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Archives for : Political Prisoners

International Court of Justice stays Kulbhushan Jadhav hanging

Kulbhushan Jadhav’s death sentence triggered a sharp reaction from India which said that if he was executed, it would be “premeditated murder”

Written by Shubhajit Roy |

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Kulbhushan Jadhav, 46, was sentenced to death by a military court in Pakistan for “espionage and subversive activities (File Photo)ACTING on an Indian petition, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague has written to the Pakistan government to, effectively, put on hold the execution of Kulbhushan Jadhav, the retired Indian Navy officer who was convicted of espionage charges by a Pakistan military court.

India on Tuesday had approached ICJ and asked it to intervene. It had accused Islamabad of violating the Vienna Convention on consular relations and not giving Jadhav his right to defend himself. This came exactly a month after Jadhav, 46, was sentenced to death by a military court in Pakistan for “espionage and subversive activities”, triggering a sharp reaction from India which said that if he was executed, it would be “premeditated murder”.

The government had also handed over a mercy petition to Islamabad by Jadhav’s mother.

In an order late tonight, ICJ President Ronny Abraham wrote to the Pakistan government: “In my capacity as President of the court, and exercising the powers conferred upon me under Article 74, paragraph 4 of the Rules of Court, I call upon your excellency’s government, pending the court’s decision on the request for the indication of provisional measures, to act in such a way as will enable any order the Court may make on this request to have its appropriate effects.”

Referring to this, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said: “I have spoken to the mother of Kulbhushan Jadhav and told her about the order of President, ICJ under Article 74 paragraph 4 of the Rules of Court.” She said that Harish Salve, senior lawyer, is representing India at the ICJ.

I have spoken to the mother of and told her about the order of President, ICJ under Art 74 Paragraph 4 of Rules of Court.

India approaching the ICJ is a tactical shift since it refrained from doing so on the Saurabh Kalia case saying that the ICJ had no jurisdiction over disputes between India and Pakistan.

According to the statement released by the ICJ, India has sought “relief by way of immediate suspension of the sentence of death awarded to the accused”, “relief by way of restitution in interregnum by declaring that the sentence of the military court arrived at, (is) in brazen defiance of the Vienna Convention rights under Article 36…and in defiance of elementary human rights of an accused which are also to be given effect as mandated under Article 14 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”


It has also sought to restrain Pakistan from giving effect to the sentence awarded by the military court and directing it to take steps to annul the decision of the military court as may be available to it under the law in Pakistan.

“If Pakistan is unable to annul the decision, then this Court (should) declare the decision illegal being violative of international law and treaty rights and restrain Pakistan from acting in violation of the Vienna Convention and international law by giving effect to the sentence or the conviction in any manner, and directing it to release the convicted Indian National forthwith,” the application said.

New Delhi also contended that it was not informed of Jadhav’s detention until long after his arrest and that Pakistan failed to inform the accused of his rights. “It further alleges that, in violation of the Vienna Convention, the authorities of Pakistan are denying India its right of consular access to Jadhav, despite its repeated requests,” the ICJ said.

India also pointed out that it learned about the death sentence against Jadhav from a press release.

It then reiterated that Jadhav was “kidnapped from Iran, where he was carrying on business after retiring from the Indian Navy, and was then shown to have been arrested in Baluchistan” on March 3, 2016, and that the Indian authorities were notified of that arrest on March 25, 2016. It claims to have sought consular access to Jadhav on 25 March 2016 and repeatedly thereafter.

The application states that Jadhav “will be subjected to execution unless the Court indicates provisional measures directing the Government of Pakistan to take all measures necessary to ensure that he is not executed until the Court’s decision on the merits” of the case. India points out that Jadhav’s execution “would cause irreparable prejudice to the rights claimed by India”,” the ICJ said.

India further indicates, the ICJ said, that the protection of its rights is a matter of urgency as “without the provisional measures requested, Pakistan will execute Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav before the Court can consider the merits of India’s claims and India will forever be deprived of the opportunity to vindicate its rights”.

So, India requested that “pending final judgment in this case, the Court indicate that the Pakistan government will take all measures necessary to ensure that Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav is not executed,” the ICJ said. “Also, that Pakistan report to the Court the action it has taken and that no action is taken that might prejudice the rights of the Republic of India or Jadhav with respect of any decision the Court may render on the merits of the case”.

India has once taken a case to the ICJ — even though it has been a party to a total five cases, three of them with Pakistan, at the ICJ. In 1971, India filed a case against the jurisdiction of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to decide on Pakistan’s demand that India could not deny it overflight and landing rights. India had withdrawn Pakistan’s overflight rights after the January 1971 hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight to Lahore, and the gutting of the aircraft by the hijackers. The ICJ ruled against India, saying that ICAO had jurisdiction in this case.

Pakistan also took India to the ICJ in 1999, after India shot down an Atlantique patrol plane of the Pakistan Navy in Indian air space over the Rann of Kutch. India contested the case, and the ICJ upheld India’s position that the Court had no jurisdiction to entertain Pakistan’s claim.

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Need law in national interest to prevent custodial torture: SC

New Delhi, Apr 24 (PTI) Pointing out that there was no law on torture, the Supreme Court today said there was “extreme urgency” in national interest to frame of an effective law to prevent torture and inhuman treatment of individuals in custody.

“We do not have a law on torture. This is a matter of national interest,” a bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud said.

“Several issues are pending with the Law Commission. This is a matter which is required to be dealt with in extreme urgency. This is a matter of human rights,” the bench further said.

The remarks were made after Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar told the court that Law Commission was examining the issue.

The bench was hearing a PIL filed by senior advocate and former law minister Ashwani Kumar, who has sought directions to frame an effective law on the issue and empower agencies like NHRC with necessary enforcement capabilities and mechanisms to implement its orders and directions.

During the hearing, the solicitor general said that the government has referred the matter to the Law Commission which would come out with recommendations on the issue.

“We have said it categorically that we have sent it (the matter) to the Law Commission and they are considering it,” he said.

The SG also said that a Bill on the issue was in the Lok Sabha in 2010 and the erstwhile UPA-II government, in which Ashwini Kumar was himself a minister, could not get it passed.

To this, the bench said, “but it has to be non-partisan. This is an important issue.”

Ashwani Kumar, a senior Congress leader, contended that the Centre should have a comprehensive and stand-alone legislation against torture.

The solicitor general said, “we are not shying away. We are not saying that we will not do it”.

The Congress leader also said the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has said that they were in support of framing of such a law.

When the Centre said they were committed for framing of law on the issue, Ashwani Kumar said, “mere commitment is not enough. There has to be concrete steps”.

The bench fixed the matter for further hearing on May 5 after the solicitor general sought time to take instructions in the matter.

The government had earlier told the bench that a writ petitioner cannot seek a legislation through the court as the issue fell under the domain of the Executive and the Legislature.

The petitioner had told the apex court that despite being a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Torture, 1997, India has not ratified the convention so far since ratification requires an enabling legislation to reflect the definition and punishment for torture, Kumar said.

The “absence of a standalone, comprehensive, and purposeful municipal legislation in India for prevention of custodial violence, and disinclination of the Executive and Legislature to enact a law in this regard has resulted in a disturbing void in law endangering the constitutional right of persons affected by custodial violence and torture,” the plea has said.

It sought a direction to the Centre to ensure an effective law and its enforcement to fulfil the constitutional promise of human dignity and prevention of custodial torture.

The petition has sought issuance of guidelines for timely and effective investigation of complaints of torture and custodial violence and directions be given to the government for rehabilitation and compensation for the victims.

It has further sought direction to the states and union territories to establish and ensure an independent mechanism for investigation into complaints of custodial torture and to take necessary steps

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Assam: Arrest of activists Soneswar Narah and Pranab Doley and brutal lathicharge on the protesters – #MediaBlacksOut




The Perpetrators: Assam police, DFO, Bokakhat and Govind Kakoti, Traffic Inspector

Date of Incident: April 24 – 27, 2017

Place of Incident: Bokakhat Police Station

On April 19, 2017, members of JKSS held demonstration in front of the Bokakhat Agriculture Office (BAO) and Bokakhat Divisional Forest Officer (DFO). Their demands were – immediate release of State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) for the poor peasants who had lost their life and property during the 2016 flood, immediate loan waiver for the farmers, 100% reservation to the locals of Kaziranga National Park in the recruitment of 90 Assam Forest Protection Force (AFPF) personnel from the 5 adjoining districts, immediate compensation and job to the members of the victim family who have lost life due to animal depredation and excesses of forest department, disclosure of the clearance papers of highlands being constructed inside the core zone of Kaziranga. The demands were made by JKSS in a democratic assemblage.

On April 21, 2017, during the visit of Hon’ble Forest Minister, Ms. Pramila Rani Brahma, at the DFO Bokakhat, members of JKSS, Takam Mising Porin Kebang (TMPK) and Mising Mimag Kebang (MMK) were gathered there and put forwarded their demands to the Forest Minister in front of the press. The Forest Minister assured the members on 100% reservation for the posts of AFPF to the Kaziranga locales and that the advertisement for these posts would be published again with this criterion. The Bokakhat DFO gave a written assurance to the JKSS, TMPK and MMK members to handover the minutes of this meeting to them on April 24, 2017. Soneswar Narah and Pranab Doley were present in the meeting.

Around 2 PM on April 24, 2017, the members of JKSS, TMPK and MMK went to the office of the DFO to collect the resolution of the previous meeting. After much deliberation with the DFO, it was found that except one demand, other demands were not agreed by the ministry. In the meantime, Pranab Doley received a phone call regarding arrest of five innocent boys from the vicinity of Kaziranga National Park by the Bokakhat Police without the knowledge of the family members. He immediately went to the Bokakhat police station and found that family members were denied access to their children. Pranab Doley had some arguments with the police for not allowing the family members to meet with their children; the police dragged Pranab Doley into the lockup of the police station.

When Soneswar Narah went to ask about Pranab Doley, he was dragged too to the police lockup. Later on, it was found that Pranab Doley and Soneswar Narah were arrested by the Bokakhat Police based on a complaint given by Mr. Dharanidhar Bora, DFO, Bokakhat on April 19, 2017, alleging that Pranab Doley and Soneswar Narah along with 50- 60 Jeepal members forcefully entered the office premise of the Bokakhat DFO, put their banner and disrupted the functioning of government office and also threaten to burn the office. Bokakhat police had registered the case against Pranab Doley and Soneswar Narah on April 19, 2017. The case number is 82/2017 under sections 147/447/353/506 IPC.

The arrest was made without any warrant when Pranab Doley and Soneswar Narah themselves went to the police station to inquiry into another incident about the arrest of the five innocent boys. They were produced to the court of SDJM (M) Bokakhat, where their bail was rejected on the ground of illegally using force with the intention to destabilise the function of the government establishment and threaten the officials of the concerning office. They were sent to Golaghat Jail and continue to remain there.

Pranab Doley is a law student and his internal examination is starting from May 5, 2017. It is worth to mention here Pranab Doley and Soneswar Narah were present in the meeting with the Forest Minister on April 21, 2017. Both of them were arrested on April 24, 2017, when they themselves were visiting the police station in another case mentioned above.

The police registered the case against them on April 19, 2017. This itself is a clear evidence to show that DFO, Bokakhat and police misused the power to suppress the democratic voice. On April 27, 2017, around 200 protesters of JKSS, TMPK and MMK staged protest in front of the Bokakhat police station demanding immediate release of their leaders Pranab Doley and Soneswar Narah.

The protesters gathered in the police station at around 10.30 AM and were ordered by the police to leave the place within five minutes. When the protesters refused to leave the place, police snatched their banner and the traffic inspector Mr. Govind Kakoti started beating up the protesters. Parboti Khaklari, who was one of the protesters, mentioned that the police started beating up the protestors brutally.

Women protesters were beaten up by male police personnels. Only one woman police personnel was present when police started lathi charge. Govind kakoti, the traffic Inspector caught hold of one woman protestor from the back and tore her blouse. Three members of JKSS were arrested and later they were released. Appeal: HRDA most respectfully appeals that this Hon’ble Commission to immediately take necessary steps to ensure that:


• Order an immediate, thorough, transparent, effective and impartial investigation, by NHRC’s Investigation Wing, into the abovementioned incident of illegal and arbitrary arrest under fabricated charges on Soneswar Narah and Pranab Doley of Jeepal Krishak Shramik Sangha and brutal use of force on the peaceful protestors; • Take immediate action on the perpetrators, in this case the police personeel of Bokakhat police station, for arresting activists Soneswar Narah and Pranab Doley on fabricated charges, and brutal use of force on the peaceful protestors. Use all provisions of law to ensure that the defenders are not harassed and threatened by the police official or their associates in future;

• Immediately appoint a competent senior lawyer practicing on the criminal side in Assam to defend HRDs Soneswar Narah and Pranab Doley in all the criminal cases registered against him at state cost. The counsel so appointed should report to the Hon’ble Commission in periodic intervals as determined by the Hon’ble Commission on the development in the case;

• Urge that this complaint is not transferred to the State Human Rights Commission for disposal or routinely sent to the Commissioner of Police for investigation since this matter involves police officials in position;

• Ensures provision of reparation, compensation, apology to Soneswar Narah and Pranab Doley for the psychological sufferings they are undergoing; • Take steps to withdraw the cases filed on Soneswar Narah and Pranab Doley;

• Put an end to all acts of attack and harassment against all human rights defenders in Assam especially in Kaziranga area to ensure that in all circumstances they carry out their activities without any hindrances;

• More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international human rights instruments ratified by India is strictly adhered to in the state of Assam.

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SC describes incarceration of Kashmiri man for over 16 years as ‘shame’

What A Shame, No Evidence In 10 Of 11 Cases: CJI

  A bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud ordered for release of Gulzar Ahmad Wani from November 1, 2017 on bail if the prosecution failed to record evidence of material witnesses in the Sabarmati Express train blast case lodged against him Uttar Pradesh's Barabanki district.

Gulzar Ahmed Wani of Srinagar has been in jail for nearly 16 years since his arrest in July 2001 on charges of involvement in a series of terror attacks. He has since been acquitted in 10 of the 11cases brought against him by UP and Delhi police. His co-accused have been granted bail in the remaining one too, but Wani continues to be behind bars as prosecution in Uttar Pradesh has not finished examining even half of the 96 witnesses.Wani’s plight due to the snail pace of trial drew outrage from the top court on Tuesday .“What a shame! He has been acquitted in 10 out of 11serious cases slapped on him. No cred ible evidence has been found against him by the trial court in all these cases. The problem with police is that they keep persons in jail and do not produce evidence against them in court,“ said a bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud.

In the last case where Wani is being tried, the bench took the unprecedented step of granting him bail with effect from a future date. “If the prosecution does not complete examination of witnesses by October 31, Wani will be released on bail on November 1, 2017 on the terms and conditions to be imposed by the trial court,“ it ordered. Only one case–Sabarmati Express train blast of 2000–is pending against him but his co-accused have been granted bail, argued Wani’s counsel Mohd Irshad Hanif.

Wani was acquitted in the 10th case–the Agra blast case of 2000–in April last year.

CJI Khehar said: “What you say may be correct. But explain why does a person require half-a-dozen aliases?
You have six of them.“

In the cause list of the Supreme Court, Wani is also shown as Irshad, Ashraf and Abdul Hamid.

Advocate Hanif explained: “He was a bright student at Aligarh Muslim University and was pursuing PhD course in Arabic after completing his postgraduation when he was arrested. All these aliases have been given to him by police.“

Wani’s plight made the CJI-headed bench turn the spotlight on UP police counsel P N Misra, who said Wani had not been in jail for the last 16 years for the Sabarmati Express blast case but for other cases.

The bench said: “In this case (Sabarmati Express blast), in 2015, the prosecu tion had examined six of the 96 witnesses, by September last year you had examined 20 witnesses, and till now you have completed examination of 29 witnesses. The Supreme Court had requested the trial court in September last year to complete trial in six months. The problem is you keep him in jail and yet don’t produce evidence in court.“

When Hanif reiterated that Wani, who was 28 years old at the time of his arrest and now turned 44, should be granted bail as the co-accused in the case had got relief, the bench ordered: “We consider it just and proper that one last opportunity be given to the prosecution to examine material witnesses by October 31, 2017. Whether or not the examination is complete, Wani shall be released on bail on November 1, 2017, on such grounds as may be considered appropriate by the trial court.“

Wani was arrested in 2001 by the Delhi Police and on the basis of alleged confessional statements given by him and other accused under Section 161 of CrPc (inadmissible as evidence in court), he was made accused in the serial blasts that rocked several towns and trains in UP on the eve of Independence Day in 2000.

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Justice cry for DU Prof G N Saibaba

Image result for G N SAIBABA

New Delhi, April 20: A group of colleagues, advocates and family of G N Saibaba and six others have called for urgent attention to the deteriorating health of the former DU professor, who has been sentenced to life imprisonment by a sessions court in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra.

Delhi University Teachers’ Association president Nandita Narain borrowed English poet John Donne‘s lines “ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee” as she joined a meeting today to seek justice for fellow professor G. N. Saibaba, sentenced to life for Maoist links.

Attending the meeting of the “Committee for the Defence & Release of Dr. G. N. Saibaba”, Nandita drove home the point that the Gadchiroli court order sentencing the wheelchair-bound Saibaba for life was an “ominous message that there is no space for dissent in our times”.

Saibaba, a Delhi University professor who is 90 per cent disabled, was sentenced to life along with four others by the Gadchiroli sessions court in Maharashtra on March 7. A sixth person was handed 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment.

“The judgment repeatedly points out how wrong it was for Dr. G. N. Saibaba and others to hold certain views that were in opposition to that of the state and the dominant groups. It is ironic that even while holding these six people are so dangerous that they should be incarcerated for a major part of their lives, the 827-page judgment fails to point out even a single instance of violence that these people have been conspirators in or lent logistics support to,” the committee said in a statement.


The committee – Narain is one of its members – today released a detailed critique of the judgment. It is titled “When Prosecution’s Case Becomes the Judge’s Onus: Miscarriage of Justice on Saibaba”. An appeal has been filed and noted criminal lawyer Ram Jethmalani has agreed in principle to fight Saibaba’s case, committee chairperson G. Hargopal said.

Hargopal said “democratic values are on trial”. “Is democracy on its deathbed?” the professor of Hyderabad University asked journalists and activists who attended the meeting called to release the critique.

“People were persecuted for ideas in the medieval period and that is happening here now. This is not just a legal battle but a fight to protect democracy. We have to speak up. If this can happen to Saibaba, it can happen to any dissenting voice,” Hargopal said.

Saibaba’s colleague Sachin pointed out how despite recent protests at Delhi University for freedom of expression, the central university had been silent in Saibaba’s case. “Right from the stage of framing charges against Saibaba, there has been a conspiracy of silence in Delhi University and the university authorities were part of the effort to silence the dissenting voices in this case. We have to break this silence.”

Pankaj, a lawyer, said the Saibaba order was a classic case of a judgment going way beyond the prosecution’s argument.

Keshav Dutt Mishra, father of Hem Mishra, a student convicted along with Saibaba, said media attention and such meetings were fine but the campaign needed to be backed up with grassroots activism. “It is difficult but not impossible,” Keshav Dutt said.

Vasantha Kumari, the wife of G N Saibaba, pointed out that the 90% disabled professor was in serious need of medical attention which was being denied to him while under custody at Nagpur jail. “He had gall stones that were unattended and damaged his pancreas. The doctor advised him bed rest for 4 weeks, but was instead asked to appear in court in the next week for the case,” she said.

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Illegal and arbirary arrests of Mahan Sangarsh Samiti members in Mahan, Singrauli

Mahan Sangarsh Samiti
 On april 20th at around 11:00 am,  the Essar Company officials came with around 50 police personell bringing with them JCB‘s etc and started to forcefully evict Dal Pratap Singh Gond’s family . When the women in the household protested, they ( 4 women , 3 men and an 8 month old child ) was arbitrarily and illegally detained at the Bandhaura Police station till 7 : 30 in the evening . Seetapati , the woman with the 8 month old child was not even given food and water the whole day . 
 This is the backlash of the The Public Hearing that was held in Karsualal village on the 4th and 5th of April 2017,  on the rights of the community displaced in four villages (Khairahi , Bandhaura , Karsualal and Nagwa ) .
The community members called off the dharna post the public hearing and decided to take forward their fight legally.
Meanwhile the Collector had assured us that he would hold a ” camp” there to look at each of the cases and find a solution to the issues there. He and the SDM also promised us that they would not do anything forcefully with the community and they would follow the rule of law.
Tough we had all these assurances , the company had been putting immense pressure on the community each day , bringing police with them and threatening community members .
, On april 20th at around 11:00 am,  the Essar Company officials came with around 50 police personell bringing with them JCB’s etc and started to forcefully evict Dal Pratap Singh Gond’s family . When the women in the household protested, they ( 4 women , 3 men and an 8 month old child ) was arbitrarily and illegally detained at the Bandhaura Police station till 7 : 30 in the evening . Seetapati , the woman with the 8 month old child was not even given food and water the whole day .
In the evening , 6 community members (3 women and 3 men) were taken to the SDM court and later remanded to judicial custody. Seetapati was left off after issuing multiple threats.
All this , was arbitrarily and illegally done , despite the fact that these community members have a Jabalpur HC order in their favor , clearly stating that the untill the dispute and matter is solved both sides are directed to maintain status – co . We had informed the SDM , SP and Mada Thana in charge about the court order and despite this they went ahead colluding with the Essar officials. All the community members were taken to the SDM court from the police station in the Essar Company vehicle .
As of now , the 3 men have been sent to Pachaur jail and the 3 women have been sent to the Seedhi jail .
Mahan Sangarsh Samiti will continue to fight against the gross injustice being meted out to its members and will continue to look for peaceful / legal solutions and refuse to be cowed down by such cheap tactics of the company violating rights of communities.


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Bastar scribe Santosh Yadav is finally out of jail, but journalism has to wait

Santosh Yadav (Mahtab Alam)

Bastar-based journalist Santosh Yadav is still under shock and wants some time before he can start doing journalism again.

“I certainly and seriously want to do journalism again, in fact, in a more professional manner than I used to do earlier, but to do that I need some time as I am yet to come to terms with what has happened with me and my family in the course of my incarceration,” said Yadav while talking to Catch.



“I still have a case to fight.”

“I will go back to journalism soon,” he added without a second thought despite the fact his family and friends are advising him to do some business or some other job.

Yadav, who is in the national capital till Saturday, was arrested by Chhattisgarh Police in September 2015 from his village Darbha. They accused him of being a Maoist supporter. He was charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and other laws, ranging from rioting, criminal conspiracy, murder, and criminal intimidation, to being a part of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), among other alleged offences.

He was granted bail by the Supreme Court on 26 February this year.

However, he could only come of out of jail, almost two weeks later, on 10 March because it was difficult for him to arrange surety to avail the bail.

Before him, another Bastar-based journalist, Sumaro Nag, a stringer and news-agent with Rajasthan Patrika was arrested in July 2015.

Yadav’s trial is still on in a local court of Jagdalpur and his bail petitions were rejected earlier by lower courts citing the grave nature of charges. According to his colleagues and his lawyer, he has been targeted and was arrested because of his reports, something the police strongly denies.

At the time of his arrest, 31-year-old Yadav used to report for two Hindi local dallies namely, Navbharat and Chhattisgarh.

Finally out of jail, he is immensely thankful to his journalist colleagues, human rights organisations and lawyers for their solidarity and support.


In the wake of Nag and Yadav’s arrests that year, on 26 November 2015, more than 100 journalists, activists and academicians across the country petitioned to the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh and then Union Ministers for Home, Information & Broadcasting and Tribal Affairs, demanding immediate release of the journalists and fair investigations into their matter.

Later, similar demands were also raised by Amnesty International and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), all of which went unheard.

Recalling his time in jail, Yadav said, “Initially, I could not believe what I saw in jail. I used to think something like this happened only angrez ke samay mein (during colonial rule)”.

“I don’t know about other parts of India, but in Bastar, the jails are overcrowded with no basic facility.”

According to him, the prisoners, mostly under trail, are forced to live in subhuman conditions. And most of the prisoners belong to marginalised groups such as Adivasi and Dalit. He also added that most of these prisoners are innocent but they can’t afford good lawyers. Hence, they are languishing in jail.

“Is this the azaadi our forefathers fought for?” he wondered.

During his 17 months of imprisonment he was lodged in two jails of Bastar, first in Jagdalpur Central Prison and later in Kanker District Prison. “While as compared to Jagdalpur jail, Kanker’s jail’s condition is better but even that’s not good for the prisoners,” he told Catch.

“In October last year when we inmates restored to a peaceful protest to complain about the issues in the prison, we were beaten severely,” said Yadav.

He claimed that he was beaten so badly that he was unconscious for nearly six hours. Later he was lodged in solitary confinement for 11 days.

“I was also accused of hatching jail-break plans and inciting inmates. I was presented before jail mates as if I am a naxalite. Hence, I was mostly not allowed to talk to co-prisoners.”



Talking about the risks involved in doing journalism in conflict-ridden zones like Bastar, Yadav said, “It is not an easy task. You are always under suspicion from all sides.”

According to him, there are multiple risks and issues involved in it, from resource crunch to lack of trust to unwillingness to publish news of vital importance due to adverse situations.

“Everyone wants to play safe,” said he.

“Though there are brave souls who are trying their best bring out the facts, risking their life and liberty.”

He echoed the Editors Guild of India’s fact-finding team’s report (of March 2016) which claimed, “Not a single journalist is working (in Bastar) without fear or pressure.”

Out on bail, Yadav has to report to a local police station on a daily basis. It is one of the reasons why he is not able to start working as a journalist yet.

“I have not been proven guilty. But it conveys a message that I have done something wrong. It is a great hindrance for me when it comes to deciding what work to take on,” he told Catch.

Even for his trip to Delhi, he had to obtain permission from a local court. In Delhi, Yadav spoke at a public meeting in Delhi University’s Political Science department, interacted with journalists and met officials of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

In the coming days, Yadav hopes, with less restrictions – like not more than a weekly report to a police station, and a steady job of a full-time reporter – he can fulfill his journalistic duties better. He is convinced that at the end of his trial he will be acquitted.

Yadav said, this case and the 17 months in prison has changed his life drastically. “I am eagerly waiting to start work again and to report about what is happening in the remote areas of Bastar.”

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Saibaba, Maruti Suzuki and Aseemanand rulings: Burden of ‘development’ and Hindutva

Judiciary leans to favour a corporate development narrative; NIA remains soft on Hindutva terror.


“Saibaba ko phaasi do” was the slogan that greeted members of human rights organisations from across India assembled at Nagpur on April 8, 2017, for a meeting on Repression on Social Movements and the Judiciary”. It was a demonstration outside the meeting venue by a clutch of self-styled anti-Naxalite organisations, led by the recently formed Bhumkaal Sanghatan.

‘Mastermind’ Saibaba

The demand of death sentence was for 90 per cent disabled Delhi University professor Dr GN Saibaba who, along with four others, had just a month earlier been sentenced to life imprisonment by the Court of Sessions of Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, for membership and support of the Maoist party.

The demonstrators told the press that their demand was justified, as Saibaba was the “mastermind” of Naxalite violence.

It may seem ridiculous that anyone could think it possible that somebody who is wheel-chair bound, with full-time teaching responsibilities at Delhi, over a 1,000km away, could be the mastermind of the Naxalite movement in central India. But think again before writing this off as the fevered rants of fringe elements.

In fact, these demonstrators were only echoing the outpourings of the ANO (anti-Naxalite operations) police cell. It is the ANO that had, through a press statement within a week of the Saibaba judgment, indirectly criticised the Supreme Court for ordering the release of Saibaba, by claiming that he was the mastermind of 72 violent offences that had been registered while he was out on bail.

This mastermind storyline was widely publicised in the media. Saibaba was in hospital for most of his bail period, but no one asked the ANO how he could direct violent operations over such a distance from his hospital bed. More importantly, no one thought fit to question the police why none of the 72 FIRs registered had even named this so-called mastermind.


A fraudulent development narrative

This casual distortion of logic and truth has been a hallmark of much of what such agencies have spouted in recent years. Such stories aim at shoring up a fraudulent narrative that development – a nasty euphemism for big industry projects that displace and destroy local lives – is being held up by violent resistance devised and even directed by “white collar Naxalites” in far-off metros.

Organisations that are closely linked to security agencies would naturally be expected to remain faithful to this official “development” theme. Journalists are supposed to be more discerning, however, but even that is too much to ask of large sections of today’s mainstream media.

The problem however acquires disquieting dimensions when trial court judges start buying deep into this narrative. This can be seen in the judgment of Judge Shinde, the principal district and sessions judge of the Gadchiroli court.

The judgment seems to be gripped with a desire to see a particular type of “development” in Gadchiroli. Opposition to an iron and steel project at Surjagad is considered proof of being anti-development, and possession of a pamphlet against it is considering incriminating. Such is the judge’s fascination with this project that Surjagad is mentioned no less than 11 times in the judgment.

This despite the project itself being of dubious legality. Seventy gram sabhas in the area have voted against the project and without their approval, the project itself is rendered illegal as per the provisions of PESA (Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act).

Life sentence not sufficient

This however does not stop the judge from giving his understanding of development (or lack of it) a central place in his judgment. Even at the stage of pronouncing punishment, he says, at Para 1013 “…the situation of Gadchiroli district from 1982 till today is in a paralysed condition and no industrial and other developments are taking place because of fear of Naxalite and their violent activities. Hence, in my opinion, the imprisonment for life is also not a sufficient punishment to the accused (emphasis added by us) but the hands of the court are closed (sic)…”

He is so enthralled by the development narrative that he feels that the only appropriate punishment for those standing in its way is a death sentence – the only sentence harsher than life imprisonment. Since there is nothing in the charges, chargesheet or judgment that even alleges (leave aside proves) that any of the accused have engaged in violent activities, it seems that even non-violent opposition to big project “development” is a capital crime.

This bias is amply evident throughout the judgment. It ensured an undeserved conviction and an unjust sentence.

Maruti Suzuki: where unionisation becomes a criminal act

Another case decided around the same time was the Maruti Workers Union judgment decided by the Gurgaon (Gurugram) Sessions Court, Haryana. The case was vastly different and the socio-economic conditions of the two places too are vastly different – Gadchiroli is a forested, unindustrialised district, while Gurgaon is one of the most modern enclaves of the country.

However, here too the same development narrative, albeit another version, was being played out before the courts during the course of the trial.

In this case, an astonishing 148 workers had been implicated in the death of a manager who had been burnt in an unexplained fire during a protest at the Maruti Suzuki plant at Manesar, Gurgaon, in July 2012. They had all been kept in prison for long periods, many throughout the trial, which lasted four years and eight months.

Finally, 13 workers got a life sentence, 18 got imprisonment for various terms and 117 were acquitted. The workers’ actual crime was that they had formed a union of their choice and had demanded the regularisation of the contract workers in the plant.

This “crime” of fighting for their rights resulted in them being denied bail for years despite none having any previous criminal record and there being no substantial reason for keeping them behind bars. Courts at various levels who refused bail seemed to be bending backwards to satisfy big Indian and foreign corporates who wanted to crush the labour movement.

Clearing the way for foreign investors

The development narrative here was one of attracting foreign investment. It was voiced most articulately by Justice Puri of the Punjab and Haryana High Court who, while rejecting bail observed: “The incident is a most unfortunate occurrence which has lowered the reputation of India in the estimation of the world. Foreign investors are not likely to invest money in India out of fear of labour unrest.”

He thus apparently felt that it was the duty of the court to teach the workers a lesson and satisfy foreign investors so that they would be attracted to put their money in India.

Even at the time of sentencing of the workers, the special prosecutor demanded a death sentence by invoking these same words of the high court. He too, like the Gadchiroli sessions court, felt that standing in the way of “development”, here foreign investment, deserved death by hanging. Fortunately, here the court did not accede to this demand.

Nevertheless, the earnestness of the government to somehow bolster their “development” narrative by obtaining a conviction and stiff sentence was a constant pressure on the court throughout the trial. A special public prosecutor was specially appointed for this case who was assisted by a battery of lawyers, including a designated senior counsel.

The case was based on the false evidence of labour contractors, who were interested parties, interested in preserving the contract system that the union sought to abolish. The investigating police officers were in constant attendance to ensure that the witnesses were tutored to parrot before the court the stories that had been cooked up.

NIA shields Aseemanand

Contrast this with the approach of the investigating authorities in the Ajmer bomb blast case that was decided in the same week as the above two cases. Here, the prime investigating agency of the country, the National Investigating Agency (NIA), had worked to ensure that the acquittal of the prime accused and former RSS member Swami Aseemanand was a foregone conclusion.

assemamand1_041017052221.jpgThe Hyderabad NIA officers who wanted to appeal against grant of bail to Aseemanand have been refused permission by their top brass in Delhi.

The Swami had voluntarily confessed before magistrates to being behind a number of bomb blasts throughout the country, but the NIA did not make use of this confession at the trial stage.

The prosecutor, Ashwini Sharma, complained that the IO [investigating officer] did not come once for the hearing, even when he was called and said the witnesses are turning hostile. This attitude of the NIA seems to be their policy in bomb blast cases involving Hindutva accused, as can be seen in the disclosures in 2015 by Rohini Salian, prosecutor in the Malegaon bomb blasts case, that she had been told by the NIA to go soft on the accused.

Now the Hyderabad NIA officers who wanted to appeal against grant of bail to Aseemanand have been refused permission by their top brass in Delhi.

Thanks to the NIA, Swami Aseemanand, a self-confessed bomb blast mastermind, now roams free. Other Hindutva-inspired terror accused like Sadhvi Pragya Thakur are soon expected to follow suit.

Unlike Prof Saibaba, who opposed the displacement of the poor by big projects and the Maruti trade unionists, who stood against the contract system that foreign investors love, their terror acts pose no threat to the dominant “development” narrative of the ruling classes.

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Prof G N Saibaba – Let justice take its course

The Gadchiroli court verdict in the Saibaba case shows disdain for established law and judicial principles

On March 7, 2017, the Sessions Court of Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, pronounced a life sentence on Delhi University professor GN Saibaba and four others, and a 10-year imprisonment on another. Many are now questioning the wisdom of handing life sentences to persons who had no accusation of violence against them and had, at the most, been charged only with sympathising with and supporting the Maoist movement. The security agencies, in their turn, attempted to justify the court’s verdict through press statements that painted Saibaba as a “mastermind of many arsons, murders, and abductions”. The Maharashtra Anti-Naxal Operations (ANO) office even seemed to criticise the Supreme Court for granting him bail earlier, stating that “72 offences were registered during this period [when Saibaba was out on bail], which included the murder of two policemen in explosion and encounters, 15 other murder cases and other offences”.

Many in the mainstream media were quick to pick up the ‘mastermind’ angle, without pausing to ask how a person with 90 per cent disability, who spent much of the period in question in Delhi hospitals, could direct violent operations 1,200 km away in Gadchiroli.

Some did point out that the ANO statement conveniently did not specify whether the cases were registered against the professor after his release on bail in April 2016; 72 registered crimes “masterminded by Saibaba”, but without a single FIR in his name!

What’s more worrying is when trial court judges start buying into this narrative of “violent resistance directed by ‘white-collar naxals’ in far-off metros”.

The 827-page judgement of Suryakant S Shinde, the principal district session judge in Gadchiroli, displays a reasoning that runs counter to the maxim “Not only must justice be done, it must also be seen to be done.”

‘Not harsh enough’

In para 1,013, the judge says, “Hence, merely because the accused no.6 Saibaba is 90% disabled is no ground to show him leniency and though he is physically handicapped but he is mentally fit and he is a think tank and high profile leader of banned organization CPI (Maoist) and its frontal organization RDF and by the violent activities of accused nos. 1 to 6… 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 (sic)…”

The judge makes it plain that he personally feels the accused deserved the only harsher sentence available in Indian law — death by hanging. The law restricts death sentence to only the rarest of rare cases when aggravating circumstances outweigh mitigating circumstances. Shinde, however, offers no convincing basis for his assertion in favour of a death sentence.

His mention of “violent activities of accused nos. 1 to 6” is without basis, as there is nothing in the charges, chargesheet or judgment that alleges (let alone proves) this charge against any of the accused. There is also no evidence linking the development of Gadchiroli, or lack of it, to naxal violence.

These assertions are merely the judge’s personal opinions, which have limited weightage under the Indian Evidence Act. They would, however, certainly have served to prejudice him in favour of conviction and the harshest possible sentence. This bias is also seen in the rest of the judgment, particularly during the crucial evaluation of evidence.

Rules bypassed

The case rests heavily on the authenticity of the electronic evidence — memory chips, hard disks, pen drives and the like — shown to be seized by the investigating authority. As it is easy to tamper with electronic evidence, the law is stricter on its admission. The essential requirement of a certificate under section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act has been bypassed under the pretext that “prosecution has proved beyond reasonable doubt that at no point of time there was any alternation (sic) or manipulation in the electronic data contained in electronic gadgets.”

A trial court cannot waive the statutory requirement, but Shinde just brushed it away.

Biased evaluation

Eighteen of the 23 witnesses examined were police or government officials, and most others were professional panchas (a pancha is a person called to witness and check the truthfulness of a police action), who had been used by the police in several cases, and included one who was a home guard and another employed to clean the police station. Among the most crucial witnesses was Jagat Bhole, the panch for the search-and-seizure at the Delhi University home of Saibaba. Illiterate, he had been specifically picked by the police over the numerous professors and students present there at the time — possibly because they felt he would be more amenable to manipulation.

Bhole, however, told the court that “the police kept myself and Saibaba out of the house and locked the door from inside while the search was going on”. This obviously rendered the panchnama (a record of the search) unreliable, as it violated the provisions for searches and evidence gathering.

Judge Shinde got around this by simply rejecting this part of the witness’s evidence. His logic: “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.”

But the judge did not use the same yardstick for other crucial evidence — for instance, the confessional statements of accused 1 and 2. Both young Madia and Gond tribals, they retracted their confession after alleging that it was extracted from them in police custody through torture and intimidation.

Judge Shinde chose to disbelieve the complaint of ill-treatment and used an unbelievable leap of logic to assert that Marathi, the language in which the confession was recorded, was known to the accused. He states that the confession was retracted through an “application in Hindi language and… accused no.1 Mahesh and No.2 Pandu also signed in Marathi language”. Since Hindi, Marathi and even Gondi (the mother tongue of the accused), all use the Devanagari script, it is meaningless to conclude that the “accused were well conversant with Marathi and Hindi” from their Devanagari signatures.

Contrast this with the confessions of Swami Aseemanand, a blast accused, that were made well after he was out of police custody and in jail. His subsequent retraction was accepted, leading to his acquittal.

Going bananas on evidence

The court uses the flimsiest of reasons to convict Prashant Rahi and Dilip Tirki. It says, “Finding of incriminating article i.e. Yatri card (Art.126) shows that accused no.4 Prashant Rahi was going from Delhi to Raipur and finding of newspaper with him which was usually used by the members of CPI (Maoist) and its frontal organisation RDF as identification code to recognize each other shows that he was going to forest area to meet underground naxals as alleged by the prosecution.”

The court arrived at this conclusion based on an article by award-winning Hyderabad journalist C Vanaja, who once reported how she established contact with Maoists by using a particular newspaper and bananas as identification codes. This article was shown to have been found on Saibaba’s computer and used as evidence at the trial — a bizarre reasoning that was considered sufficient to grant Rahi a life sentence.

Saibaba has been the joint secretary of the Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF). In trying to establish that it is a terrorist organisation under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), the judgment attempts to take upon itself powers that only the Central Government has. Its logic: “there is photo of accused no.6 Saibaba and there appears a meeting under the head of banner “Release all political Prisoners unconditionally”… Saibaba is addressing to the people. This shows that accused no.6 Saibaba is the active member of banned organization.”

Similarly, elsewhere it states, “Slogan “Lal Salam” is used by naxals and members of banned organisation RDF and hence it is clear that accused no.6 is a member of banned organisation CPI (Maoist) and its frontal organisation RDF and inciting the people with slogans Lal Salam Lal Salam.”

The Supreme Court has often held that the implementation of procedural provisions must be more rigorous in the case of special and stringent laws such as UAPA. In a similar case involving writer-activist Sudhir Dhawale and eight others, the Gondia Sessions Court had acquitted all on the grounds, among other things, of the non-fulfilment of provisions under the UAPA. The State appealed against the acquittal, but was rejected outright by the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court. In an order passed just seven days after the Gadchiroli judgment, the HC gave prime importance to the sanction order showing compliance with the mandatory provisions of law, such as an independent review within the time limit, and that the sanctioning authority was aware of material that would constitute an offence punishable under the UAPA.

Overlooking basic principles

In contrast, the Gadchiroli court has been lenient to the prosecution, holding that the relevant sections of the UAPA were non-mandatory, and non-compliance did not vitiate the proceeding. Another important provision of law was given the short shrift.

In a criminal case, the proof should be beyond reasonable doubt — that is, no other explanation can be derived from the facts except that the accused committed the crime. A civil trial, on the other hand, simply requires a preponderance of probabilities — that is, its version of facts is more likely than not the correct version, as in personal injury and breach of contract suits.

At several points the judgment has dispensed with the principle of proof beyond reasonable doubt. On the other hand, it seems to be applying the civil trial principle in what is clearly a criminal proceeding. “According to the defence, the newspaper Sahara dated 19-8-2013 was found in possession of accused no.3 Hem Mishra and newspaper Lokmat dated 20-8-2013 was found in possession of accused no.2 Pandu Narote. This shows that accused were arrested on 20.8.2013. However, merely because the accused persons were found in possession of newspapers dated 19-8-2013 does not mean that they were arrested on 20-8-2013. According to the prosecution, newspaper is used as identification code by the members of banned organization… Hence, the version of the prosecution appears to be more probable than the defence”.

Similarly, the principle of adverse inference — “evidence which could be and is not produced would, if produced, be unfavourable to the person who withholds it” — has been turned on its head. The prosecution admitted to obtaining the CDR (call details report) of accused 1 and 2 but withheld it despite the defence asking for it to be produced, as it would prove false the prosecution’s arrest story (according to the prosecution, the accused were arrested along with JNU student Hem Mishra on August 22, 2013, from Aheri, whereas the defence contends they were picked up from Ballarshah on August 20 and their phone SIM were removed. The CDR would have settled the question and, had the defence been found right, proved the falseness of the very FIR on which the whole case is based).

Judge Shinde blames the defence for not obtaining the CDR on their own, overlooking the fact that such information can be shared by a telecom company only on the orders of a court. The judgment abounds with numerous such transgressions. The defence plans to appeal before the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court at the earliest, given the fragile health of Saibaba.

Apart from his disability and cardiac and orthopaedic problems, Saibaba is suffering from acute pancreatitis, for which he was hospitalised in Delhi for four days just ahead of the judgment. Amnesty International has raised the issue of the alleged denial of medical treatment to him in jail.

Saibaba the human rights activist, however, is more pained by the misinformation shrouding the case.

In a letter to his lawyer from prison, he says, “We are deeply pained by looking at the false and defamatory and negative propaganda stories in newspapers… targeted for exerting pressure and influencing public opinion, in turn seeking to affect the legal process.”

Several civil liberties activists and organisations have raised their voice against the judgment. Two members of the European Parliament from Spain and Germany have written to the European Commission, calling for measures to ensure “all legal guarantees are respected under the highest human rights standards for him and the rest of prosecuted people”. Saibaba and his co-convicts can only hope that, whatever be the views on the bench, they will not be permitted to stand in the way of justice.

Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira are human rights activists and former political prisoners

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Observe 4th/5th April as All-India & International Day of Protest- Free the Maruti Workers!



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 Gurgaon Sessions Court on 18 March 2017 – without a shred of evidence, and solely on the false witness accounts by the management.

The MSWU body members have been targeted because they have been the leadership of the struggle since 2011 against illegal contract worker system and for Trade Union rights and dignity of labour. It is a ‘class attack’ as in the words of Maruti CEO RC Bhargava. All workers know that this manifestly unjust verdict is to ‘teach a lesson’ to us by those in power that we should not fight for our rights and dignity on the shop-floor and beyond.

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 18th May, 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 23rd March 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. A letter from the Jailed workers was 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 23rd March Protest program, we already appealed to all to observe 4th April 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 5th April. So, We appeal to all workers and pro-worker forces to observe 4th/5th April 2017 as all-India and International Days of Protest and 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.

email: [email protected];


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