PEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES
270-A, Patpar Ganj, Opposite Anand Lok Apartments, Mayur Vihar I, Delhi 110 091
Phone 2275 0014 PP FAX 4215 1459
Founder: Jayaprakash Narayan; Founding President: V M Tarkunde
President: Prof. Prabhakar Sinha; General Secretary: Dr. V. Suresh
For favour of Publication / Circulation 10th October, 2014
PUCL Condemns Vizag Police
For illegally detaining Civil Liberties Activists
The People’s Union for Civil Liberties strongly condemns the arbitrary and illegal detention of civil liberties activists and human rights defenders in Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh on 9th October 2014 when they were trying to hold a Press Conference at the Civil Library, Vishakhapatnam to announce a meeting that was proposed to be held on 12th October protesting Operation Green Hunt. That the hostile and intimidatory actions of the police was supported by the highest levels in government was exposed when the Vizag police arrested five other human rights activists who had gone to the Camp Office of the DIG, Vishakhapatnam Range to bring to his notice the illegal arrests of their colleagues. The fact that the Andhra police released the activists subsequently does not mitigate from the fact that the government and police’s action constitutes a serious threat to constitutionalism, rule of law and fundamental right to free speech and expression, assembly and dissent
Those detained and subsequently released are Vishakhapatnam District Civil Liberties Committee President T Sriram Murthy, Anti-Privatisation Committee Member PV Ramana, fishermen’ community leader and Advocate KS Chalam, Stree Shakti activist B Lalitha, Indian Atheists’ Association members S Ramaraju and Nooka Raju; State Secretary of the Organisation for Protection of Democratic Rights (OPDR) C BhaskaraRao, civil liberties activists N Srimannarayana, Gudimell Raghuram a nd SurlaVenkataRamana; and Advocate Palleti Appa Rao.
What is equally deplorable is that the police did not permit the media to meet the detained activists at the Civil Library. This constitutes a serious curtailment of freedom of the press to freely and independently function and is violative of the Indian Constitution.
PUCL condemns the violent and draconian police action of detaining / arresting human rights activists while holding a press meeting as an unconstitutional act and abuse of power. It amounts to suppression of fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. It is an attempt to stifle critical discussion of undemocratic state policies and is calculated to intimidate, threaten and silence members of civil society from questioning the unacceptable police action. The activists arrested were well within their constitutional and legal rights to hold press meeting as also to announce arrangements for a public discussion. The Supreme Court has repeatedly stressed that dissent and oppositional views are essential part of democratic process and the government has to learn to respect all views and not use its brute powers to stifle dissent.
“Operation Green Hunt” being carried out in Central India over the last few years supposedly as a counterinsurgency operation against Maoists, has come under criticism from Civil Liberties and Human Rights organisations owing to repeated incidents of civilian casualties in encounters, complaints of widespread arbitrary and capricious arrests of ordinary adivasis who are languishing in jail for long years, and complaints of motivated implications in false criminal cases of political opponents. The draconian measures sought to be taken by the Andhra Pradesh Government to prevent a public debate on these issues which are vital to the Constitutional Rights to Life and Liberty, particularly of the indigenous populations of Central India, are thus doubly reprehensible.
The actions of the Andhra Pradesh Government also reflect the short sighted and undemocratic attitude of labeling all dissent/ criticism as illegal or extremist, and even peaceful association, expression or protest as “support” to banned organisations. This attitude was severely castigated by the Hon’ble Apex Court in the 5th July 2013 Judgment in the Nandini Sundar case.
The PUCL demands that the Government of Andhra Pradesh respects the fundamental rights of citizens to free speech and expression, assembly and human rights and immediately stops the undemocratic and unconstitutional abuse / misuse of its police powers to stifle free speech and dissent.
Prof. Prabhakar Sinha Dr. V. Suresh,
National President, PUCL National General Secretary, PUCL