India: S. Vanchinathan arbitrarily arrested and detained

Urgent Appeal

IND 007 / 0618 / OBS 089
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
June 29, 2018

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in India.

Brief description of the information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mr. S. Vanchinathan, a human rights lawyer practicing at the Chennai High Court’s Madurai Bench and the Tamil Nadu Coordinator of the Human Rights Protection Council.

According to the information received, on June 20, 2018 at 11.45 pm, Mr. Vanchinathan was arrested without a warrant upon his arrival at Chennai airport in Tamil Nadu State, India. He was arrested under charges of “punishment for rioting” (Section 147 of the Penal Code), “rioting armed with deadly weapons” (Section 148), “disobedience to orders duly promulgated by public servants” (Section 188), “assault or criminal force to deter a public servant from discharge of his duty” (Section 353), and “criminal intimidation” (Section 506(2)), as well as under Section 3 of the Tamil Nadu Public Property Prevention of Damage and Loss Act 1992.

As the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, Mr. S. Vanchinathan remained detained at Palayamkottai jail.

The charges relate to the May 22, 2018 protests against the Sterlite smelting mine, which resulted in the death of 13 protesters following excessive use of force by police, in Thoothukudi District, Tamil Nadu State [1]. Mr. Vanchinathan is one of the lawyers who provided legal aid to protesters arrested by the Thoothukudi police after the anti-Sterlite protest in Thoothukudi turned violent.

Prior to his arrest on June 20, 2018, Mr. Vanchinathan had filed a petition for anticipatory bail before the Madurai Bench of the Chennai High Court, which was heard on June 18, 2018. His petition was dismissed by an oral order of Justice G.R. Swaminathan although the charges he faced did not amount to the minimum threshold required under Indian criminal law to remand a suspect. Moreover, during the anticipatory bail hearing, the State’s affidavit revealed the existence of eight other cases pending against Mr. Vanchinathan, which were filed in 2012, 2015, and 2016, and are still in the first investigation report (FIR) stage.

The Observatory condemns the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mr. Vanchinathan, which seem aimed at hindering his peaceful and legitimate human rights work.

The Observatory urges the Indian authorities to release Mr. Vanchinathan immediately and unconditionally, and to put an end to all acts of harassment against him as well as all human rights defenders in India.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in India, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Vanchinathan and all human rights defenders in India;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Vanchinathan as his detention is arbitrary and merely aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Mr. Vanchinathan as well as against all human rights defenders in India, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iv. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular with Articles 1, 12.1, and 12.2;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by India.

Please also write to the National Human Rights Commission of India, urging it to:

v. Exercise its powers under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, and immediately intervene in this case of Mr. Vanchinathan through an independent investigation from its Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders.


• Mr. Shri Narendra Damodardas Modi, Prime Minister of India, Fax: + 91 11 2301 6857. E-mail: /
• Mr. Raj Nath Singh, Union Minister of Home Affairs of India, Fax: +91 11 2309 2979. Email:
• Mr. Rajiv Gauba, Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs of India, Email:
• Justice Dipak Misra, Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court, of India, Fax: +91 11 233 83792, Email:
• Justice Shri H.L. Dattu, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of India, Fax +91 11 2465 1329. Email:
• Mr. Srinivasa Kammath, Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders, National Human Rights Commission of India, Email:
• H.E. Mr. Rajiv Kumar Chander, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 906 86 96, Email:
• H.E. Mr. Manjeev Singh Puri, Embassy of India to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 6489638 / +32 2 6451869

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of India located in your country.

Geneva-Paris, June 29, 2018

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail:
• Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
• Tel and fax FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

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