Repeal of CSPSA and release of seven activists arrested on false charges
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Liberty of a person is of great significance and a Fundamental Right guaranteed in the Indian Constitution. Grant or refusal of bail to an accused is a matter that has to be handled with exceptional caution. The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 speaks for the grant of bail because “Bail and not Jail” is the aim of the Law.
On 25th December 2016, a seven-member fact-finding team consisting of social activists and lawyers were arrested by the Telangana police near Dummugudem of Bhadradri district and handed over to police personnel of Sukma district of Chhattisgarh. The team was on its way to inquire into various allegations of human rights violations of Adivasis by security forces in Chhattisgarh including, but not limited to, the killing of Punem Nandu son of a local Congress leader and his friend Karkem Sukku in Timmapur of Bijapur by CRPF men on 12th December 2016. The team was booked under sections 8(1) (2) (3) and (5) of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005. They have been remanded to judicial custody and are presently lodged in Sukma prison. The seven are: Prabhakar Duddu of the Kula Nirmoolana Porata Samithi (Struggle Committee for Caste Annihilation- KNPS), High Court advocate Balla Ravindranath, High Court advocate and Telangana Democratic Front functionary Prabhakar Chikkudu, Journalist Durga Prasad Bandi, Telangana Vidyarthi Vedika leaders Md Nazir and K Rajendra Prasad and Adivasi Tudum Debba leader R Laxmaiah.
On 13th February 2017, arguments were heard in the High Court of Chhattisgarh at Bilaspur regarding release on bail of the fact-finding team members. Upon perusal of relevant documents, the judge stated that the case was a ‘sensitive’ one, sought the government’s reply and on his own gave them a time of two weeks and listed the case for 6th March 2017. The bail petition for the all seven activists was filed on 23-01-2017 and it came for admission on 30-01-17. The court gave sufficient time to the government for calling of case diary and filing of counter affidavit and listed the matter on 13th February. And now again a two weeks extension has been granted.
The CSPSA is a draconian and autocratic legislation. The human rights organisations both in India and outside have called for its repeal. The human rights advocacy group Amnesty International India has demanded the immediate release of the seven members of the fact-finding team saying that the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act violates international human rights standards.
On a different occasion, The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has expressed reservations about the Act, and has said it may become a potential instrument to throttle the right to free speech, legitimate dissent, and trample upon the fundamental rights enshrined in Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution.
Justice delayed is justice denied. Earlier, the seven were refused bail by the Dantewada district court on 3rd January. The court then stated that the case is of a ‘serious nature’ and had asked the team whether they had any permission to enter the Naxalite- affected areas of Chhattisgarh, even as the police failed to produce all the circumstantial evidence allegedly seized from them. They have been in jail since 25th December and their judicial remand has been extended by the Sukma Court.
A sustained campaign condemning the arrests and seeking the immediate release of the seven activists is going on presently in Telangana and AP as well as several other places. Time and again it is being pointed out that the seven activists who have been arrested and falsely charged in a context of the rule of law being grossly undermined by the establishment in Chhattisgarh. It would be no exaggeration to say that there is ongoing travesty of justice in Chhattisgarh with a concerted attempt being made to criminalize human rights activism. That State is witnessing a viciously motivated campaign to silence democratic dissent. It is a campaign that is aimed at intimidation and vilification of those who advocate human rights and expose rights abuses.
It is by now common knowledge the manner in which the police, at the express behest of the political dispensation, been harassing, intimidating, and attacking and arresting human rights activists, journalists and lawyers. The judiciary in that State has been found wanting in the discharge of its duties. One only needs to point out to the thousands of ordinary villagers, most of them Adivasis, who are languishing in the prisons of South Bastar. Most of them have been imprisoned, like the seven members of the fact-finding team, on brazenly false charges.
We have no hesitation in stating that the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act is a political instrument masquerading as penal law. Such an act should have no place in a civilized society. We appeal for your immediate intervention to see that the seven members of the fact-finding team are released and the CSPSA is taken off the statute books.
S. Jeevan Kumar, President, Human Rights Forum (HRF)
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
email@example.com, Mobile: 0984898628
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