New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has ordered Rs 27.94 crore as monetary relief to the families of 1,513 people who were killed and cremated during militancy period in Punjab.

The order comes as NHRC investigated the "illegal killing and disappearances" which culminated in the cremation of 2,097 bodies in Amritsar, Majitha and Tarn Taran districts between 1984 and 1994.
The case is known Punjab Mass Cremation case. Of the 2,097 cases, only 1,513 could be identified.

"The NHRC has recommended a total of Rs 27.94 crore as monetary relief to the next of kin of 1,513 deceased whose bodies could be identified out of cases of unidentified 2,097 bodies which were remitted to the Commission by the Supreme Court, popularly known as the Punjab Mass Cremation case," an NHRC spokesperson said.

These include 195 cases, where the deceased were in deemed police custody and 1,318 others whose bodies were cremated by the police. 532 bodies remained unidentified despite the best efforts made by the Commission, from the date of remittance in December 1996.

The Supreme Court had referred the matter to NHRC on December 12, 1996 saying any compensation awarded by the Commission shall be binding and payable.

Since then, the spokesperson said, the Commission heard the matter from time to time and through its proceedings on October 10, 2006, it found that out of the total 2,097 bodies which were cremated in the three districts of Amritsar, Majitha and Tarn Taran, 1245 bodies had been identified.

The Commission held that for the violation of human rights of a total of 194 deceased admittedly in police custody immediately prior to their death and their cremation, their next of kin were entitled to monetary compensation of Rs 2.50 lakh each. Regarding 1,051 other identified deceased persons whose bodies were not in police custody but cremated by the state without following Punjab Police Rules, the Commission awarded monetary relief of Rs 1.75 lakh to their families.

For the identification of the remaining 814 bodies, excluding some duplicate names, the Commission appointed Justice K S Bhalla, a retired judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court for receiving evidence and conducting an inquiry to fix the identity of as many dead bodies, as possible out of the 814 unidentified deceased persons.

Justice Bhalla, submitted a report in June 2007 mentioning that the Committee had been able to identify 143 deceased persons.

For facilitating identification of the remaining dead bodies, the Commission constituted another Committee comprising D S Bains IAS, Virender Singh, district and sessions judge (retired) and DIG Border Range, Amritsar as members.

The Bains Committee on March 22 submitted its final report which mentions that the Committee has been able to identify 125 bodies during the sittings sittings.

The spokesperson said the Commission on the March 27 considered the report and recommended monetary relief of Rs 1.75 lakh each to the next of kin of the deceased identified by the committee.