You are aware of the repression on us by the nexus of Company management-Police-Government, as 13 MSWU members have been sentenced to Life Imprisonment and 4 more workers handed 5 years by the GurgaonSessions Court on 18 March 2017 – without a shred of evidence, and solely on the false witness accounts by the management.
But against this repression, thousands of workers in this industrial belt and across India and world are protesting. On the evening of the Verdict on 18thMay, 30000 workers in Gurgaon-Manesar did tool down strike against the injustice. The Maruti Suzuki Mazdoor Sangh (MSMS)–the joint platform of Maruti Suzuki factories–had given a call for Protest on the martyrdom day of Bhagat Singh-Rajguru-Sukhdev on 23rdMarch in Manesar. Despite prohibitory orders of Section 144, thousands of workers from the industrial belts in Haryana and Rajasthan rallied in protest from factory after factory in Manesar. Aletter from the Jailed workerswas read out, and a call given to intensify the struggle for the release of the Jailed workers. It was also decided to give economic assistance to families of the Jailed workers.
On this 23rdMarch Protest program, we already appealed to all to observe 4thApril as an all-India Day and International of Protest. Preparations for the same have already begun in various places. Meanwhile, recognized Central Trade Unions later issued a call to organize all-India Protest in solidarity with the Maruti Suzuki workers on 5thApril. So,We appeal to all workers and pro-worker forces to observe 4th/5thApril 2017 as all-India and International Days of Protestand show solidarity in whatever ways possible.
The struggling workers in the Gurgaon-Manesar-Bawal-Neemrana industrial belt in the states of Haryana-Rajasthan are showing that they will not relent on their legitimate rights and strengthen their class unity against the capitalist onslaught. We have also received great courage and thank the amazing show of solidarity of workers with the struggle for Justice of Maruti workers. Since the last few days, there have been protests by lakhs of workers in this and other industrial belts and by various workers, student-youth, human rights and other democratic organizations in over 30 cities-towns in the country. We also greatly encouraged and thank the amazing show of international working class solidarity with protests, deputations and solidarity positions and actions in over 21 countries. This is a long battle, and only the growing force of the movement and wider solidarity can take the struggle forward.
for more information contact
Provisional Working Committee,
Maruti Suzuki Workers Union
Contact: 7011865350 (Ramniwas), 9911258717 (Khusiram) on behalf of the PWC, MSWU.
Accused in case of rioting and arson, PAAS members’ surrender mission fails in absence of the investigating officer
Patidar agitation leader Hardik Patel and 13 of his supporters who reached the Ahmedabad Crime Branch on Monday to sur render in the rioting and arson case registered by BJP corporator from Vastral were turned away as the investigating officer was out of town.The Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) had on Sunday announced that he along with 13 others, who were named in the FIR, will surrender before the crime branch on Monday. He was also supposed to appear before the crime branch on Monday as part of his bail condition in the sedition case registered in Ahmedabad.
“As part of his bail condition, he is supposed to appear before us every Monday. Since Ramol police had also registered a case against him recently, which was later transferred to the crime branch, Hardik asked us to arrest him and others. However, since the IO of that case is out of station, we told them that we will do it later,“ Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) B C Solanki said.
Hardik and his supporters reached the crime branch office at 10.30am. Af ter signing the register, the youth leader started walking further into the office in a bid to surrender, when he was stopped by senior police officials who informed him that no action would be taken against him in absence of the IO.
Sources said, “A senior police officer put his hand on Hardik’s shoulder and guided him out of the building. Thereafter, all Assistant Commissioner of Police level officers left the premises. Joint Commissioner of Police J K Bhatt had left the building 15 minutes before Hardik arrived at 10.30am.“ On March 20, Ramol police lodged a rioting and arson case against Hardik and 59 other Patel quota agitators for creating ruckus outside the house of BJP corporator from Vastral in the city, Paresh Patel. Ramol police have arrested 13 persons till date in connection with the case. Later, the probe was transferred to City Crime Branch, said Ramol PI, Paresh Solanki.
`Will not be intimidated’
While coming out of crime branch office after signing the register, Hardik said he will not get intimidated by “new cases“ filed against him. “The govern ment cannot stop me from raising my voice by filing new cases or putting me behind bars again. My fight will continue. Even if the BJP wins the upcoming Assembly polls, our fight for reservation will continue,“ said Hardik who is facing sedition cases in Ahmedabad and Surat.
He added, “The sections slammed on me in this case are grievous and in such cases, the police often conduct combing operations to flush out the accused. However, despite being aware of my presence, DCP (Zone 5) Girish Pandya declared me `absconding’ on March 22. It should be noted that PAAS leader Geeta Patel was arrested from her residence at 5am while Sardar Patel Group member Nachiket Mukhi was picked up from his residence at 7am by the crime branch in this case. The officers are not arresting me because the case is fabricated.“
PAAS leader Varun Patel told Mirror, “The police did not arrest us when we went to surrender. Hereafter, should Hardik Patel or any other PAAS member be harmed, the police and BJP government will be at fault.“
Before leaving the premises, Hardik submitted an application to the crime branch declaring his intention to surrender and urging the police to uphold law and order without succumbing to the ruling party’s pressure.
Sources told Mirror that with BJP National Chief Amit Shah scheduled to address a BJP rally in the city on March 29 and the Patidars planning to protest at the venue , the home department has ordered the city crime branch to keep a close eye on movement of PAAS members. “Had Hardik been arrested on Monday, the crime branch would have been forced to keep him in custody for 24 hours prompting mass protests by Patidar youths, especially in Naranpura from where Amit Shah is the MLA. It is likely Hardik will be arrested after the programme is succesfully completed.“
The Gadchiroli Sessions Court judgment sentencing G N Saibaba, Prashant Rahi, Hem Mishra, Mahesh Tirki, Pandu Narote to life imprisonment and Vijay Tirki to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment is flawed and shows clearly to what extent the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act can be misused. Apart from citing irrelevant documents, it has ignored valid evidence and arguments presented by the defence, and accepted dubious versions of the same presented by the prosecution.
Life sentencing seems to be the order of the day in the largest democracy in the world, as India likes to call itself. Recent instances of life sentencing, all in March 2017, have dropped the veil of democracy off from the last institution meant to uphold it, the judiciary. This time, with the murder of judicial equity. We must beware the Ides of March!
In a shocking, highly controversial judgment delivered on 7 March 2017, Suryakant Shinde, sessions judge at Gadchiroli District Court, Maharashtra, convicted G N Saibaba (professor, Delhi University), Prashant Rahi (journalist from Uttarakhand), Hem Mishra (cultural activist and student at Jawaharlal Nehru University), Mahesh Tirki, Pandu Narote and Vijay Tirki (tribal residents of Gadchiroli) under Sections 13,18, 20, 38 and 39 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967 and Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). All but Vijay Tirki, who was given 10 years of rigorous imprisonment, were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Eleven days later, on 18 March 2017, Gurgaon Additional District and Sessions Judge R P Goyal, after acquitting 117 Maruti Suzuki workers, most of whom were behind bars for five years, held the 13 remaining workers guilty for the death of a manager at the Manesar plant and awarded them life sentences.
Now, we have Chief Justice of India (CJI) J S Khehar mourning that a terror convict gets access to justice while the victims do not. He was referring to the last-ditch attempts by the best legal minds in the country to stay the hanging of Yakub Memon. Just what is the CJI saying? That a man who is about to be executed ought not to get access to justice? Getting that access did not prevent the hanging. But, the ultranationalist rhetoric spitting venom at those lawyers harks back to the medieval ages of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. It was the very same Supreme Court—justifying an earlier hanging, that of Afzal Guru—that gave judicial import to the primordial instinct of “collective conscience.” The quality of mercy is, indeed, strained!
Judge Shinde pronounced the verdict at 3 pm in a courtroom packed with heavy bandobast of police armed with sophisticated weapons, leaving little space for the lawyers and anxious relatives of the accused. By 5 pm, copies of the 827-page judgment in English were handed over to the accused, the defence lawyers, and the prosecution.
The judgment displays extreme animus, particularly directed at Saibaba, going to the extent of describing him thus: “though G N Saibaba is 90% disabled, he is mentally alert.” This can only arise out of the state’s vendetta against the man for the sympathy shown by the higher courts in granting him bail and for the widespread protests that resulted after his arrest in 2014. The sessions judge even refused to allow him the facilities granted by earlier orders regarding medical assistance, attendants, diet, and so on, leaving him at the mercy of the prison authorities!
Forty-eight-year-old wheelchair-bound G N Saibaba, professor of English at Delhi University, suffers from a spinal disorder that has resulted in the rapid deterioration of his muscles and nerves. The condition means that Saibaba cannot walk or use his left arm. His rib cage is collapsing onto his lungs. He has 90% disability and requires constant medical care to stop his condition from declining precipitously to an extent that could be a threat to his life. Extremely weak already (he had been hospitalised for acute pancreatic and heart ailments just prior to his conviction), he was being provided regular jail food instead of what was medically prescribed. Reports from those who have met him in jail suggest that despite vomiting bouts and two painful pancreatic attacks, no medical treatment has been given to him.
Studying the 827-page judgment is an exercise by itself. But, reading it at length shows the vigorous and painstaking evidence mounted by the defence lawyers, which was completely ignored and rejected by the trial judge. For example, it is known that the first three accused—Mahesh Tirki, Pandu Narote and Hem Mishra—were arrested on 20 August 2013 from Ballarshah Junction railway station, in Chandrapur district, but the police framed a first information report (FIR) to show arrest two days later on 22 August 2013 and at the Aheri bus stand in Gadchiroli district. It was the defence’s case that the three accused were kept in illegal custody for two days, and their confessions extracted and a false location of the arrest shown to bring it within the jurisdiction of the Naxal-affected Gadchiroli district.
The manner in which Saibaba was implicated in this case, almost a year later, is extremely suspicious. Soon after the arrest of Tirki, Narote and Mishra, there was a raid on Saibaba’s official quarters in the Delhi University (DU) campus (at that time he was living in Gwyer Hall, the chief warden’s residence allotted by DU authorities to Saibaba since he had 90% disability) and his computer and some books and papers were stolen by the Maharashtra police. There were no witnesses, nothing was sealed before him, and almost one year later he was arrested on a fictitious charge. Much later, the prosecution in its charge sheet could easily have planted incriminating material, since it was hell-bent on implicating Saibaba.
The sessions court has conveniently overlooked these procedural lapses in the judgment. The defence repeatedly sought the production of subscriber detail records (SDR) and call detail records (CDR) of the mobile SIM (subscriber identity module) cards, which would have established the defence’s version and demolished the prosecution’s case. But, the prosecution did not produce these records. The sessions judge, Shinde, ought to have, but did not draw adverse inference against the prosecution for what the Bombay High Court and other high courts have held to be “not just faulty investigation but withholding of best evidence.”
A crucial “panch” witness in cross-examination deposed that he did not remember the name of the accused or for what purpose had been to Aheri police station as a panch witness in 2014. How could he then remember the instance of the panchnama done in 2013 against these three accused? Crucial evidence found on all the three accused were newspapers dated 19 August 2013 or 20 August 2013 and railway tickets to Ballarshah Junction. Nothing was found showing bus tickets to the Aheri bus stand. The defence lawyers effectively demolished the panchnamas of the allegedly incriminating 16GB memory card, in that the panch witness did not have any knowledge of being able to differentiate between a card reader, Bluetooth device, pen drive, and memory card, and hence was not a credible witness to identify a 16GB memory card.
According to a prosecution witness, the investigating officer had read the contents of a 16GB memory card in his presence and hence this points to the tampering of the same by the prosecution before it was sealed and sent to the forensic laboratory.
What has Mahesh Tirki been found guilty of for inviting such a harsh punishment? That he was in possession of a pamphlet that opposed the Surjagad project and Operation Green Hunt, and another pamphlet condemning the Khairlanji massacre and the Maharashtra government, which has protected the perpetrators of the massacre and seeks to spread terror among Dalits, and so it showed his hatred towards the government?
Judge Shinde notes that from the personal search of Mahesh Tirki “incriminating articles” like a mobile phone, three pamphlets regarding naxal literature, a platform ticket of Ballarshah Junction dated 28 May 2013, along with personal documents like his election identity card, were seized; and from the possession of Pandu Narote “incriminating articles” like a platform ticket of Ballarshah Junction, a copy of Lokmat (Marathi newspaper), and an umbrella were seized along with personal documents like his State Bank of India passbook, his birth certificate and that of his daughter, caste certificate, domicile certificate, PAN card, election identity card, and registration certificate of a vehicle were seized. What is possibly incriminating about any of these articles?
As for Saibaba, of the 52 items seized from the raid on his quarters in Delhi on 12 September 2013, including such items as CDs—with titles like “Video on Sri Lankan War Crimes,” “A Few Myths & Facts About Salwa Judum Concentration Camps,” “Meeting on Kashmir-4, 21 October 2010 Arundhati Roy Amit Bhattacharayya,” “Mati Ke Lal,” “BBC Documentary on KASHMIR”—one magazine with the title “The Arrested” (Volume 2, December 2012), one magazine “People’s March” dated 8 August 2007, and “one photograph of woman with gun”!
It was brought on record by the defence counsel that the panch witness—who is meant to be an independent witness—of the raid on the residence of Saibaba was accommodated at the police rest house when he came to depose before the Gadchiroli Sessions Court. The same witness deposed that on 12 September 2013, students and professors were gathered near Saibaba’s house and that when his house was being searched, Saibaba requested that the search should happen in the presence of a professor or his advocate. He admitted that the police locked the gate of Saibaba’s house and they did not allow any professor to enter the house and that inside the house around 20–25 members of Delhi police and 20–25 members of Maharashtra police were present.
An important omission brought on record by the defence during cross-examination of the panch witness was that the videography of the proceedings of the house search was taken, but the videographer was not examined to prove the fact that videography was in fact done, the investigating officer Suhas Bawche has not made any efforts to obtain the CD from the Delhi police, and the explanation given by Bawche is not proper, and, hence, adverse inference should be drawn against the prosecution for not producing the CD and not examining the videographer.
Whereas the judge is extremely lenient with the panch witness, who could not support the prosecution’s case, by recording,
It is to be noted that this witness is illiterate witness. He cannot read and write English language and his cross examination was held in whole day that too by eminent lawyer having standing practice of more than 25 years and this witness might have frightened because of Court atmosphere.
In contrast, the judge chose to accept the confessional statements of Tirki and Narote while in police custody and under police torture as the unchallengeable truth, and has rejected the retraction affidavits filed by them subsequently in court.
The judgment further notes that, as for the 16GB memory card seized from the possession of Hem Mishra, there is no mention of unique identification numbers of electronic gadgets in the panchnamas, but it holds that this is not fatal to the prosecution’s case. There is convoluted reasoning in the judgment:
it is clear that said crashed hard disk was sent to CFSL Bombay along with other electronic devices (Articles 1 to 41) and it could not be detected in the Cyber Forensic Scientific Laboratory. Hence, it reveals that the name ‘Prakash’ mentioned in Secretary’s report at page no.17 of Exh.267 is nothing but accused no.6 Saibaba.100%.
A number of public meetings attended by Saibaba for the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) and Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF) have been used to incriminate him because of the prosecution labelling these as front organisations of the Communist Party of India (CPI) (Maoist), when neither are banned organisations, nor are they front organisations, but are independent mass organisations.
A Flawed Judgment
To get an idea of why the judgment is so voluminous but devoid of independent judicial reasoning, take paragraph 533, which starts on page 401. This paragraph goes on to reproduce the entire programme and manifesto of the RDF (which is not a banned organisation) and concludes on page 434, thus taking up 33 pages of the judgment. Similarly, many documents are reproduced verbatim without any reasoning about their admissibility as incriminating evidence against the accused. From thereon, there is a line-up of various organisations with which these accused are allegedly associated. Their descriptions with photographs and video clips showing their active public activities run till page 460, covering up to paragraph 544 of the judgment.
What is even more problematic with the judgment is that it goes on to decide whether the RDF is a front organisation for the CPI (Maoist), almost arraigning it as a seventh accused in the case. There is no scope under the UAPA or under any law for a sessions court to decide whether or not a particular organisation is a front organisation. The court has, thus, exceeded its jurisdiction (from para 794 on page 674, to para 832 on page 700) in bringing this under its purview and in further concluding that “Saibaba is to be found as a founder of RDF and he is think tank of RDF organisation and high profile leader and he assisted the organisation in furtherance of their unlawful/terrorist activities as defined under Section 15 of UAPA wherein people have been exhorted to armed rebellion.”
The sessions court has clearly overshot its jurisdiction, particularly when there is no notification to that effect issued by the Central Government under Section 3 of the UAPA declaring the RDF as an unlawful association.
The defence went further to argue that since none of the accused have been accused of taking part in terrorist activities, mere association is not sufficient to hold them guilty. This proposition has been upheld in the Supreme Court in the cases of Arup Bhuyan v State of Assam (2011, 3 SCC 377) and Sri Indra Das v State of Assam (2011, 3 SCC 380) to argue that merely being a member of a banned organisation does not incriminate the person and, therefore, even if it is found that the appellant was a member of a banned CPI (Marxist) and/or CPI (Marxist–Leninist) organisation, he cannot be held guilty of committing an offence under Section 124A of the IPC or for committing offences under the UAPA. The judge however held that since the prosecution has proved the case against the accused, the Supreme Court judgments are simply not applicable to their case!
Seeing the bent of mind of the sessions judge, except for the first accused pleading for leniency as he is an agriculturist with a family to look after, the remaining accused did not wish to say anything further, nor did the defence counsel, with the judge seemingly having made up his mind. The court went into recess at this point. When the court resumed at 3 pm, it elaborated from paragraphs 1005 to 1014 (pp 812–19) to further explore the nature of the Maoist movement in India before finally giving the maximum sentence to all except one of the accused.
It cannot be forgotten that the arrest of Saibaba and others gained national and international importance because of the ordeals that all the accused, particularly Saibaba, were made to go through. Despite having 90% disability, Saibaba was dragged, pulled, pushed, bundled into unhygienic police vans and forced to travel hundreds of kilometres on rough roads, all resulting in deterioration of his health. Because of this harassment, his ligaments were severed, nerves bruised, his heart problem aggravated, and his left arm and hand were completely paralysed. Hem Mishra has a disability of the hand, despite which he was tortured in custody. So too were the tribal youth and Prashant Rahi. Their bail applications were consistently rejected against medical advice and after huge national and international protests.
The voluminous 827-page judgment cites so many irrelevant and unconnected issues that the prosecution has trotted out as evidence, including some request notes and leave letters written by Saibaba to the authorities of a Delhi college where his daughter was studying, and routine letters written by his wife to her bank regarding double entries. The major charge of the prosecution is that the accused in this case were waging war against the country and supporting the ideology of a banned organisation, CPI (Maoist). Anybody can easily understand that to “wage a war” somebody needs weapons and none of the six accused were shown as possessing any weapon on them when arrested, nor did the police find any in searching their houses. Supporting an ideology, even if the same ideology is adhered to by a banned organisation, cannot be a crime.
Such a verdict would not have been possible without the extreme provisions found in the draconian anti-terror UAPA, which has to be seen against the background of the gradual but steady constriction of Article 19, which guarantees the fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly, and association. Unlike its predecessors, Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987 and Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002, both of which had provisions for mandatory periodic review, or a sunset clause, the UAPA has no such provision. With periodic amendments since 2004, its provisions have only become more anti-constitutional. Since 2014, various civil liberty and democratic rights organisations throughout the country have initiated campaigns and movements for the repeal of the UAPA.
Both the Gadchiroli and Gurgaon judgments clearly are aimed to placate corporate greed for “industrial and other developments.” The Gadchiroli Sessions Court judgment goes so far as to say that “the situation of Gadchiroli district from 1982 till today is in paralyzed condition and no industrial and other developments are taking place because of fear of naxal and their violent activities. Hence, in my opinion, the imprisonment for life is also not a sufficient punishment to the accused but the hands of the Court are closed with the mandate of Section 18 and 20 of UAPA and in my opinion it is a fit case to award sentence of imprisonment of life” (para 1013, pp 818–19). Civil Rights organisations and activists have condemned the judgment, pointing out that it is the culmination of the vicious campaign and propaganda against Saibaba, in particular, for lending his voice against the outright sell-out of Indian mineral resources to multinational corporations and to the corporates in India.
There have been a series of actual terror cases where the judiciary has had no harsh words at all—Malegaon, Ajmer Dargah, Samjhauta Express, Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid, and Modasa in Gujarat. All involved bomb blasts and killings authored by Hindu right-wing groups like Abhinav Bharat. Let alone being declared terror organisations, the accused are brazenly acquitted. It is revealing to contrast the Gadchiroli and Gurgaon verdicts with the one dispensed by Jaipur’s National Investigation Agency Court on 8 March 2017, where Swami Aseemanand, and six others were acquitted in the Ajmer Dargah bomb blast case, which had killed three persons and injured dozens in 2007.
Indeed, beware the Ides of March!
Susan Abraham ([email protected]) is a lawyer and member of the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights, Mumbai.
Updated On : 24th Mar, 2017
See more at: http://www.epw.in/journal/2017/12/web-exclusives/misuse-unlawful-activities-prevention-act.html-0#sthash.Jlq5mOJA.dpuf
Yogendra Vasupal was arrested by police last week for allegedly owing an advertising firm Rs. 1.72 crore.
Entrepreneurs around the world pay a price when their ventures fail, from lost fortunes to tarnished reputations. But in India, one startup founder has been hit with a particularly harsh penalty for his company’s demise: He’s in jail for not paying money to one of his suppliers.
Yogendra Vasupal, or Yogi as he is known in startup circles, had founded Stayzilla, a marketplace that lets homeowners and renters find each other online. The startup struggled against tough local competition and Airbnb Inc., closing its doors in February. Yogi was arrested by police last week for allegedly owing an advertising firm Rs. 1.72 crore (about $260,000).
The episode is sparking a forceful backlash in India’s technology community. More than 175 founders from the country’s startups have signed an open letter to top ministers and bureaucrats calling for Vasupal’s release and a fair trial. The letter, endorsed by Vijay Shekhar Sharma of digital-payments provider Paytm and Bhavish Aggarwal of ride-hailing service Ola, argues the future of entrepreneurship is at risk.
“If ever there’s a right to be an entrepreneur, that’s clearly been violated. Period,” reads the letter, which is addressed to Home Minister Rajnath Singh among others. “The question is not how this will affect entrepreneurship today, but how young Indians looking to become entrepreneurs in the future will give up even before starting up.”
The episode is unifying India’s young startup community like never before. They see common cause with Stayzilla’s founder in a way they resisted even when facing predatory pricing from global giants or new taxes from the government. The effort has spawned a website, help-yogi.com, and #helpyogi on Twitter.
Vasupal was picked up on March 14 when walking on a Chennai street by two policemen in plain clothes who snatched his mobile phone. The vendor had filed a police complaint accusing the founders of defrauding his company of more than 17 million rupees.
The letter alleges the advertising company is far from innocent in the conflict. It charges the vendor threatened Stayzilla and sent voodoo dolls to Vasupal’s parents and to his co-founder. The letter also contends the company owed money is “well-connected” and benefits from influential politicians and officials.
Vasupal has not been able to get a bail hearing a week after his arrest despite attempts made by the community and legal experts. A fresh attempt to secure bail is planned for Wednesday.
Indian startups are already struggling with a downturn in venture investing and a rise in competition that have led to layoffs, shutdowns and impending closures. Kunal Bahl, co-founder of e-commerce provider Snapdeal, said on Twitter that there is a growing trend of entrepreneurs coming under attack.
“Many startup founders, including myself, have seen the ugliness of getting on the wrong side of people with bad intentions,” he wrote.
Vasupal and his co-founder had said in February they were shutting Stayzilla because the business model wasn’t viable. They had raised millions of dollars from investors including Matrix Partners and Nexus Venture Partners.
Shashank N.D., founder and chief executive of healthcare startup Practo Technologies, said the episode may well set a precedent for how startup founders fare when they deal with unpaid suppliers. “If this can happen to a well-known, well-backed startup, what can happen to smaller ones?,” said Shashank, who also signed the letter. “Startups need the safety net of basic law and order. We are not asking for anything special.”
The signatories to the letter say they want more than freedom for Yogi. They called for an independent investigation into the arrest and whether local authorities abused their power.
“What Yogi and his family are going through now make India look like the worst place, a nightmarish choice to become an entrepreneur,” the letter says. “This has had global repercussions and besmirched India’s reputation in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.”
“The central jail in Raipurhouses 3,275 prisoners as against the capacity of 1,190, while the central jail at Durg has 2,114 inmates as against the capacity of 1206R
Raipur Mar 21 All five Central jails in Chhattisgarh are “overcrowded” as over 13,000 inmates are lodged there against the existing capacity of 5883, the Legislative Assembly was told today.
“As against the capacity of 5883, there are 13,093 inmates lodged in five central jails as on December 31, 2016,” State Home Minister Ramsewak Paikra stated in a written reply to a query of the congress MLA Motilal Dewangan.
These facilities are located in Raipur, Bastar, Bilaspur, Sarguja and Durg districts.
“The central jail in Raipur houses 3,275 prisoners as against the capacity of 1,190, while the central jail at Durg has 2,114 inmates as against the capacity of 1206.
“Similarly, the central jail at Bilaspur houses 3,397 prisoners though it has facility to keep only 1,328. The central jail at Jagdalpur (Bastar) houses 1,967 inmates and one at Ambikapur (Sarguja) 2,340 as against the capacity of 1139 and 1020, respectively,” the reply said.http://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/all-central-jails-in-chhattisgarh-overcrowded-assembly-told/1011510
In 2009, the Government of India announced a new nation-wide initiative viz. “Integrated Action Plan” (IAP) for broad coordinated operations to deal with the ‘Naxalite’ problem. This plan included increased funding for special police for better containment and reduction of Naxalite influence. Kobad Ghandy’s arrest in September 2009 was a direct fall out of this IAP.
Kobad Ghandy, born in 1951, studied in Doon School; St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai and went to London to study chartered accountancy. He often wrote in newspapers and journals. Prior to his arrest he was living in Delhi since 2006. He was said to be in charge of expanding the Communist Party of India (Maoist) [CPI (Maoist)] in urban areas. He was actually arrested days before 20thSeptember, 2009 – the date touted by the police – at the Bhikaji Cama Place, New Delhi by the Intelligence Bureau. He was illegally detained, tortured and interrogated till his formal date of arrest. At that time a T.V. news channel compared him to Lashkar-e-Tayiba founder Mohammed Sayeed; while the 2008 BBC interview quoted Kobad Ghandy:
“The first step is to distribute land to the tiller … We have a clear-cut definition of development.”
Kobad Ghandy was charged under the Draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention), Act (UAPA) inter alia for the offences under Sections 20 and 38 of UAPA. The investigation was assigned to the then Additional Commissioner of Police (ACP) Special Cell of Delhi Police. The police raid – allegedly conducted at the premises of Kobad Ghandy – yielded a large number of books, CDs, DVDs, computer, CPU, pen drives, laptop and other material/articles. As per the Police Report submitted to the court the material contained codes, email ids and telephone numbers related to CPI (Maoist), a banned organization under UAPA. The Police Report further stated that the recovered electronic material related to Maoist activities/ programmes e.g. Kobad Ghandy’s disclosure that he had gone to Nepal to meet Prachanda! (Ironically the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi had met Prachanda in October, 2016 during the BRICS summit, Goa!!)
By order dated 16 July, 2012, charges as above were framed against Kobad Ghandy to which he pleaded not guilty and claimed trial. The prosecution examined in all a total of 37 witnesses including top bureaucrats, police and intelligence officers both from various states as well as Central government e.g. Deputy Superintendent of Police Intelligence; Inspector General of Police; Special Branch, Additional Superintendent Police; Secretary, Govt. of National Capital Territory of Delhi; Deputy Secretary; several Deputy Commissioners of Police. Prosecution evidence was closed on 4 November, 2015 when recording of evidence of accused was fixed for.
Ms. Rebecca John, Senior Advocate addressed arguments on behalf of Kobad Ghandy. She was assisted by Mr. Bhavook Chauhan. Rebecca John argued:
that recoveries shown to have been made at the instance of Kobad Ghandy were planted;
that CPI (Maoist) had actually been outlawed only on 22 June, 2009; none of the material alleged to have been recovered pertained to any period after 22 June, 2009;
that no material is produced to show that Kobad Ghandy continued to be a member of CPI (Maoist) after 22 June, 2009;
that heavy reliance was placed by the prosecution on digital storage devices such as CDs, DVDs, pen drives and hard drives; but none of these media/devices were sent for forensic examination to any Forensic Sciences Laboratory (FSL) to verify genuineness and authenticity of their contents;
that no photograph or voice sample of Kobad Ghandy was obtained and sent to any FSL to establish that the voice/video footage contained in the said media was that of Kobad Ghandy;
that unverified newspaper reports placed by the prosecution cannot be said to be evidence;
that FIRs involving Kobad Ghandy had been placed on record to prove that he was a member of CPI (Maoist); that authors of these FIRs had not been examined; that these FIRs were thus inadmissible in evidence;
that Section 20 of the UAPA makes punishable membership of a terrorist organization “which is involved in terrorist act”; but no evidence on record shows Kobad Ghandy had advocated any terrorist act;
that additional charge against Kobad Ghandy was under Section 38 of the UAPA; but this Section would not apply to Kobad Ghandy since CPI (Maoist) was not declared to be a terrorist organization when he allegedly became a member;
that the Sanction Order was declared to be illegal by the Court of Shri P.K. Jain through its order dated 28 March, 2012; and the second Sanction Order dated 28 March, 2012 could not cure the defect which was there in the earlier Sanction pertaining to Section 45(2) of the UAPA;
that there was absolutely no time given to the Sanctioning Authority to consider any material;
that in the absence of any valid Sanction Order, the prosecution of Kobad Ghandy for the offences under UAPA fall through;
that the prosecution had relied on the recovery of written material and digital storage media touting it to be incriminating evidence at that time;
that the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Kobad Ghandy had led the police team to the premises from where incriminating evidence was recovered;
that the prosecution had relied on material downloaded from the internet as evidence of association and membership of Kobad Ghandy of CPI (Maoist);
that this material was downloaded by the prosecution and assessed from certain nine named websites which had hosted the information; servers of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are used to host these websites on the internet;
that prosecution had furnished signed certificates under Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act in support of this downloaded information;
that the prosecution witness had assessed the information by using his computer and then taking print outs of the same; the material was thus neither generated nor stored in the computer system used by the prosecution;
that as per Section 65B(2) of the Evidence Act the information in the electronic record has to be produced by the computer from which it is retrieved; only then it is deemed a document;
that the said electronic records relied upon by the prosecution are therefore inadmissible in evidence;
that the prosecution witness was not competent to sign the certificates as he had no control over these websites; therefore the said electronic records are inadmissible;
that emails attributed to Kobad Ghandy were assessed by the prosecution and relied upon to prove his association.
For the very same reasons (supra) that the Court had observed that the electronic records produced by prosecution was inadmissible in evidence, the print outs of the emails too could not be looked into or read in evidence. This was the Court’s observation. The emails were stored in the servers of the email service providers viz. Yahoo. The computers used by prosecution witness did not produce the emails, but provided access to these emails. Prosecution would therefore not be competent to give any certificate under Section 65B of the Evidence Act in regard to the emails stored in the servers of Yahoo.
The Court observed in its judgement:
“108. The task of the prosecution is to establish its case against an accused beyond any reasonable doubt. The same has been reiterated by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in several cases. In the case of Paramjeet Singh vs. State of Uttarakhand (2010) 10 SCC 439 it was held that the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and that the law does not permit the Court to punish the accused on the basis of moral conviction or suspicion alone. The more serious the offence, stricter the degree of proof required, since a higher degree of assurance is required to convict the accused. In the case of Kali Ram vs. State of Himachal Pradesh (1973) 2 SCC 808 it was held that when two views are possible, one pointing to the guilt and other to the innocence of the accused, the view favourable to the accused must be taken. When Court entertains a reasonable doubt regarding the guilt of the accused, the accused must get the benefit of that doubt. In the case of Datar Singh vs. State of Punjab (1975) 4 SCC 272 it has been held that suspicion, however grave, cannot be a satisfactory basis for convicting an accused person. When the superstructure of the prosecution has crumbled, it is impossible to not give the benefit of the doubt to the accused.
In the facts and circumstances of this case, there are reasonable doubts on the version of the prosecution on charge under Sections 20 and 38 of the UAPA. The benefit of the same will have to go to the accused. …
Hence in the absence of any evidence in support of these charges, Kobad Ghandy is acquitted for the charge framed for the offences under Sections 20 and 38 of the UAPA.”
This judgement was announced in the open court on the 10th of June, 2016 by Shri Reetesh Singh, Additional Sessions Judge, Patiala House Courts, New Delhi.
The prosecution had submitted to the court that Kobad Ghandy had disclosed that he had gone to Nepal in 2006 to meet Prachanda, the Chief of Nepal Maoists and other Maoists leaders in Nepal. This was held against Kobad Ghandy even as he was charged under UAPA. Ironically Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister had met Prachanda in October, 2016 during the BRICS Summit, Goa. Does Modi know the following facts about Prachanda?:
That Prachanda’s Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) declared a “peoples war” on 4 February, 1996 and started looting weapons of policemen posted in rural Nepal.
That the Maoists started blowing up police posts.
That Prachanda led the bloody civil war for ten years during which over thirteen thousand people were killed; over one thousand disappeared; and thousands were displaced. Prachanda still faces cases of his involvement in killings of people during the armed conflict.
That ending his twenty-five year long underground life, Prachanda made a public appearance at the then Nepal Prime Minister’s residence on 16 June, 2006. It culminated in a 2006 peace deal. Prachanda was elected Prime Minister in August 2008; and is presently the Prime Minister of Nepal in his second term.
During Modi’s meeting with Prachanda in 2016, the Chinese President Xi Jinping was also present. Does Modi know the following facts about Xi Jinping?:
That Xi Jinping is the General Secretary, Communist Party of China (1974-Present).
That Xi Jinping has been referred to as Maoist both in ideological terms and in how he tries to control Chinese society.
That Chairman Mao Tse-tung’s or Mao Zedong’s Marxist-Leninist theories, military strategies and political policies are collectively known as Maoism.
– That critics of Mao consider him a dictator who was responsible for forty to seventy million deaths through starvation, prison labour and execution.
Modi was appointed Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2001. He was elected to the legislative assembly soon after. His administration has been considered complicit in the 2002 Gujarat riots. Several scholars have described the violence as a pogrom, while others have called it an example of state terrorism.
As far as Kobad Ghandy is concerned there is not a single act of violence committed by him, yet he continues to be in custody for over seven years and continues to fight cases under Draconian laws in several states in India even as he approaches the end of the seventh decade of his life and is in precarious health.
The sessions court in Gurgaon on 18 March, 2017 sentenced 13 workers of Maruti Suzuki to life imprisonment for murder. Twelve of these are the erswhtile leaders of the Maruti Suzuki Workers’ Union. Eighteen others were sentenced from three to five years for rioting and causing grievous injury. Cases against these workers were filed in July 2012 after violence in company’s Manesar plant during which one official unfortunately lost his life. On company’s complaint police arrested 148 workers and charged them with conspiracy and killing the company official.
The court ruling after a four-and-a-half year trial is based on flimsy evidence. The prosecution failed to establish even circumstantial evidence to show that any of those convicted caused the violence that took place, leave alone the death. The ruling also goes against the forensic evidence and post-mortem report that was placed before the court. Critically, officers of the company, who were produced before the court as prosecution witnesses denied they were present at the time of the incident. Some of them even admitted that they were acting under Maruti-Suzuki management direction.
117 of the arrested workers have been acquitted of all charges, though there was a common charge against all 148 workers. The acquittal of eighty percent of the accused workers shows that mass terrorisation of workers was one of the main motives of police action in this case, and that courts were wrong in denying them bail. These workers were forced to spend 31 months in prison for no fault of their own. Their fundamental right to life and liberty was attacked, yet no one is going to be punished for it.
The Maruti verdict is the latest in a series involving violence at plants of Pricol (Coimbatore), Graziano (Surajpur) and Regency Ceramics (Yanam) in which workers working for their unions have ended up being charged with murder. While all governments show little interest in attending to violations of existing labour regulations by employers, retribution against workers has been severe and swift. It is an indication of the class nature of justice in the country, that courts have convicted workers on trumped up charges and have gone out of their way to deny them justice. In May 2013 the Punjab and Haryana High Court had denied bail to Maruti workers with the argument that if bail is given foreign investors are not likely to invest in India out of fear of labour unrest, as if citizens’ right to justice were subservient to foreign investors’ confidence. This is a clear example of the degradation of criminal justice system and its failure to stick to first principles of justice. It should be a matter of grave concern for every Indian that while the leaders of some of the most henious pogroms in independent India have not been even touched by criminal justice systemt, workers of Maruti Suzuki have been sentenced to life imprisonment on flimsy evidence. Another development is the use of private armed guards by employers for threatening workers. According to workers of Honda scooter plant in Alwar, Rajasthan, their strike last year was broken by the management with the help of armed thugs, who had assaulted them inside the plant, and also in the city in full public view. Maruti Suzuki workers have also alleged that on the day of violence large number of hired bouncers were roaming inside the plant and threatening workers.
Working class movement is a great bulwark of democracy in any society. People without property were able to get voting rights and other democratic rights only after sustained campaigns by working class organizations. Working class politics tries to build solidarity among working people across regional, linguistic, religious and caste divisions. On the other hand, the right wing politics is a politics of hatred which divides people. In India Sangh parivar has been spreading hatred against minorities for decades, and indulging in violence agaisnt them. Working class struggle to get all workers together and form independent trade unions that can challenge capitalist depredations is a direct challenge to Hindutva game plan.
Maruti Suzuki workers have braved through sinister schemes of management, government, and police, and are standing firm in their commitment. All the workers sentenced to life imprisonment by the court were below thirty when arrested by the police. Their commitment for working people’s rights needs to be contrasted with the violence of activists of Sangh parivar against minorities, Dalits, and students and teachers of universities with full support of Modi government. It should be cleat to every one that the future of these workers is the future of democracy in India. And now that these young men have been sentenced to life, it is the democracy in India that stands on trial.
P.A.D.S. condemns the collusion of management, police and prosecution in the Maruti Suzuki case. It condemns the arrest of people who had gathered in front of Haryana Bhavan in Delhi on 16th March to express their outrage against the court verdict. It also condemns Haryana government for for imposing Section 144 in the Gurgaon Manesar industrial belt and trying to prenvent workers from protesting against this mockery of justice. It calls upon the higher judiciary to urgently give justice to wrongfully convicted workers. We salute the valiant struggle of Maruti Suzuki Workers’ Union. We appeal to all democratic central TUs to come forward unitedly to urgently resist this blatantly pro-management decicion which attacks the legitimate rights of the working people under the guise of cirminal convictions. We salute the workers of the Gurgaon-Manesar belt who in their thousands have been taking solidarity actions agaisnt the court verdict, and have vowed to intensify their struggle in coming days.
Advocate R Mahadevan has relatives who won’t talk to him any more. They don’t understand why he represents ‘people who hate their country’.
“I tried explaining the importance of a defence lawyer, but now I have just come to accept these things,” Mahadevan says.
He is currently representing suspects in the Bangalore serial blasts case, when nine bombs exploded in the city in 2008, killing 2 and injuring 20.
It’s not easy arguing for the damned. Threats of violence and death are common. Some lawyers find notes stuck on their cars, detailing the whereabouts of their children.
And then there are the attacks from within their circle — friends distance themselves; neighbours ask, why do you do it? At a family wedding, a relative may start an argument; during a festive gathering, suddenly the focus shifts to you.
“At a friend’s son’s wedding, I was asked by a relative, ‘Why did you undo the hard work done by the police?’ It was disturbing to think that even people who know me think of my work like this.”
In Lucknow, Mohammad Shoaib was beaten up in a courthouse, by other lawyers, for defending Aftab Alam Ansari, accused in the 2007 Lucknow court blast case. Charges against him were later withdrawn. “I had evidence that Ansari was at a doctor’s office on the day of the blast,” Shoaib says
But terror is one of those crimes where you are guilty, to most of society, until proven innocent. Which is why, constitutional experts say, the role of the criminal defence attorney in terror cases is even more vital.
Multiple acquittals in cases like the Akshardham temple attack of 2002 (all six accused acquitted) and the Delhi serial blasts of 2005 (two of three acquitted), with the judgements raising questions about the investigation process, underline this point.
“A large number of innocent people are arrested in terror-related cases,” says civil rights lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan. “Most of these suspects are poor and can’t afford good lawyers. In such a situation, not only should there be more lawyers to fight their cases but more organisations helping them with lawyers who will fight pro bono.”
The role of the defence lawyer in sensitive terror related cases is also very important as it upholds the values of the Constitution. In the case of Ajmal Kasab [the lone surviving gunman in the 2008 Mumbai terror siege] we had two lawyers arguing for him as he was the citizen of another country. This is the kind of transparency we need to uphold.—Ujjwal Nikam, public prosecutor who handled the 1993 Bombay serial blasts and the 2008 Mumbai terror siege cases, among others.
Instead, such organisations are few and fiercely embattled.
The legal cell of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind, one of India’s largest Muslim NGOs, is currently funding representation for over 600 people accused in cases across the country, most but not all of them Muslim.
Since 2007, when the organisation started supporting such cases, they have seen 120 people acquitted.
“In the beginning, there was only Shahid Azmi working on such cases in Mumbai. Now we have five lawyers willing to help in the city. We also have lawyers in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. But Shahid Azmi was killed, the other lawyers they are routinely threatened and the establishment makes light of these threats,” says Gulzar Azmi, secretary of the legal cell.
(With inputs from Poulomi Banerjee)
‘I WAS TOLD, WHY DO YOU NEED A GUN? THE TERRORISTS WILL DEFEND YOU’
Sharif Shaikh, 44, Mumbai
Has represented terror suspects in the twin blasts at Gateway of India and Zaveri Bazar; the 11/7 Mumbai serial train blasts, and the Ghatkopar bus blast of 2002.
Sharif Shaikh is never alone. He commutes with colleagues. At court and when heading out for an after-lunch stroll, he takes at least two others along. “I used to enjoy my independence. I used to like to go on long walks alone, but for the last few years my life has been like this,” says the Mumbai-based advocate.
Shaikh began practice as a criminal defence lawyer in 2001.
Advocate Sharif Shaikh has taken on more than 20 terror cases, including the 2002 Mumbai bus bombing in Ghatkopar. (Satyabrata Tripathy/HT Photo)
“When I first started getting threats in 2014, I applied for a gun licence. My application was rejected. I went to a state minister to appeal and he mocked me, saying, ‘Why do you need a gun when terrorists will defend you anyway?’” —Sharif Shaikh
A year later, a bomb exploded on a bus in the eastern suburb of Ghatkopar, killing two and injuring 50. Among the eight people arrested was Arif Paanwalla. His brothers, who knew Shaikh, were desperate.
“They said there was no way he could have been involved, and asked if I could help,” he remembers.
The charges hinged on the testimony of one witness, the conductor of the BEST bus. The case took an about-turn when that witness turned hostile, in March 2005. “Sometimes people are asked to lie because it will be a service to the nation and good for national security. That kind of thing is depressing,” he says.
All eight suspects in that case were acquitted by mid-2005.
Since then, Shaikh has taken on more than 20 terror cases. Four of these clients have been acquitted; two convicted. The rest are ongoing.
His public image, though, has been tarnished by his work.
“People consider the accused to be a terrorist as soon as the investigating body arrests them,” he says. “At a friend’s son’s wedding, I was asked by my cousin, ‘Why did you undo the hard work done by the police?’ It was disturbing to think what even people who know me, think of my work like this.”
Shaikh says that in that instance he at least had the opportunity to present his side. “I explained how, in many cases, my work has exposed flaws in the investigation. Thankfully, my cousin listened with interest and seemed to change his mind,” he says.
Pressure comes in different forms. Sometimes, it is direct threat calls, sometimes an extra round of grilling by security guards at the entrance to a courthouse.
“I was once told by a guard, ‘Why have you come here? We cannot ensure your safety if something happens’” he says.
Sometimes pressure comes from the family too. “My mother and my wife sometimes tell me I should stop taking such cases so that we can have a normal life. But they also know the helplessness of the people I fight for,” he says.
The attitude of the government has not been too helpful either. “When I first started getting threats in 2014, I applied for a gun licence. My application was rejected. I went to a state minister to appeal and he mocked me, saying, ‘Why do you need a gun when terrorists will defend you anyway’,” Shaikh says.
“OURS IS A HORRIBLE LIFE”
Abdul Wahab Khan, 46, Mumbai
Represented suspects in the Zaveri Bazar blasts case of 2003 and the 26/11 terror siege of 2008.
“Being a defence lawyer is horrible,” says Khan, who has been practising since 1998.
After five years of handling cases of robbery and murder, he took up his first terror related case after the Zaveri Bazar blasts, where two powerful bombs concealed in parked taxis exploded in the packed Mumbai market, killing 50 people and wounding 129.
“Recently, a client was sent a message in jail, through another under-trial, that he should not take me on as his advocate because I would intentionally lose the case. That hurt.” —Abdul Wahab Khan
The threats began almost immediately, anonymous calls telling him to drop the case.
“It’s frightening,” he says. “I worked with advocate Shahid Azmi for years, and he would talk about the death threats he got for representing people accused in cases like the serial train blasts of 2006 and the Malegaon bombing of 2006, and he was finally murdered in 2010.”
Fighting these cases has consumed his life and he says that work is something that he lives with every waking minute. “I am cross-questioning three or four witnesses in different cases every day, which more or less takes up all my time,” he says.
The pressure comes in indirect ways too. “Recently, a client was sent a message in jail, through another under-trial, that he should not take me on as his advocate because I would intentionally lose the case. That hurt,” he says.
Meanwhile, his wife and children have been affected; as have his earnings.
Most of his terror cases are done pro bono. “In a way, I am able to fund my time and effort on those cases because my earnings from other cases,” he says.
The stresses of juggling his workload and worrying about clients who face a possible death sentence have taken a toll too.
“To defend a man who is pitted against the sentiments of most of society and the system, one has to give it one’s all,” he says. “In cases like this, you are fighting for a man who is virtually on his deathbed.”
This leaves little time for a social or even a personal life. “Over the past two years, I have taken stock of my life and started to make some changes,” he says. “I hardly took any vacations for almost 15 years. Now I ensure that I take some time off each year with my family, and at least I come back refreshed.”
The threats have more or less ceased to matter. “I’m more concerned with finding out why someone is willing to lie on the stand, and how to break him,” Khan says.
“I’VE HAD NOTES PASTED ON MY CAR, THREATENING MY FAMILY”
Muhammad Shahwar Khan, 43, Delhi
Represented Syed Abdul Karim alias Tunda, an alleged bomb-maker for the Lashkar-e-Taiba terror outfit.
Advocate Muhammad Khan, who practices in the Patiala House court in New Delhi, took up his first terror-related case in 2001.
“The Special Cell of the Delhi Police had arrested four people. The allegations were that they had planted bombs at Sena Bhawan, Dalhousie Road, India Gate and caused explosions at the BSF Headquarters. All four were eventually acquitted as the prosecution could not prove the charges,” he says.
“As soon as one gets the chargesheet, a good lawyer can see through it. But whether a client is innocent or not is not the job of the lawyer. His job is to represent the accused to the best of his ability.”
Muhammad Shahwar Khan, a lawyer with the Patiala Court in New Delhi , goes for drives and indulges in his love for photography to relieve himself from the stress associated with his job. (Ravi Choudhary/HT PHOTO)
“There were chits pasted on my car with details of my family members. The last one was an SMS with a death threat, after which I have to move around with police security for a while.” —Muhammad Shahwar Khan
He tries to keep his personal life far from his professional life and tries not to get emotionally attached to a client or the case. “I may not be able to do justice to a case if I get emotionally involved,” he says.
But his family has been drawn in. “Soon after I took up the first case, I used to get calls from unknown numbers, some international, asking me to withdraw from cases. Later, there were chits pasted on my car with details of my family members. The last one was an SMS with a death threat, after which I have to move around with police security for a while,” he says.
But he does not let the pressure take over. “If I thought too much about it, I wouldn’t have been able to follow up on even one case. I never think about these things,” he says.
To unwind from the long days and stressful work, he indulges his passions for photography and driving in the hills. A team of friendly colleagues helps matters.
“I play for the Patiala Court Bar cricket team,” he says, chuckling.
But outside the city, the attitude of fellow lawyers has not always been friendly. “I went to Mathura in Uttar Pradesh in 2009 to represent a terror suspect who has been in jail for over 14 years. Over 300 local lawyers surrounded me outside the courthouse, shouting slogans against me. It was terrifying,” he says. “But when you do a good job, and the holds in the case are exposed, there is a special joy in seeing an innocent man go free.”
“THERE WAS A TIME MY FRIENDS WOULD AVOID ME”
Khalid Shaikh, 46, Ahmedabad
Has been representing 123 alleged members of the banned outfit SIMI since 2001
“Have you seen Jolly LLB 2?” asks Khalid Shaikh, referring to the 2013 dark comedy about a lawyer fighting a rich man on behalf of a group of poor labourers. “The film shows things in a lighter vein, but I really identify with it,” Shaikh says. “It’s one of the few films I’ve made time to see.”
In some ways, time has stood still for Shaikh since 2001. That’s the year the government of India banned the Students Islamic Movement of India, for alleged involvement in terror acts, and 123 people were arrested in Ahmedabad.
“Jolly LLB 2 shows things in a lighter vein, but I really identify with it.” — Khalid Shaikh
With support from my seniors I plunged into the cases as I was convinced that many of them were innocent of any wrongdoing,” Shaikh says. “In a year, all the accused got bail. But the final judgement just keeps dragging. Some of these people are bright professionals who cannot go abroad unless they are acquitted.”
On the upside, that case gave him the confidence to fight in other cases where society and the system were heavily pitted against the accused, like the Akshardham temple attack case of 2002.
His family is a big reason he has been able to carry on. “They value the work I am doing,” he says. “They saw the men’s faces when six accused were acquitted by the Supreme Court in the Akshardham case, with a strongly worded judgement against the investigating agency. It’s a special kind of joy when you are finally able to get justice for someone falsely accused.”
But he has not always been the toast of the town. Some friends avoided him when he was on sensitive cases. “No one said anything directly but I could feel I was being excluded from get-togethers,” he says. “They do understand that I work for the wronged.”
“THE TWO EXTREME NARRATIVES ABOUT MUSLIMS ANGER ME”
Parvez Alam, 50, Bhopal
Has been representing the families of two SIMI activists killed in an alleged fake encounter last year.
Senior lawyer Parvez Alam took up his first terror related case in 2009, when 14 persons were arrested under the UAPA in Madhya Pradesh for possessing banned literature and illegal arms. “They were all acquitted in two years,” he says.
He was also fighting the case of the alleged SIMI activists who were killed last year in what has been claimed to be a fake encounter. He is suspicious when first approached about his work. “How do I know who are you, or on whose behalf you work,” he says.
“There are two narratives about Muslims being spread: one of a peaceful Muslim and the other of an extremist, I think both are rubbish. Like every community, there are all kinds of Muslims.” — Parvez Alam
After some confirmation of identity, he continues, “I am always concerned about my children and try to keep them away from my professional world. I track them at all times.”
One thing he will talk about: The fact that almost all the terror suspects cases he has represented are Muslim men.
“I am completely against religious bias. There are two narratives about Muslims being spread: one of a peaceful Muslim and the other of an extremist, I think both are rubbish. Like every community, there are all kinds of Muslims, because that is how humans are,” he says.
His cases, he adds, drag on for many years and leave little time for anything else. “Since 2009, I have attended about two or three weddings. Whenever I go out of town I have to return within days,” he says.
Being identified as a ‘terrorist’s lawyer’ has been hard too. “A few months ago, I went out to buy clothes and the shopkeeper came up to me and asked, ‘Why do you take up such cases?’ I was a little upset and took a while to explain that till a murder has been proven, one cannot be called a murderer. Similarly, till the case has been proven, someone cannot be called a terrorist either,” he says.
13 of our brothers have been given ‘life sentences’ – including 12 Maruti Suzuki Workers Union body members – on the baseless charge of ‘murder’ on 18 March afternoon by the Gurgaon Additional Sessions Court. 4 workers given 5 year sentences. 14 workers given 3 years, but have already spent 4 years in prison, so released. Of the earlier acquitted 117 workers who spent over 4 years in Jail, we do not yet know as to who will return the lost years. 148 already spent 4 years in Jail without bail since 2012 without bail and 2500 workers were earlier illegally terminated and then faced continual State repression.
We reject the falsehood that this is an ‘objective judgement’. The Prosecution Case and Judicial Sentence is based on no evidences, false-witnesses and pure class hatred. See here for details of the arguments. Workers had no involvement in the unfortunate death of the pro-worker manager who helped in registering the Union, Mr Avanish Kumar Dev – this is conclusively proved in the legal case from the Defence. The conflict on the day of 18 July 2012 started with a supervisor attacking a Dalit worker Jiyalal – who was later made into ‘prime accused’ in the case – with caste-based abuse, and the worker’s suspension. The entire case is part of management conspiracy to finish off the Union, an attack on the Right to Union Formation itself, and the demands–particularly of abolition of Contract Worker System–it was raising and symbol it became for workers struggle.
The nature of the legal case was informed from the outset by the vitriolic repressive manner in which thousands of workers were continually hounded after 18 July 2012 by the nexus of the management and government, including the Police, administration and labour departments. This Judgement – made in between turning Gurgaon and Manesar into Police camps – is directly anti-worker and heavily influenced by the interests of the Company management, to ‘set an example’, to sow fear and terror among all industrial workers in the country, particularly the belt of Gurgaon to Neemrana in Haryana and Rajasthan. The Prosecution in its final arguments – much similar to the Chandigarh HC order of May 2013 rejecting bail for workers – arguing for ‘death penalty’ for workers, talked of the need of restoring ‘confidence’ of capital, and the Prime Minister’s initiative of inviting global investors for ‘Make in India’. The confidence of these foreign and national capitalists depend on one thing: a cheap and compliant labour force, so no Unions or any raising of demands.
By specifically targeting the entire Union body, this Company Raj wants to tell us that the workers movement, the Right to Union Formation and other Trade Union rights as well as Human Rights of workers in the country will be simply (with illegal and legal means) crushed by capitalists and the State. The attack on our Union body members is been simply because they have been the leadership of the struggle against the management practices of exploitation of labour in the factory and waged a legitimate long struggle for trade union rights and dignity since 2011 with the unity of permanent and contract workers, demanding the abolition of the contract worker system, dignity in the workplace, and an end to exploitative practices by the management. And finally registered our Union on 1 March 2012. This workers assertion was not acceptable to the management and they wanted to crush our Union, especially after submission of the Charter of Demands in April 2012 which argued for abolition of contract worker system. So they conspired and escalated the conflict on 18 July 2012.
The struggle full of vitality and hope gave positive energies for other workers to fight similar exploitation in the industrial region and beyond from Honda to Rico to Asti to Shriram Pistons to Daikin AC to Bellsonica name a few. This collective workers assertion needed to be crushed and ‘taught a lesson’ in the interests of the company managements. Similar conflicts and cases of repression on workers movements have happened from Graziano Transmissions Noida, Regent Ceramics Puducherry, Pricol in Chennai and so on. This Judgement comes in the trail of these repression, increasing its tempo. And so, the industrial areas are being turned into Police Camps.
Maruti Suzuki CEO RC Bhargava has said this is a ‘class war’. And what the government is doing is to turn workers disputes with management into a ‘Law & Order problem’, to criminalize workers fighting for their Rights of Union formation and against the Contract System. We condemn this criminalization of workers.
We are not afraid, nor tired with so much continuous repression. IT is only by increasing the tempo of the unity of workers beyond the divisions of permanent and contract, and independent class assertion against the continuous attacks of the current Company-State regime of exploitation-repression, that we can take the struggle forward. Lakhs of workers in industrial areas are already doing solidarity actions since 9 March, and on 16 March, over a lakh workers in Haryana, Rajasthan, UP, Tamil Nadu did hunger strikes. On 18thimmediately after the Judgement, 30000 workers in 5 Maruti Suzuki factories did an hour of ‘tool down’ solidarity strike even though the management tried to crush it as always by pressure to work and notice of 8 days pay cut. Since 16th March, there have been protests by various workers, students, human rights and other democratic organizations in over 20 cities, and deputations and solidarity positions and actions in 21 countries.
On 23rd March – the day of martyrdom of Shaheed Bhagat Singh – the Maruti Suzuki Mazdoor Sangh (MSMS), the joint platform of all 6 Maruti Suzuki factories have given the call of ‘Chalo Manesar’, for thousands of workers to gather and do a Protest rally in Manesar. We call upon all pro-worker forces to participate in this Protest. We also feel the need for a National Day of Protest, tentatively on 4th April. In this decisive and crucial hour, we appeal to all workers and pro-worker forces to stand with the demand to free the convicted workers, and wage a protracted struggle to ensure justice and workers rights, and show solidarity in whatever ways possible.
23 March ko Chalo Manesar!
Free the Maruti Workers!
End the Regime of Exploitation-Repression in the Industrial belts.
A Maharashtra court on Tuesday convicted wheel-chair bound Delhi University professor GN Saibaba and five others under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for ‘waging war’ against India and for their alleged Maoist links, and sentenced all but one to life imprisonment.
GN Saibaba, JNU student Hem Keshavdatta Mishra, journalist activist Prashant Rahi, tribal farmers from Gadchiroli district Mahesh Kariman Tirki and Pandu Pora Narote, and a tribal labourer from Kanker district in Chhattisgarh Vijay Nan Tirki have been prosecuted for the offence punishable under Sections 13, 18, 20, 38, 39 of The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, with Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code. While five have been given life imprisonment, Vijay Nan Tirki has got 10 years of rigorous imprisonment.
Reacting to Gadchiroli Sessions Court’s judgment, Saibaba’s wife Vasantha Kumari said the charges against her husband had been concocted. “This judgment is shocking. In the history of Maharashtra, this is the first case in which all the persons charge-sheeted were convicted in all the sections with life imprisonment.”
A lion in a forest eats almost all animals and birds. It eats away zebras, buffaloes, Ostrich etc. It has no biological feature to differentiate taste of meat. However, it prefers a prey which is easy to hunt , in other words, which is vulnerable, meaning not as a tiger or a cheetah, or which traverses against it with a face-to-face confrontation.
State is such a consolidated machinery which acts dastardly and effectively on most vulnerable sections and would not take to leave any of its contenders uncaught especially when they take head on. The distance between line of thinking of State and the line of thinking of the specified prey qualifies anyone as its prey.
Prof. Saibaba , a regular teacher of English literature in Delhi University , has been a voice against the State scuffling with it when it comes to the corporate plundering, green hunt or tribal rights. A man who is 90% disabled and much revered in academic and student circles, stood against the odds of the functioning of the state unequivocally raising his voice within India and internationally. He had been invited as a speaker by several universities to understand his voice of welfare and development of India, amongst other topics like literature. Prof. Saibaba is widely viewed as one of the finest intellectuals of balanced thinking amongst academia and as a confidant amongst students. He is the one who spearheaded the issue to implement reservations for OBCs in Delhi University.
There have been several writers, intellectuals and several activists in the country who championed the cause of the maoists including Prashanth Bhushan , who fought many cases of human right violations in respect of Maoists; Arundhathi Roy , who wrote out a sympthasising note as a complete book on how she wondered the commitment and ideology of Maoists spending time with them; VaravaraRao, an out and out revolutionary writer and supporter of Maoists; Prof. Haragopal, who was a conciliator when an IAS officer was abducted in Odisha by Maoists and has been instrumental representing the voice of Maoists in discussions with Government; Late Shankaran, IAS, who stood beside the tribals in the Naxal affected areas against practices of the Government ; and there are several to count on. While these venerable voices too have been targeted by the State, the kind and style of the victimisation of Saibaba is unparalleled. The basic question – how do we qualify one to be part of Maoists , who live their life underground, and how do we catergorise someone as ‘helping’ Maoists ?
Babasaheb Ambedkar was clearly unfavourable to violence naming it as ‘ anarchy’ (in his book on ‘Parliamentary Democracy’ ) and, however, he observed that failure of constitutional mechanism would invariably attract violence making the country self-destructive. As may be observed from the constitutional debates, he has not given any weightage to physically sabotaging any extreme deviation from constitutional morality even in case of Hindutva, on which he spent his life in despising it by heart. Babasaheb cautioned the Indians on imminent and persistent possibility of using administrative tactics to overrule constitutional morality as a dangerous phenomenon. The entire episode of victimization revolves around supersession of administrative tactics over constitutional morality. While the uprising of Maoists is the effect of failure of the Governments and relinquishment of constitutional morality by all the political parties as well as Government, the portrayal of Naxalism, by the State, as the prompter of invalidation of constitutional morality in the public does not hold strength. This is a country, where an ideology which considers fantasizing masturbation is considered as rape rules the entire Indian civilization of present age.
The charges against Prof. Saibaba and others is – “hatching a war against the Government “ under various sections and all the sections were accepted in entirety, which is actually rare and unique for any court. As we all know Police files charges against any accused under all possible sections, regardless of remote connection with them, as a matter of principle to ensure that the accused is surrounded with all possibilities of conviction and, in practice, it remains as a negotiation of punishment with the judiciary by police resulting in nullifying some and accepting some. The appalling story of Prof.Saibaba’s victimsation goes like this ( The fine details of dates are not mentioned here as the narrative is meant to give an idea of the backdrop and sensitise the perverted functioning of the Police, Bureaucracy, Politics and judiciarythe but not go around the thrill around the chilling experiences )–
The Naxal menace, as the Governments term it, has strong footholds on the borders of Maharashtra, Telangana and Chattisgarh especially encompassing Bastar/Dandakaranya forest area. Three tribal marginal agriculturalists and wage earners were caught by Maharashtra Police , reportedly when they were on their way to meet a lady maoist leader. The state police machinery, under the leadership of then IG Ravindra Kadam, pulled in another two ideological sympathisers – Hem Mishra, a JNU student, and Prashant Rahi, a journalist, though they were separately nabbed. While the torture and interrogation was on its way, Prof. Saibaba’s name , out of the blue, popped up in the charge sheet, filed against these five accused. We must understand here that Prof. Saibaba, raised in a backward caste family, came up in life out of abject impoverished family conditions. He grew up to head Revolutionary Democratic Front, a Marxist political urban organisation, at India level at a very young age. His physically handicapped body could not, at any time, pose as a hindrance to his furtherance as an activist and academic intellectual. The social capital built up around was not in consonance with the intellectual capital he has built in over a period of time and that made him more vulnerable comparative to others as illustrated above. By the time it was sensed that a conspiracy was building around, Prof. Saibaba’s house was raided by Maharashtra Police , under the guise that a house was burgled in a place called ‘ ahire ‘ in Maharashtra and the possible thief could be Prof. Saibaba residing in Delhi ( Please consider this fact and this is not a joke ! ). They raided Saibaba’s house in search of stolen property and took away Marxist literature and hard disk of his laptop. While this is so, the password to the hard disk was provided by Saibaba himself and the books are shown by Saibaba’s family itself which are lying in the open book shelves. Thereafter, in a span of two months, Police served a notice to Prof. Saibaba for an interrogation on the material they gathered from his house and the message was outspread to students, faculty and media. It was to their distressed dismay that Police found 200 people standing outside the residence of Prof. Saibaba , in solidarity with him, during the interrogation. This interrogation histrionics were subsequently mentioned in the chargesheet as the thwarted attempt to arrest him. Highly cautioned by the local foothold of Prof . Saibaba, Police had a different plot to arrest him. On an afternoon, while Saibaba was returning from an evaluation Centre after evaluating examination papers of the students, his car was surrounded by Police and the driver was taken into captivity too. The driver was blindfolded and the police took over the car to drive Prof. Saibaba to the air port. The location of his arrest was such, the same is in neither his college nor university campus nor his residence. As per the submissions of his family, the Police have kept intelligence police around the house for previous few weeks observing his daily movements and the same was forwarded to the notice of NHRC too by his family citing unwarranted invasion into their privacy. His wife was given a notice of his arrest through a telephone call from an unidentified number without revealing complete details of what is next. ( The fair details of authenticity of his arrest warrant and surrendering him before the magistrate at Gadchiroli could not be gathered by the author ). Prof. Saibaba was kept under Police custody under dreadful conditions in an Anda cell along with other non-political accused. Prof. Saibaba was not given proper medication for his ailments and was deprived of humanly sanitation conditions with no consideration to his physical disabilities. It is also reported that Prof. Saibaba was given medicines few days before attending the court during trial period so that the medical reports do not bring out glaring irregularities in his health and his bail petition was continuously got denied. Lastly, Supreme court could grant an interim bail reprimanding Police for playing the tactics to keep him under custody. One prime reason for non-bailability of Prof. Saibaba despite carrying most reasonable grounds for an accused entitled for bail, was the exaggerated severity of the crime under UAPA. The defence played by the Prosecutor was that Prof. Saibaba could disappear any time if the bail is granted. After, few more months Saibaba could get the final bail. In the meanwhile, despite given UGC rules, the university did not absorb him into regular duty and appointed ‘one man’ commission to look into how suspension cannot be invalidated. During the trial period, the family was vacated from the quarters and family went under several perils to find a house in Delhi having a toilet convenient for a physically challenged person. Added to this, it is gathered that police used to call up the owner directly advising them to abstain from any such attempt to let out the house to his family. Prof. Saibaba’s health drastically deteriorated during his remand and his left hand remained far less functional than it was. The attempt of the doctors to replace damaged muscle in the left arm was not considered as workable. The entire episode of trauma went on nearly for 4 years for Saibaba before it reached the final judgment stage. And, during this period , the family was financially rammed down into debts.
The hard disks and other evidences furnished by Police to the court were unsealed and forensic report, thus, cannot be ruled out as a fabricated one. The judgment repeatedly blamed him for being a member of Revolutionary Democratic Front which is a legal organisation and its ban in 2 states is already challenged in Supreme Court. Many of the witnesses include police too, which actually goes against ‘conflict of interest’ in the case. The legal experts are reviewing the entire case wondering how every section under which the charges were framed could get accepted by a Court in toto and consider such a lengthy imprisonment without proving his physical involvement in any of the unlawful activities.
Before Prof. Saibaba was sentenced for life imprisonment, he was hospitalized for treatment to Pancreas infection. The doctors advised him to undergo an immediate surgery within a month’s time. The present health condition after he is taken into custody is unknown.
The above narrative is gathered from Saibaba, his wife, the correspondence by Saibaba, charge sheets, judgment and other related case papers. These facts are absolutely frail to be proven in the manner and fashion the courts and bureaucracy desires them to be so and this remains as the version unheard in main strea,. However, certain absurdities remain unresolved and unanswered.
How Prof. Saibaba can have alliance with tribal agriculturists to wage war against the Government ?
How ‘a hire’ theft case got linked to UAPA case ?
Why Saibaba was abducted in a fashion nothing less than hooliganist way ?
How Prof. Saibaba’s ideological commitment can be eligible for punishment ?
What the links with Maoists does exactly mean ? Is a shared appreciation part of terrorist activity ? How this ‘link ‘ can be established when no single Maoist was caught (charged ) along with him except for all legal individuals ?
How Prof. Saibaba travelled near double digit number of countries exposing the harassment of tribals at international fora getting visas from the respective Governments ?
When fascism of governance takes its full shape, the common sense gets disappeared in every aspect, which is national and international historical experience.
Victim of conscience and media trial
The question is whether Prof. Saibaba has got some connections with Maoist party or not is actually less relevant. The ponderable question is – if a person is at the other extreme end of raising an argument against the functioning of the Government,is branded as a total loathsome individual. Our civilized society is putting bar on the extent of disagreement with the principles of governance. It is ‘fake encounters’ which get easy moral as well as social acceptance. Till date, the loss of lives due to police raids and army combing operations is larger than what Maoists committed.
Lack of social capital around Prof. Saibaba
Prof. Saibaba, having raised from a poor rural backward caste family joined the Marxist thinkers community could actually not gather as much social capital required as for such a range of activism. He suffered utter lack of adequate expert legal counseling and tried to manage within the limits. His financial constraints too could not give a flexibility to stretch beyond a limit to fight the case.
Association with tribal cause
It is apparent in Indian civil society that tribals are less considered as Indians and any specific protection of their interest is never viewed in countenance. The areas like Bastar have already got an image like they stay away from the country. The tribals were never part of discussions in main stream sections except when a large industrial projects are planned in their habitations.
A war against intelligentsia
The Governments have no political solution to address Maoist issue in this country while the liberal academic and urban intelligentsia started rallying behind the ideology mooted by them. This is gathering a moral support at a macro level and attaching credibility to the sincere anger of Maoists. In such case, Governments resorted to a war on Intelligentsia in which prof. Saibaba has become an important victim.
A dreadful UAPA
while there has been enough debate all over on this dreadful act which arms Government and Police with all unreasonable powers, it is not to be misled that the very arrest of Prof. Saibaba itself is an inappropriate execution of legal frame work and the manipulative and unchecked functioning of the State , that can happen around any other Act too.
The case of Prof. Saibaba would remain in history for all its peculiar absurdities and a rarest instance of total acceptance of Police charges by a Court in such kind of instances. This uniquely teaches a lesson that the principle, on which the State is functioning is perfect, theoretically and practically,and the same can be challenged within a ‘delta’ range but not in any range encompassing a specific ideology like Marxism or Islam.
At the end of the day, this remains as a classic case to convince international academia that a 90% disabled man, who has a family in the heart of a metro capital attending several mass and academic gatherings and catering to his professional teaching in college can wage a war against the Government and he can be sentenced as much to a level as a murderer.
P Victor Vijay Kumar
( The writer can be reached on his mail ID ‘ [email protected] ‘ or at his face book ID ‘ P V Vijay Kumar’ )