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Mainstream, VOL 62 No 20, May 18, 2024

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, May 18, 2024

Friday 17 May 2024


Rulings this week by the Supreme Court of India gave hope to victims of a criminal justice system that has seen an erosion on its checks and balances. On Monday, May 13th, the top court lifted its stay on the Bombay High Court order granting bail to Gautam Navlakha, the well-known independent researcher and human rights activist [1] held in prison for four years under the Orwellian Bhima Koregaon case where many of the supposed accused have been granted bail. Two days later on May 15 the Supreme Court quashed the arrest of Prabir Purkaystha (founder of NewsClick an independent media portal) & ordered his release due to non-respect of the rule of law & procedure. Purkayastha’s arrest & his police remand was declared invalid on the grounds that the reasons for his arrest were not communicated to him in a written form. [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]Prabir Purkayastha had been detained since October 3, 2023 and later charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) the full court order providing him relief can be read here. Both the Bhima Koregaon Case and the NewsClick case are examples of false and fabricated cases where critics have been wrongly targeted and implicated. Such cases are part of a corrupt system that needs fixing. The Supreme Court is the last call for redress and the protection of a constitutional rule of law, but the lawyers truly dedicated to constitutional values make a difference to this court. The unflinching commitment shown by lawyers for Navlakha and Purkayastha to the protection of democratic rights and constitutional rights needs all our kudos. There are many examples of the police of enforcement agencies not following the due process and lower court officials have come to often be manipulated and used as they let things pass with scant respect for procedure [7]. Many observers have who have seen through the FIRs (First Information Report) or the chargesheets in both the Bhima Koregaon Case and the case against NewsClick point at an alarming concoction of tales with no bearing to reality or any factual evidence. The persons detained pay a heavy price and no action is taken against police or enforcement agencies for misuse of powers and wrongdoing. Our official National Human Rights Commission has become totally disfunctional hardly offers hope and it has not been granted due recognition by the United Nations for a second successive year [8]. Let us hope that independent human rights and civil society groups will widely expand their reach in society and make a large number of citizens aware of their rights and the need to maintain rule of law and our secular constitution.

May 17, 2024 —HK

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