Shiv Sahay Singh, The Hindu
Human rights activist Binayak Sen has appealed to the Communist Party of India (Maoist) on Monday to release the abducted District Collector of Sukma in Chhattisgarh, Alex Paul Menon, “unconditionally and as soon as possible.”
Expressing his grief at the killing of two security guards during the adduction, Mr. Sen in a written statement issued here said Mr. Menon should “remain unharmed until his release and all medical facilities extended to him.”
Mr. Menon, a 2006 batch IAS officer, was abducted by a group of Maoists on April 21 from Manjhipara.
Mr. Sen said the way forward for restoration of peace is the cessation of armed conflict and militarisation in the area. “Restoration of dialogue and the legitimisation of dissent are essential and my appeal is for this to be effected as early as possible.”
Mr. Sen, who is also the vice-president of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, said the region’s issues could not be resolved in an atmosphere of violence “whether the violence comes from the State or those opposing the State.”
The petition stated,“The close scrutiny of the answer sheets of the successful candidates related to the judges, law secretary indicates that they have been manipulated.”
Despite a Delhi High Court directive to the Chhattisgarh police to ensure the safety of the jailed adivasi teacher who had apprehended custodial torture, Soni Sori has alleged that in clear violation of the Court’s order, the Dantewada SP gave her electric shocks, underdressed her and tortured her on the night of October 8. In a letter addressed to the Supreme Court, and received by a social activist in Delhi today, Sori has described the torture to which she was subjected by the Superintendent of Police, Ankit Garg, and has demanded to know who is responsible for her condition.
On the night of 8.10.2011, from 12 midnight to 2:30 am, SP Ankit Garg called me into a room in the police station, gave me electric shocks (current shock), took my clothes off and severely tortured me. Why has no action been taken against him? Sori has asked in the letter in Hindi, a scanned copy of which is attached herewith. Sori, whose case is currently being heard in Delhi, has written this letter on a small scrap of paper and asks the apex court five incisive questions.
Describing herself as a suffering adivasi women who is also a daughter and sister of this country, she asks the Court to tell her who is responsible for the brutal custodial torture to which she has been subjected by the police in Chhattisgarh. It may be recalled that Soni Sori had apprehended this physical torture when she was picked up by the police in Delhi, and had moved the Sessions court and the High Court in Delhi to oppose her remand to the custody of Chhattisgarh police. Keeping her fears in mind, the Saket Court in Delhi had awarded her custody to the Chhattisgarh police only upon receiving their assurance of her safety. The Delhi High Court also asked the Chhattisgarh police to submit a report listing out steps to ensure Soni’s safety.
Ramesh Agarwal, an environmental advocate and partner of the Access Initiative (TAI), was arrested in the early hours on May 28. According to multiple reports, Agarwal’s human and civil rights have been reportedly violated by police and jail officials, and TAI remains concerned for his health, safety and wellbeing.
Agarwal has long been an environmental and social advocate. He has highlighted many violations of India’s environmental laws arising from industrial non-compliance and pollution. Employing the legal tools and institutions available to him, he has obtained valuable information through numerous Right to Information (RTI) Act applications, raised concerns about faulty environmental impact assessments, and exposed fraud and corruption in environmental decision-making, particularly at public hearings. In particular, he has drawn the attention of the authorities to illegal industrial construction without the requisite environmental safeguards and permits. He has taken his complaints, often with success, to state and central level authorities and ministries in the Raigarh district of Chhattisgarh. He has also petitioned and filed applications before the National Environmental Appellate Authority (NEAA), courts, and other regulatory bodies. (See attached note from TAI India lead partner LIFE)
Agarwal was arrested on a police complaint filed in June 2010, by Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL). JSPL claims Agarwal defamed and intimidated the company by speaking out against the company’s proposed expansion in the Raigarh district at a public hearing in May 2010. These are issues that a court will likely decide on evidence based on a trial. Public hearings are legal venues allowing citizens to express their concerns about proposed developments and projects. Agarwal’s arrest, based on alleged statements he made within the context of such a legal forum and on matters of concern to him, threatens his civil rights.
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted bail to alleged Maoist sympathiser Piyush Guha wondering whether a call for a revolution to reform society could be treated as an offence.
“A large number of material and news come to us. Similarly, such material come to you and this person also. If that is his ideology and he says revolution is the only way to reform society, can we say that is an offence?” a vacation bench of justices G S Singhvi and C K Prasad said.
The court made the remarks after senior counsel U U Lalit, appearing for the Chhattisgarh government, opposed Guha’s bail application on the ground that he was an active sympathiser of Maoists and there was a big amount of material and pamphlets to link him to the banned organization.
Civil rights activist Binayak Sen today said he condemns violence by all agencies but opposes branding under the single category of Maoism the multi-hued resistance to “forced takeover of indigenous land” in India.
In his acceptance speech after receiving the 2011 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights in South Korea, he also said he was “never disloyal” to the people of his country.
“I condemn, unequivocally, all violence by any and all individuals and agencies. I believe that violence is an invalid and unsustainable approach to achieving goals, whether these are the goals of the state or the goals of individuals operating outside the law,” he said.
“Because the state is sworn to uphold the Constitution, I believe we are entitled to hold agents of the state to a higher standard than we hold outlaws,” Sen, recently freed on bail by the Supreme Court in a sedition case, said.
He said India is considered around the world as a rapidly developing country. But eight Indian provinces alone have more poor people than 26 African nations put together.
“As a physician what concerns me is that such absolute poverty among such large numbers of people really translates into a major health disaster the proportions of which can only be called genocidal,” he said.
Sen said the same section of people who are victims of poverty-induced malnutrition now face the threat as global finance capital embarks on its latest phase of expansion.
“The forced takeover of indigenous land is being met with resistance that is multi-hued, yet the state has chosen to brand it under the single category of Maoist, and has met it with brutality and human rights violations,” he said.
Sen also said he was determined to fight the case against him till it is finally established that his actions were always in the interest of justice with equity and were “never seditious in nature”.
Express news service
New Delhi : Questioning the manner in which lower courts handle even the routine matters of criminal jurisprudence, social activist Dr Binayak Sen on Saturday said there was a need for an “institutionalised public oversight” over the proceedings of a court.
Sen, who was charged with sedition and awarded life sentence by a trial court in Chhattisgarh before the Supreme Court dropped those charges, was speaking at a seminar organised by the People’s Union of Civil Liberties on sedition laws and other draconian legal provisions.
Citing his own case, Sen, who has been accused of providing help to Naxalites, said the Supreme Court had observed that there was “no foundation” for applying sedition laws against him.
Amanda Hodge, South Asia correspondent
BINAYAK Sen did not mince his words when he walked from miserable Raipur prison in the Maoist-besieged state of Chattisgargh on bail this week.
Four months after the internationally awarded doctor to India’s poorest communities was sentenced to life for sedition, he questioned the democratic foundations of a country in which a third of the population “walks in famine” and where the state can accuse a man of treason for speaking up for those with no voice.
“People across the country are now being held on offences related to sedition under the flimsiest of evidence because the administration uses these laws as a short cut to put people it doesn’t like behind bars,” he told The Weekend Australian.
“Laws such as Chattisgargh’s special security act are supposed to be used against terrorists, but in India they’re being used against ordinary people who are not participating in any violent or terrorist activities. People like me.”
Sen, 61, became the subject of an international human rights campaign after he was arrested by Chattisgargh police in 2007 and held without bail on charges of acting as courier for a jailed Maoist rebel leader.
The pediatrician denies the charges, insisting all meetings with the ailing leader – for whom he was providing medical treatment and advocacy – were officially approved and supervised.
‘Little pinholes of light have come out in this judgement’ says author and activist Arundhati Roy on the Binayak Sen bail order by the Supreme Court. In an exclusive interview to CNN-IBN’s Rupashree Nanda, she also says ‘democracy is on a very slippery slope in Chhattisgarh’; that it is important to remember several others who are jailed under similar charges under ‘undemocratic laws’.
Rupashree Nanda: I remember you’d said that the judgement of the Raipur session court was intended to be a message, as a warning to others. What is the message of the Supreme Court bail order?
Arundhati Roy: I think that the Supreme Court granting him bail and the comments that were made in court do suggest that somewhere the Supreme Court is of the mind that it was a vindictive judgment and that he does deserve the benefit of the doubt. And so they gave him bail. What happens is that it underlines the fact that he was being made an example of; and the terror that reigns in Chhattisgarh remains so. Because, how many people have those lawyers? And have the ability to come to the Supreme Court? How many people are there poor, unnamed and named, under the very same laws for even less reasons? But they cannot come up and get bail. In some ways, it is a very necessary thing that has happened today. And in other ways it is worrying because we have so many people who don’t have access to the Supreme Court.
Rupashree Nanda: The battle for acquittal is still on. What if he is convicted again and sentenced again?
Arundhati Roy: My answer is the same. The fact is that here was a very well known person. He had a campaign behind him, he had so many people, so many lawyers and so he was allowed to approach an institution where some kind of reason prevailed. But most people don’t have that approach. So, here you are once again in a situation where there is hope for democracy, reason for those who can afford it, who can reach there. But most people cannot. Really what we need to do is look at these laws again. And again, even if the laws were OK you have this vindictive set of people who are doing something, it does not matter what the law is. They are busy trying to intimidate a whole population of very poor people now who are living on the resources that the multinationals want.
Rupashree Nanda: Was it easy for people to come out and support Dr Binayak Sen because there were many people against him?
Arundhati Roy: It is not a question of easy or difficult. Fortunately, in this country we do have a huge number of fearless people who believe in doing the right thing or at least believe in doing what they believe in. I am not going to complain about how difficult it was for us. Of course, I think, all those who protested knew that they were up against it. I know about Kopa Kunjam who took me round Bastar who is in jail. Who is campaigning for him? Who are his lawyers? What is going to happen to him? There are hundreds of people in jail in Orissa, in Chhattisgarh, in Bengal who do not have names suffering under the same laws. We really need to do something about them. I am saying this at a time when I don’t want to minimize how reassuring it is that the Supreme Court came out with this order that it did today. Because, had it not done that, all the windows would have been shut. Again, justice for those who can afford it, democracy for those who can afford it but what about everybody else?
Rupashree Nanda: What is the message for the government? Is it listening to the courts, is it listening to the people?
Arundhati Roy: There is something rotten in the institutions of Chhattisgarh. All the institutions there are behind that rot and behind what is now NOT being called Operation Green Hunt, but IS Operation Green hunt. We have a situation where the army is likely to be deployed, we have requests for the AFSPA [Armed Forces Special Powers Act]. We know what that has done in other states in India. Really democracy is on a very slippery slope there in Chhattisgarh. Now, some little pin holes of light have come out in this judgment. – but the point is that we are in a situation where we are creating a state where we call ourselves a democracy but increasingly there are laws that are undemocratic. In fact, under the UAPA [Unlawful Activities Prevention Act], the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act – you don’t have to prove anything to put people in jail. Just thinking an anti – government thought is a criminal offense. So look at those laws. It is not that they are being misinterpreted. They are being used precisely for the purpose they were made. So the fact is again and again I am saying we have a majority of our population that does not have access to the institution of justice.
Rupashree Nanda: What does Binayak Sen represent?
Arundhati Roy: Different things to different people. To me he symbolizes somebody who stood up and blew the whistle on the Salwa Judum. And that is why there was this vindictive action against him as a warning. And even though he has been let out on bail, let’s not forget that he has suffered. He’s been in jail. His hospital has been closed down. He cannot work in that area. He has been driven out of the state. So, in many ways, what they wanted, they have achieved already. To others he symbolizes righteousness. It can cut both ways. You can also now use Binayak Sen to say, look, India is a democracy – he was released. You can use him to say – look he is a middle-class person who had a campaign behind him. He was released, but there are many others. So it is different things to different people depending on how you look at it.
Rupashree Nanda: No one talks about Piyush Guha today?
Arundhati Roy: You talk about one person and then you keep everybody else in the dark. It’s like during Thanksgiving the American president pardons one turkey and then they slaughter millions. Behind the place where you choose to shine the light you have so much darkness. Piyush Guha has a name. Kopa Kunjam has a name, but there are hundreds of others who don’t have names, who are in prison. I remember going to Orissa meeting one adivasi woman shaking like a leaf in jail. What are the charges? Sedition. Waging war against the state. Trying to erect a parallel government. So we are living in an era where these people are ferociously attacked. So we have to look at the whole picture not just where people wish us to look because they have shone the light there.
We need clean man in black robe, says CJI Kapadia
New Delhi Concerned over judiciary’s image coming under a cloud in the wake of corruption charges, Chief Justice S H Kapadia on Saturday said there was a need for “clean man in black robe” and asked the political class not to protect corrupt judges.
“We have to live by examples. We need a clean man in black robe to uphold the independence and integrity of the judiciary,” the CJI said while cautioning the judges from inevitably ending up in the political arena.
The CJI said judges should maintain self restraint and avoid being in touch with lawyers, political parties, their leaders or ministers and high ranking judges should not interfere in the administrative work of court lower to it.
“Internal interference from a high ranking Judge which, if resisted, could lead the lower ranking Judge being transferred or being denied promotion also needs to be deprecated. Similarly, political protection should not be given to corrupt Judges,” Kapadia said at the fifth M C Setalvad memorial lecture.
“A Judge must inevitably choose to be a little aloof and isolated from the community at large. He should not be in contact with lawyers, individuals or political parties, their leaders or ministers unless it be on purely social occasions,” he said.
The CJI’s remarks assume significance as the issue of corruption allegedly involving sitting judges P D Dinakaran and Soumitra Sen, who are facing impeachment proceedings in Parliament, were raised by other speakers.
Senior advocates Anil Divan and P P Rao voiced serious concerns over judges being involved in corruption.
The CJI began his speech by saying that “I am an eternal optimist and I can see that in future things are going to improve as far as integrity and as far as credibility of the Supreme Court is concerned.”
Kapadia said the judges should not accept any type of patronage and stick to judicial norms.
“The Judge should not accept patronage through which he acquires office, preferential treatment or pre-retirement assignment. These can give rise to corruption if and when quid pro quo makes a demand on such Judges”, he said.