in committing any offence as it suspect that the attempt of fishers to commit an offence has been a failure. Nevertheless State desires to punish the fishers of Zuari River. This attitude reflects sadist mindset of the State machinery in operation governing Rivers and Fisheries in Goa.

Eleventh Section 149 invoked holds every member of an unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object. This again is completely misplaced as definition of Unlawful Assembly under section 141 needs minimum of five persons and two persons cannot form unlawful assembly. It is a tragedy that Police sub-Inspector who registered this case at Harbour Police Station does not have even an elementary understanding of law and has abused his position as police sub inspector to harass fisher of Zuari River.  Further this Police officer is wasting the time of the Court as well as draining out the financial resources of the fishers in hiring of lawyer. State Home Ministry must intervene and withdraw this case against Zuari river fisheries or else this case has a potential to trigger major public unrest against the State as both the Coastal Police as well as Fisheries Officers are standing out as enemies of Zuari River Gillnet fishers. Earlier State Government has withdrawn several criminal cases from the Courts including one against those accused in attack on Velim Church few years ago. The case against Zuari River fishers is fictitious and filed to push them in defensive mode in struggle against illegal fishing in Zuari being carried on by Purse seine boats, trawlers, water sports, marinas and other enemies.

The entire State led prosecution through Police Sub-Inspector Therron Dcosta of Harbour Police Station against the fishers of Zuari River in both the Courts in Vasco is against the internationally acceptable standards of fishery practices that are made enforceable in India through Article 54 of the National Marine Fishing Regulation Policy 2017. Paragraph 5.11 of SSF Guidelines states “States should provide small-scale fishing communities and individuals, including vulnerable and marginalized people, access through impartial and competent judicial and administrative bodies to timely, affordable and effective means of resolving disputes over tenure rights in accordance with national legislation, including alternative means of resolving such disputes, and should provide effective remedies, which may include an entitlement to appeal, as appropriate. Such remedies should be promptly enforced in accordance with national legislation and may include restitution, indemnity, just compensation and reparation.” Certainly the litigations in First class magistrate court are not affordable to the fishers of Zuari River and may create crisis situation with unknown unexpected consequences.

Directorate of Fisheries and Coastal Security Police instead of persecuting fishers of Zuari for their vocal stance in defense of Zuari river fishery must join them to tackle illegal fishing as per requirement of the international standards of fishery administration as reflected in SSF Guidelines paragraph 5.16 that states “States should ensure the establishment of monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) systems or prompt application of the existing ones applicable to and suitable for small-scale fisheries. They should provide support to such systems, involving small-scale fisheries actors as appropriate and promoting participatory arrangements within the context of co-management. States should ensure effective monitoring and enforcement mechanisms to deter, prevent and eliminate all forms of illegal and/or destructive fishing practices having a negative effect on marine and inland ecosystems. States should endeavor to improve registration of the fishing activity. Small scale fishers should support the MCS systems and provide to the State fisheries authorities the information required for the management of the activity. This section of SSF Guidelines must be studied and reflected upon by the Harbour Coastal Security Police Station as well as Directorate of Fisheries, Government of Goa rather than launching witch hunt through criminal cases in Courts in Vasco against two fishers of Zuari River with eleven Sections of Indian Penal Code. Combined reading of all the applied IPC sections makes two fishers appear as seasoned criminals while letting the real criminals indulging in purse seine fishing, trawlers, and water sports operators go Scot free. The level of functioning of both the Fisheries department as well Coastal Security Police force together with Home Ministry must re-look the way governance is being conducted rather than imposing IPC sections on fishers, a move that has triggered tremendous uproar against the State Government. It is recommended on priority basis that both the cases against two fishers of Zuari be withdrawn as Police officer has not even studied the definition of Unlawful Assembly under section 141 IPC that it needs five people to attract this section and applied it recklessly only to boomerang back at him. These cases must be withdrawn by the State for fishers do not have money spend on litigation and needs to focus on constructive governance of rivers and fisheries in Goa. It is expected that the good sense people in the Goa Government will take note of this injustice reported public and act. After all when injustice became intolerable even the Judges of the Indian Supreme Court came out to speak at the Press Conference. Judges trusted power of People and hence spoke to media.

Situation of fishers in Zuari River is equally grave and crying for attention. The fishers of Zuari are inspiration for ongoing unionizing of fishers and related occupations. They initiated move to set up All Goa Small Scale Responsible Fisheries Union. Their delegates participated in the 4th National Conference of National Platform for Small Scale Fish Workers (Inland) in Delhi where India’s Fisheries Minister Pratap Chandra Sarangi addressed the delegates on making Inland fisheries and promised to finalized Policy on Inland Fishing Policy. Sanjay Pereira against whom the Coastal Police has registered the case was delegate to Delhi.

Goa’s Coastal Police has been authorized to act against those indulging in illegal fishing. In the present case Coastal Police after investigations informed Court of Hon’ble Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Vasco-da-Gama that police investigations has revealed that complainants themselves were indulging in illegal fishing in Zuari river at a time when this incident is reported to have taken place where in boats from Zuari river were taken by some people to the Siridao shore and the accused are involved in opposing illegal fishing in Zuari river. When Coastal Police Station is aware as to who was involved in illegal fishing and has clear mandate to act against those indulging in the such practices then why did Coastal Police forwarded out rightly fictitious case to the Civil Court in Vasco? Under whose Political Pressure Goa’s Coastal Police are prompting their actions? Its clear that Coastal Police Station at Harbour is acting as private revenge office of the lobby involved in illegal fishing in Zuari river and in this pursuit has gone all out not only to misuse police station by is also threatening to tarnish image of Judiciary by getting Sanjay Pereira and Cosmo Pires arrested after one year. This indicates that Coastal Police knows very well that they have no moral courage to arrest Sanjay Pereira and Cosmo Pires on their own and Police have almost dragged Judiciary into disrepute. This is really sad and amounts to abuse of Judiciary as PSI D’Costa cannot be assumed ignorant that Section 141 of IPC needs five people to constitute unlawful assembly but deliberate and intentional harassment leaving reasons for public speculations. If Police is allowed to abuse Judiciary in this manner then Public trust in Police as well as Judiciary will certainly diminish.

You are therefore requested to intervene and direct withdrawal of these cases filed against Sanjay Pereira, former member of Santa Cruz Panchayat and Cosmo Pires, Former Sarpanch of Siridao village Panchayat at the earliest.

Thanking you,
Yours Sincerely,

Sd/-

Maggie Silveira
President - Goa State