Extra judicial murders by the state agencies of political opponents began with the Naxalbari movement in the 1960s with a standard statement that the victim was in fact the perpetrator who was generally fleeing arrest or custody and in order to do so had attacked the police/ state agency by opening fire and the police had merely retaliated and killed in self defense. Needless to state in all the cases, the ‘victim’ officers remained untouched or at the most met with minor injuries while the deadly perpetrators lay dead. All this was carried on in independent India where the failure to meet the constitutional promises of equality, liberty and social justice gave rise to the Maoist movement where poor peasants and workers rose to fight for a just society.
Encounters continued unchecked in all forms and by all agencies either by enjoying protection officially through laws such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act or unofficially by the state granting itself immunity and impunity from the rule of the ordinary law. It was in 1997 when after the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC) which took up the matters legally for over two decades, finally succeeded in getting the Andhra Pradesh High Court first held that an FIR ought to be registered in all such cases of “encounters” or rather fake encounters and the police would have to prove self defense in the trial before a judge. The Supreme Court stayed the judgment in the appeal filed by the state and has not passed its judgment despite the hearing having been completed over two years ago.
In 1997 too, after the Shiv Sena–BJP government came into power in Maharashtra, the police carried out extra judicial murders of accused in cases instead of trying them legally in the name of encounters with similar stories of dreaded criminals attacking police party trying to arrest them with deadly weapons which invariably included AK47s. Needless to state none of the policemen suffered any casualties while all those holding the AK47s perished. That this was a conspiracy on the part of the state to kill those whom it saw as its opponents was revealed by the statement of the government that the encounter policy would continue.
The Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights took a stand against this blatant violation of the civil liberties of the people and a shameless abandonment of the rule of its law and filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court where it challenged the impunity of the state actors and asked for them to be tried in the court like any other person who may or not have exercised the right to self defense. During the course of the hearing, the documents furnished which included the post mortem reports revealed that all these encounters were in fact cold blooded murders as most of the victims had been shot at close range and many had entry wounds at the back of their bodies and all bullet injuries were above the waist on parts of the body that would lead to instant death. The matter when it reached the Supreme Court led to the passing of the judgment in 2014 by Justice Lodha gave elaborate directions on the manner in which in the inquiry into the killing ought to take place.
However encounter killings have continued unabated and the historic impunity has also continued unchecked.
In July 2016, the Supreme Court in hearing a case relating to encounter killings in Manipur carried out under the legal umbrella of AFSPA finally held that “from the point of view of a citizen, living under the shadow of a gun that can be wielded with impunity…is equally unsettling and demoralizing, particularly in a constitutional democracy like ours.”
Barely two months later, the state has carried out multiple killings in two fake encounters. In the first one in Malkangiri on October 24th, about 39 alleged Maoists, were allegedly killed in an encounter but eye witness accounts revealed that the victims were mostly Adivasi women and men who were brutally tortured and killed in joint operations by the police of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. Eyewitnesses were also killed in order to leave no evidence. Barely a week later, on 31st October 2016, eight undertrials lodged in Bhopal Central Prison were shot dead while allegedly escaping from the prison. The undertrials were erstwhile members of SIMI. The story of the police inthis case has holes ranging from the manner of escape (through bed sheets to scale 30 feet prison wall having security personnel and security cameras), the new clothes, the lack of weapons in the scene of offence, photographs of the under trials with arms raised in attitudes of surrender, of policemen shooting at the fallen men, contradictory statements from authorities to bullet injuries primarily above the waist.
The complete and brazen impunity of the state and its utter refusal to hold its actors accountable to the people and to the laws of the land are signs of a fascist state. The state first creates a bogey of threat and uses this to create consent for the assumption of extraordinary powers to crush and kill any opponent to facilitate the land grab and illegal accumulation by corporates. This undermines democracy and is geared towards crushing dissent against the anti people policies of the state. CPDR holds that these brutal murders are carried out to eliminate political opponents and to create terror in the minds of the people and amounts to state terror.
CPDR condemns both the encounters and the brazen encounter policy of the state. We demand that this policy be immediately stopped and all the police/ armed personnel involved in them be dealt with in accordance with the law. We also demand that compensation be given to the families of all the victims. We also demand that the state stop the policy of targeting and eliminating Muslims, Adivasis and Dalits in the name of national security and in blatant disregard of the law.
Bojja Tarakam, a well known Ambedkarite leader who was also thickly associated all progressive movements in Andhra Pradesh passed away on 17 September 2016. He was suffering from brain tumour from 2007 and was 77when he died.
He came from East Godavari district from an ardent Ambedkarite family. His father Bojja Appala Swamy was a teacher and leader of Republican Party of India and represented Amalapuram assembly constituency between 1952 and 1962. In that way he was naturally propelled into the Dalit movement but instead of confining himself to that identity, imbibed its spirit to identify with all kinds peoples’ resistance movements.
Bojja Tarakam was a man of integrity, and had courage of conviction to stand against any odds on the side of people. He was closely associated with many progressive organizations, such as the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC), Revolutionary Writers Association (Viplava Rachayitala Sangham-Virasam or RWA), Beedi Workers Association, India-China Friendship Association, Ambedkar Youth Associations, and Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP). He was president of Republican Party of India (RPI) and later formed the Andhra Dalit Maha Sabha.
He was one of the few Ambedkarite leaders who remained steadfast on peoples’ side when others were easily lured by the pelf and power and offered themselves to be coopted by the ruling parties. He was one of the few RPI leaders, who stayed above the factional politics of the party and reflected Ambedkarite spirit of struggle against injustice. It’s a veritable tribute that he was arrested during the Emergency and was put behind bars from July 1975 to July 1976. He was one of the few Dalit leaders who while advocating the Dalits to rise against atrocities without depending on others, did not show any trace of sectarianism or identity obsession, and embraced others whosoever wished to join such struggles. He was one of the few senior Dalit leaders who was keenly aware of the mounting challenges the lower strata of people faced and genuinely worried about ways to meet them
A strong protagonist of Dalit-Muslim unity, he genuinely empathized with the Muslims when they were targeted by the state as terrorists. Muslim in Hyderabad loved him as their great friend outside the community. He always stood with them when no one dared to come forward. In the repression following the post-Godhra carnage of Muslims carried out with complicity of the state in Gujarat, many Muslim youths were arrested from Hyderabad in the fabricated cases alleging their links with ISI. Bojja Tarakam, led the fact finding team exposed the nexus of Gujarat and Hyderabad police who targeted the Muslim youth. As we all know, despite all kinds of harassment those youth underwent, they were eventually proved innocent.
Again in 2007, when a bomb blast took place at Makkah Masjid in Hyderabad, it was Bojja Tarakam, who formed and led the fact finding team and came out with a report that declared that the bomb blast was the handi work of Hindutva terrorists. He did not mince words in calling the state terrorist when the police acted in prejudicial manner after the blast. He boldly argued the case filed by the Civil Liberties Monitoring Committee against the police firing that made the High Court issue a notice to the state as to why a case u/s 302 should not be filed against the police personnel who opened fire on innocent people.
He was pained by the anti-people behavior of the newly born state of Telangana for which hundreds of Dalits and poor people sacrificed their lives. In 2015, five Muslim youth under trial were killed by the escort police while taking to the court, where they were likely to be acquitted. Bojja Tarakam spoke out boldly in the press conference held the next day against the state.
Tarakam sir, as he was respectfully referred to by young activists, was always at the forefront of the legal battles for justice for Dalits who suffered gory atrocities at Karamchedu, Padirikuppam, Neerukonda, Chundur, Vempenta, Lakshmipet and other places since 1980s.
He was saddened by the blatant anti-Dalit coalition of the Modi government in Delhi and KCR government in Telangana that took a toll of a life of promising youth in Rohith Vemula and brutally repressed the voices of protests in Hyderabad central University. In spite of his failing health he argued the case of Rohith Vemula’s social boycott at University of Hyderabad this year. He lamented that nothing had changed for the Dalits during the last seven decades.
Bojja Tarakam was a multi-dimensional personality combining in him a prolific writer, public intellectual, poet, activist and a lawyer who used his profession to help the most marginalised people in their legal struggles. He regularly wrote in his periodicals in Telugu besides penning several books on rights movement that include Kulam Vargam, Police Arrest Cheste and Dalitulu Rajyam. A popular book written by him “What is to be done when Police arrests you?” has become a Handbook for all the activists in AP and Telangana and elsewhere.CPDR salutes such a great friend of people!
10 May, 2016
CPDR Questions Arrests of Five Youth Under UAPA In Kerala
In a series of assaults on democratic movements in recent years, the Kerala Police have arrested five youth and charged them with UAPA last week. According to information collected by our activists, they were accused of putting up posters calling for the boycott of the upcoming assembly election in Kerala. Among the arrested, Ajithan, Sabu and Chathu are members of an organization called ‘Porattam’, which gave a call to boycott elections in Kerala. Dileep is a student activist and a member of the editorial committee a students’ magazine called ‘Padantharam’. Gouri is part of Adivasi Samara Sangam. While four of them are arrested for putting up the posters, Dileep was dragged with them while he was talking to Ajithan and Sabu, in Kerala Sahitya Academy compound where he had reached to attend a meeting regarding the rape and murder of a dalit student named Jisha.
The arrest of these youth and slapping draconian UAPA on them only indicates malafide of the Kerala Police to silence dissenting opinion of people. It is one more case that illustrates the blatant misuse of UAPA and craves for its repeal. The Kerala Police that refuses to arrest the culprits in a brutal rape and murder of the dalit law student displays its extreme zeal to curb political dissent with its patent weapon of UAPA.
CPDR demands immediate release of Ajithan, Sabu, Chathu, Gouri and Dileep and scrapping of UAPA.
Dr Anand Teltumbde
Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights CPDR
01 May, 2016
CPDR Condemns the Action against the Students by The JNU Authorities
The JNU row over the organization of a meeting by some students on 9 February on the anniversary of hanging of Afzal Guru and the so called anti-national slogans given there has already exposed the evil design of the ABVP/BJP combine to break the left students’ domination and open up this prestigious campus for saffronization.
It is already established in the public domain that the videos of the function showing those slogan shouting were doctored and were repeatedly shown by some channels invited by the ABVP to whip up public hysteria. They were used as the basis for the arrests of the students and slap serious cases on them. The lynch mobs were unleashed to beat Kanhaiya Kumar, President, JNU Students Union JNUSU in the court premises under the nose of the Delhi police. Instead of taking action against the culprits who doctored the video, the Police who allowed the lynch mob of the BJP to beat up Kanhaiya Kumar, and the people who comprised this lynch mob, the students are being harassed by the government through its puppet VC, Prof Jagdish Kumar.
The `high level enquiry committee’ HLEC instituted by him to go into this incidence is said to be in contravention of the University statutes. Both, the teachers association JNUTA and the students union JNUSU had objected that the terms of reference of the committee, its procedure and composition were neither made clear nor appeared to fulfill any established norms or criteria. The constitution of the HLEC and the process it followed have been flawed by a panel of legal experts headed by Chief Justice retd A.P. Shah, approached by the teachers association JNUTA. The panel has termed it as violative of both the rule of constitutional law and the principles of natural justice. The JNU student community has summarily rejected the legitimacy of this sham committee.
Some of the students punished by the VC have already cases pending against them and the VC should have known that he cannot take over the adjudication of the matter that is before the courts.
The brave students have responded to the university’s action with an indefinite hunger strike by 20 students including JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar and Secretary Rama Naga, from the night of 27th April 2016. Most campuses are busy with their annual examinations. Once they are through it, the floodgates of protests shall be opened to drown the sinister design of the saffron forces.
CPDR condemns the unjust and illegal action of the VC of JNU against the students and demands
· Forthwith withdrawal of the punishments awarded to the students and ex students
· Institution of an independent enquiry into the entire episode to identify the criminals responsible for the doctoring the videos and consequent harassment of the students
· Action against the Delhi Police for dereliction of duty and abetment in crime of beating Kanhaiya Kumar
· Withdrawal of the court cases against the students as they were apparently based on doctored evidence.
Dr Anand Teltumbde
Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights CPDR
24 April, 2016
CPDR Condemns the Sacking of an Upright Dalit Judge by Chattisgarh Government
Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights CPDR, Mumbai condemns the sacking of an upright dalit Judge by Chattisgarh government.
Prabhakar Gwal, Chief Judicial Magistrate during his posting at Sukma has been dismissed by the Chattisgarh government for being a pro-poor and pro-adivasi. A young dalit 2006 batch judge, he became known for taking on corrupt officers and for being a thorn in the flesh of the government and the police. He has now been summarily terminated "in the public interest” by the Chattisgarh government on the recommendation of the High Court. The government has stated that it is "dispensing with any inquiry since it is not possible to conduct an inquiry".
What is Prabhakar Gwal’s crime or offence according to the High Court of the state and the government? A complaint forwarded by Sukma’s Superintendent of Police to the District Judge after getting several letters written by number of police station officers that the CJM’s method of working is to obstruct the police which was lowering the morale of the police. His dismissal is the latest in a series of attacks on journalists, lawyers, academicians by the Chattisgarh administration.
This was because this upright judicial officer would insist on asking the name, age, village, fathers name and all relevant details of those arrested, mostly poor tribals and produced before him. Rather than accepting the regular practice till then of permanent warrants produced by the police that have only the name of the arrestee and no other details, Judge Gwal chose to stick to procedure. He would also make it difficult for the police by asking questions about alleged seizures including of weapons, their activities. When it became obvious that the police could not establish any crime against those arrested, he would conclude that those arrested are ordinary villagers. Judge Gwal would go to the extent of communicating directly to those arrested through a Gondi interpreter in the language which the arrestee understood.
This judge was so fearless that he would term the arrests of thousands of people being produced before him as Maoists as fake arrests; he wrote to the District Judge and even Director General of Police Kalluri that the police is implicating innocent people. He went to the extent of issuing warnings to Thanedars that he would send them to jail if they framed innocent people.
In short, the BJP-led governments both at the Centre and in Chattisgarh are preparing for an all-out war on the tribals of Bastar and upright judges like Judge Gwal do not fit in their scheme of actions. Whereas for the people of Bastar, such a judge must have been a ray of hope in an otherwise bleak scenario of displacement and large scale repression, Judge Gwal is yet another blow.
CPDR condemns the unjust and unconstitutional sacking of Judge Prabhakar Gwal and demands his immediate re-instatement.
Dr. Anand Teltumbde
23 March, 2016
CPDR Condemns The Brutal Police Attack On The Dalit Students And Faculty At Hyderabad Central University
Yesterday, on 22 March 2016, the Hyderabad Police brutally attacked the students and faculty of the Hyderabad Central University who protested against resumption of Appa Rao Poddile, Vice Chancellor. Many students and two faculty members were badly injured in the police attack. Some 36 students along with two professors, K Y Ratnam and Tathagat Sengupta were taken into custody, the whereabouts of them remains unknown till today.
Appa Rao Poddile, the Vice Chancellor, who was sent on leave in the wake of students’ agitation that broke out over the suicide of a Dalit scholar, Rohith Vemula, joined back the University. Appa Rao’s prejudiced actions against the Dalit scholars were exposed to the world during the flare up over Rohith’s death. He, along with Bandaru Dattatreya, and Smriti Irani are clearly responsible for his institutional murder. Hyderabad Police had accordingly booked him along with the union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, N Sushil Kumar, the HCU Unit of the ABVP and one Vishnu for abetment of suicide and also for violations of the SC/ST Atrocities Act. The cases under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code and also the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes prevention of atrocities Act were filed in Gachibowli police station under Cyberabad police commissionerate limits. In its characteristic obstinacy the HRD Ministry sent him back to take charge of the university.
While the Ambedkar Students Association ASA were protesting with sit-in in front of the VC’s lodge some elements indulged in stone throwing and causing damage to it in order to provide an alibi for the police to crack down. This has been the pet strategy of the Hindutva camp as the JNU slogan shouting and subsequent crack down on the innocent students revealed. The authorities should investigate and identify the culprit instead of charging the ASA students and even faculty for these acts without any proof.
Appa Rao had a history of anti-Dalit actions in the university. Rohith had written him a note insinuating how casteist environment in the university was alienating Dalit students. Any Vice Chancellor worth his salt would have been alarmed and counseled with him. However, Appa Rao has been so callous and incompetent that he never bothered to comprehend the consequences of his abominable punishment to the five Dalit scholars. It was an apt case for summary dismissal for the HRD Ministry but the latter chose to persist with such characters that carry out its saffron agenda. For the Hyderabad Police, there was a prima facie case to arrest Appa Rao, instead they cracked down on the students and faculty who protested against his reinstatement.
· Release all students and faculty unconditionally.
· Withdraw cases against them.
· Investigate who indulged in vandalism and book them for the crime
· Remove Appa Rao from the post of Vice Chancellor
· Bring a person with proven competence to restore the academic climate of the University.
Dr Anand Teltumbde
Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights CPDR, Maharashtra
05 March, 2016
CPDR Condemns the Open Threats to Kanhaiya Kumar and Demands Immediate Arrest of the Culprits
Today certain Kuldeep Varshney, Badaun district chief of the Bhartiya Janta Yuva Morcha has openly announced a "prize money" of Rs 5 lakh to anyone who "cuts off the tongue" of Jawaharalal Nehru University JNU students union presidnet Kanhaiya Kumar. He had temerity to appear on television and boast of his threat. Posters reportedly in the name of Purvanchal Sena were seen at various places across the national capital offering Rs 11 lakh to "kill" the JNU student leader.
The Police had arrested Kanhaiya Kumar and incarcerated him for 23 days without an iota of evidence. The sedition law as the Supreme Court holds could be applied only when there is an incitement to imminent violence. While the so called anti-national slogans in JNU did not have any such content to incite violence, as a matter of fact after those slogans were shouted there was nothing that happened in the campus over two days before the Police pounced upon the students. On the contrary, the various organizations and outfits belonging to the Sangh Pariwar have been threatening people around who do not agree with them not only with death threats but they have actually killed people like Dr Narendra Dabholkar, Comrade Govind Pansare, and Dr Kulbargi just to name the more prominent ones. They have been using the fig leaf of nationalism and patriotism, the term that do not have any meaning either in the Constitution or in law. In law, on the contrary, the Hindutva slogans are clearly divisive of the polity that has palpable threat to national unity and integrity and therefore seditious. They not only speak of violence, they have been inciting and executing violence on streets. While the poor JNU students could never go beyond sloganeering, the Hindutva goons in lawyers’ attire have actually executed violence in utter disregard of the court and hence the Constitution. They had issued a threat that if court grants Kanhaiya Kumar a bail, they would kill him. The temerity of these criminals has been in public glare.
CPDR wants the draconian laws like sedition should go. But if at all the law of sedition, as it stand on statutes, is to be applied, the apt cases to apply are the blatant threats of Kuldeep Varshney and many of their ilk. They are threatening the essential idea of India and materially damaging the unity and integrity of this country which lies in its diversity.
· Kuldeep Varshney should be immediately arrested under the Sedition
· The cowards of the so called Purwanchal Sena should be identified, arrested and tried under sedition
· All the criminals who indulged in violence in Patiala House court premises and the lawyers who had issued a threat that they would kill Kanhaiya if the court granted him bail should be arrested and tried under the sedition Act
· Kanhaiya Kumar should be provided with appropriate security until the election results of the forthcoming five states are completed
· Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya should be released immediately
· All the draconian laws like Sedition, UAPA, AFSPA, etc do not have a place in republican democracy and should be immediately repealed.
13 February, 2016
CPDR Condemns Arrests of JNUSU President and Delhi University Professor under Sedition Charges
CPDR condemns the arrests of Kanhaiya Kumar, president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union JNSU and Prof SAR Gilani of Delhi University by the Delhi Police today 12 February 2016 at the behest of the Home Minister Rajnath Singh on charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy for holding a protest demonstration on February 9th against the judicial hanging of Afzal Guru, three years ago.
The BJP Government is completely exposed in using the state power in support of its student’s wing- Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, which was totally isolated in the campuses all over the country in the flare up over the institutional killing of Rohith Vemula. Instead of learning a lesson from this episode, it has chosen to use its fascist fangs in suppressing the democratic activities of students in university campuses.
CPDR does not hold any brief for those who indulge in anti-national activities but certainly objects to gross misuse of this label to suppress democratic rights of the students. In view of the fact that the hangings of both Afzal Guru as well as Yakub Memon have not been beyond controversy, the students’ questioning them cannot be termed sedition or anti-national activity. It is the same fascist definition of anti-nationalism that had prompted the Hyderabad University administration to clumsily punish the five Dalit students which led to one of them, Rohith Vemula, committing suicide. In both, the sinister role of ABVP and BJP in making the university administrations to crawl and police to terrorize the non-ABVP students is completely exposed.
The higher education campuses are not factories to produce inert charge to feed corporate mills. They are fundamentally expected to shape future thought leaders of the country endowed with critical faculties for sustenance of democracy. Analyzing, reviewing, criticizing, protesting, agitating and being alive to issues of national life are an integral part of this process. It cannot be suppressed by labeling it sedition or anti-national activity. Exercising checks on the Government is the right of people that is subsumed in democracy and cannot be subverted by such sentimental ploys. The students who partake in such activities must rather be respected for their concern for the future of the country than those who opportunistically choose to be on the side of the state and exhibit their pseudo patriotism. It is sad that the so called nationalists who blame every evil to colonial powers shamelessly cling to colonial provisions of sedition and other such draconian acts to terrorize people.
In the light of the above, CPDR demands immediate release of both the JNUSU President, Kanhaiya Kumar and Prof S. A. R Geelani and quashing of Sedition charges against them and unknown persons.
Dr Anand Teltumbde, General Secretary, CPDR, Maharashtra
01 November, 2015
CPDR Condemns Killing of Dr Malleshappa Kalburgi
We are yet to come out from the shock of the assassinations of Dr. Narendra Dabholkar and Com. Govind Pansare in 2013 and 2014 respectively, the Hindutva zealots have gunned down one more rationalist and renowned scholar in Dr Malleshappa Kalburgi, this time in neighboring Karnataka.
In Maharashtra, both the previous Congress and present BJP-Shivsena governments have amply demonstrated by their inaction in apprehending the murderers of Dabholkar and Pansare on whose side they stood and exposed their clandestine relations with the majority communalists. In Karnataka the Congress government is now on test to prove its secular mettle and erase the steins of communalism to some extent from the face of the Congress.
Dr Kalburgi was a Lingayat, the follower of the 12th century reformer Basavanna, who preached against castes and idolatry of Hinduism. It is irony of history that the Lingayats who are not supposed to be Hindus, today flaunt their mantle of Hindutva. They detested Kalburgi’s rationalist projection of Basava vachanas. Sadly they will find themselves on the side of the wickedest enemy of Basavanna, who have killed one of the best of his contemporary disciples.
Last year, the very zealots had attacked another illustrious son of Karnataka U R Ananthamurthy who was a co-traveller of Kalburgi in the same campaign for rational thought. Emboldened by the ascent of Narendra Modi, who had dubious distinction of demonstrating his law of ‘action and reaction’ with the carnage of over 2000 Muslims in Gujarat, to the throne of Delhi, these zealots have gone berserk killing people who speak against their venomous creed.
The modus operandi in all the three cases being exactly the same, associated with similar jubilation in the right wing camp, it should not be difficult for the Karnataka government to apprehend the culprits. It has already handed over the case to CBI, may be to assuage resentment of people. CBI or no CBI, however, it should not forget that people are interested in seeing the murderers of Kalburgi convicted for their crime in a reasonable time frame.
CPDR urges people of the country to stand up and speak out against this heinous trend of murderous intimidation of democratic polity.
Dr Anand Teltumbde, General Secretary,Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights CPDR, Mumbai.
Yakub Memons Hanging Proves Once Again, Death Penalty Is Cruel
Mumbai: First of all, CPDR is opposed to capital punishment in all circumstances and we have reiterated the reasons on several occasions. Our main argument against capital punishment is that any miscarriage of justice becomes irreversible. As the famous French Enlightenment historian and philosopher, Voltaire once put it: “It is better to risk saving a guilty person than to condemn an innocent one.” Indeed, in the Indian judicial context, there is still much debate about the “rarest of the rare” idiom—what specific legal conditions should be fulfilled for a judicial bench to pass the death sentence? Indeed, in Afzal Guru’s case, the Supreme Court of India stated in its judgment that the “collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if the capital punishment is awarded to the offender”! The CPDR expected and demanded that the Indian state—particularly the judiciary—would rise above the loud cries of the Hindutvavadins to “hang him”, but the state chose not to heed the voices of reason.
It is shocking that the Indian state was hell bent on hanging Yakub Memon on 30th July 2015, his birthday, and used its machinery to ensure that the day and timing was met. The TADA court issued Yakub Memon’s death warrant on 30th April 2015 even as Memon’s curative petition was pending before the Supreme Court, which the latter dismissed much later, on 21st July 2015. A writ petition then filed by Yakub Memon suffered a split verdict on 28th July 2015, with one judge finding it proper to dismiss the petition even though Yakub Memon’s mercy plea was pending before the governor of Maharashtra. The other judge raised a fundamental issue—that it was necessary for the court to consider whether the petitioner’s curative petition had been decided in accordance with law—and he stayed the execution warrant. The split verdict necessitated a larger Bench to hear the matter, which was constituted the same evening and the petition was placed for hearing on 29th July 2015, a day before the execution. The 3-judge bench heard the matter and upheld the curative petition’s order and the death warrant.
The defence lawyers however did not give-up—they filed another writ petition, on the ground that Yakub Memon’s mercy plea to the President had a few hours ago been rejected and he should be given an opportunity to challenge the same. This mercy petition had for the first time brought on record the posthumous publication of an article written by B Raman, one-time head of the counter-terrorism section of the Research and Analysis Wing RAW, India’s external intelligence agency, stating that the investigating agency had lured Yakub Memon to return to India, that he had cooperated with the investigating agency, and that he should therefore not be hanged. In the light of this, the defence lawyers argued that the death warrant should be stayed. The Bench before which the matter was placed was the same 3-judge Bench that had just dismissed Yakub Memon’s earlier petition. It held its sitting in the Supreme Court at 3.00 a.m. on 30th July 2015, concluding that the court “did not perceive any merit in this writ petition” and thereby dismissing it. Yakub Memon was hanged to death a couple of hours later.
Why did the Supreme Court not “perceive” that it was important to give Yakub Memon the 14 days period to challenge rejection of his mercy petition as had been laid down by the Supreme Court in Shatrughan Chauhan’s judgment? The President too, hastily on the night of 29th July 2015, rejected Yakub Memon’s mercy plea which had been submitted to the jailor of Nagpur Central Prison on 28th July 2015. The Home Ministry’s recommendation to the President to reject the plea came the very same night, and the President readily obliged, and, as seems evident, with no application of mind when rejecting the mercy plea.
What sort of criminal justice is this, where the Indian state induces the accused with the implicit promise of protection against the death penalty to give himself up and stand trial, and then, when he does, forgets the “mitigating circumstances” of his cooperation with the Intelligence agencies, and hangs him? And, the insistence and unfathomable haste in hanging Yakub Memon, not in the least being bothered about a possible miscarriage of justice which would then be irreversible?
CPDR condemns the hanging of Yakub Memon by the Indian state, which seems to have been motivated by the Hindutvavadi desire for revenge. It is tragic that such brutality seems to have become this state’s eternal law. Death penalty is a cruel and inhuman punishment and we demand its abolition, and pending the fulfilment of that demand, a moratoria on all such executions.
Anand Teltumde, General Secretary, CPDR, Mumbai.