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Does paying salaries to Imams amount to ‘betraying’ the Hindu community'?

Remarks of Central Information Commissioner (CIC), Mahurkar followed the Delhi Waqf Board submitted data that revealed that the wages of imams and mosque helpers increased four-fold since 2014 after the Kejriwal-lef AAP government came to power in the national capital.

30 Nov 2022

Central Information Commissioner (CIC), Mahurkar followed the  Delhi Waqf Board submitted data that revealed that the wages of imams and mosque helpers increased

New Delhi: In a sharp set of remarks that appear to go far beyond his brief as a Central Information Commissioner (IC), Uday Mahurkar, who was appointed by a Narendra Modi-led panel in 2020, recently said that the payment of honorariums to Imams and helpers in Delhi mosques is akin to encouraging “pan-Islamist tendencies”. Mahurkar’s controversial observations came while hearing an appeal on an RTI application in which the Delhi Wakf Board disclosed that the salaries of Imams and muezzins in the national capital had risen nearly four-fold since 2014.

Kejriwal’s and Imams

It was on February 16, 2022 that activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal had filed a right to information (RTI) application with the Delhi government’s Department of Revenue. In his application, Agarwal sought answers to 12 queries, citing a  Zee Report of 2019 which noted that Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal declared that the salaries of imams and helpers in Delhi Waqf Board mosques would be increased.

According to the Zee report, Kejriwal had declared that the Delhi Waqf Board would increase the salaries of imams in mosques which came under it from Rs 10,000 to Rs 18,000 per month and the salaries of helpers in these mosques from Rs 9,000 to Rs 16,000 per month

In his RTI application, Agarwal had asked for detailed information on the Delhi government’s decision to pay salaries, honorariums or monetary benefits of any other form to imams and others in these mosques. He sought information on the total number of mosques in Delhi where such benefits were being provided; the amount of benefits being paid; the government’s year-wise spend on such salaries, honorariums or monetary benefits; and the name of competent authority under the Delhi government for providing these benefits.

Agarwal had also asked to know if such monetary benefits were being provided by the Delhi government to Priests of temples of all other minority religions as well as those of Hindu Temples; the total number of such Gurdwaras, Churches or Temples of (other) minority religions and Hindu temples; and the name of competent authority for approving such benefits.

Not satisfied with the reply received from the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) and the non-adjudication of his first appeal by the First Appellate Authority (FAA), Agarwal then filed a complaint with the Central Information Commission. During the hearing of the second appeal, Agarwal submitted that incomplete information had been furnished to him, that too after a delay of approximately nine months and after much “dithering”, which he claimed indicated attempts to initially hide the information.

Honorariums rose from Rs 2.68 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 9.62 crore in 2020-21

Finally, on November 25, IC Makurkar passed an order in the matter. The order noted that the appellant, Agarwal, requested that the Commission take note of the fact that the Delhi Waqf Board, in a November 2, 2022 reply, denied paying salaries to imams or any other person, but in its revised reply filed in the course of the hearing, stated that it was giving imams and helpers “honorariums”.

According to this data provided by Waqf Board, the order stated, honorariums of Rs 2,68,10,123 were paid in 2014-15. In 2015-16, it was Rs 3,18,67,000; in 2016-17, Rs 2,75,43,907; in 2017-18, Rs 1,42,22,000; in 2018-19, Rs 2,33,58,333; in 2019-20, Rs. 9,34,83,700 and in 2020-21, it was Rs. 9,62,16,000.

“…[T]he total honorarium given to imams and others in mosques under control of Waf Board quadrupled since 2014,” the order noted. Significantly, the order observed that this sudden rise came after the announcement Kejriwal was said to have made at the conference of imams in January 2019, as noted by the Zee News report.

Submissions by Waqf Board law officer

Mahurkar’s order also recorded the submissions of the Waqf Board’s representative, law officer Shaista Siddique, who said that the Waqf Board was formerly under a religious Act for the sole purpose of religious and other charity matters.

According to Mahurkar’s order, Siddique tried to explain the matter of financial benefits to Imams by saying that while temples are run by trusts which look after the needs of the priests, masjids under the jurisdiction of the Waqf Board do not get support from any trust and hence these payments.

She said the honorariums to imams and muezzins in Delhi were being given as per a 1993 Supreme Court order in All India Imam Organisation And … versus Union Of India And Ors All India Imam Organisation And … vs Union Of India And Others where Justice R.M. Sahai had held that the responsibility to maintain Imams and others lies with the state and the Delhi Waqf Board.

On the issue of the total amount of funds disbursed to this end, Mahurkar’s order recorded the Waqf Board’s submissions that the Delhi government gives it a total annual grant of approximately Rs 62 crore. This amount is divided between five heads – salaries of Imams and others; widows’ pensions, establishment, Wakf development and staff salary.

Further, the Board submitted that it regularly receives nearly Rs 30 lakh in rent from its various Waqf properties. As per Agarwal’s demand, Mahurkar directed the CPIO (Delhi Wakf Board) to re-examine the matter and furnish correct, complete and detailed information on points 1, 3, 5, 6 and 12 of the RTI application and to transfer the application on queries 1 and 6-12 to the concerned departments.

He also directed the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) –Arvind Kejriwal’s --to provide information on points 1 and 6-12 of the RTI application, as well as complete information with all related documents on the honorariums being paid to imams and others in Delhi mosques which are not in the domain of the Waqf Board.

Article 27 and Muharkar’s comments on Muslims

Mahurkar’s biting remarks, however, came on the point raised by Agarwal regarding Article 27 of the Constitution, which, on the point of ‘Freedom as to payment of taxes for promotion of any particular religion’ states, “No person shall be compelled to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination.”

Observing that the appellant had claimed that “the utilisation of tax-payers’ money for promotion or maintenance of a particular religion is against provisions of the Indian Constitution,” Mahurkar trashed the aforementioned Supreme Court ruling which allowed grant of such remuneration. He said:

“Further with regard to the judgment by the Supreme Court in the case between All India Imam Organisation And … versus Union Of India And Others on May 13, 1993, that opened the doors to special financial benefits from public treasury to only Imams and muezzins in the mosques, the Commission observes that the highest court of the country, in passing this order, acted in violation of the provisions of the Constitution, particularly Article 27, which says that the tax payers’ money will not be used to favour any particular religion. The Commission notes that the said judgment set a wrong precedent in the country and has become a point of unnecessary political slugfest and also social disharmony in the society.”

In his order, Mahurkar also went ahead and wrote, in bold, what he felt about Partition, Muslims, and their rights:

“It is necessary to go into the history when it comes to giving special religious benefits to Muslim community by the State. A religious (Islamic) nation Pakistan was born out of the demand of a section of Indian Muslims for partition of India along religious lines. Despite Pakistan choosing to be a religious (Islamic) nation, India chose a constitution guaranteeing equal rights to all religions.”

The IC then slammed the policy of giving special benefits to Muslims:

“It is necessary to note here that it was the policy of giving special benefits to Muslim community before 1947 that played a key role in encouraging pan-Islamic and fissiparous tendencies in a section of Muslims ultimately leading to the nation’s partition. So giving salaries to Imams and others only in mosques, amounts to not just betraying the Hindu community and members of other non-Muslim minority religions but also encouraging pan-Islamist tendencies amongst a section of Indian Muslims which are already visible.”

“Steps like giving special religious benefits to Muslim community only like the one taken up in the present matter, in fact severely affects interfaith harmony as they invite contempt for the Muslims as a whole from a section of ultra-nationalist population,” he added.

Following this hearing, advocate-on-record Aldanish Rein wrote to attorney general of India R. Venkatramani seeking his permission to file criminal contempt of court proceedings against Mahurkar for his comments on the top court’s 1993 judgment, according to a report in Bar and Bench.

In the letter, Rein called Mahurkar’s comments “contemptuous” and said they were “an attempt to disgrace the Muslim community and further spread disharmony amongst different communities on the strength of the Supreme Court order for some ulterior motives.”

Background: Mahurkar

Saying that this was a “matter of extreme importance for the unity and integrity of the nation and interfaith harmony”, Mahurkar directed the registry to forward a copy of his order to the Union law minister, Kiran Rijiju, with the Commission’s recommendation for suitable action to ensure enforcement of provisions of Articles 25 to 28 of the Constitution in letter and spirit.

Incidentally, this is not the first time that Mahurkar has made such remarks. Last year, he had made some tweets which displayed his proximity to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological fountainhead of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

On June 26, 2021, he had also tweeted images of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s visit to his residence. Then on July 27, 2021, he had tweeted on the Uniform Civil Code, noting that Pakistan was “given” to “Indian Muslims”.

In 2007, the magazine Tehelka had in its Operation Kalank exposure on the violence in Gujarat in 2002 also contained a ‘sting operation’ in which he had made controversial revelations on the role of government pleader, Arvind Pandya in the proceedings before the Nanavaty Shah Commission.

Related:

After UP Madrasas Survey, Centre Stops Scholarships For Students of Class 1- 8

UP: After Madrasas, Yogi Govt to Survey Waqf Properties; Muslim Citizens Doubt ‘Intention’

 

Does paying salaries to Imams amount to ‘betraying’ the Hindu community'?

Remarks of Central Information Commissioner (CIC), Mahurkar followed the Delhi Waqf Board submitted data that revealed that the wages of imams and mosque helpers increased four-fold since 2014 after the Kejriwal-lef AAP government came to power in the national capital.

Central Information Commissioner (CIC), Mahurkar followed the  Delhi Waqf Board submitted data that revealed that the wages of imams and mosque helpers increased

New Delhi: In a sharp set of remarks that appear to go far beyond his brief as a Central Information Commissioner (IC), Uday Mahurkar, who was appointed by a Narendra Modi-led panel in 2020, recently said that the payment of honorariums to Imams and helpers in Delhi mosques is akin to encouraging “pan-Islamist tendencies”. Mahurkar’s controversial observations came while hearing an appeal on an RTI application in which the Delhi Wakf Board disclosed that the salaries of Imams and muezzins in the national capital had risen nearly four-fold since 2014.

Kejriwal’s and Imams

It was on February 16, 2022 that activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal had filed a right to information (RTI) application with the Delhi government’s Department of Revenue. In his application, Agarwal sought answers to 12 queries, citing a  Zee Report of 2019 which noted that Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal declared that the salaries of imams and helpers in Delhi Waqf Board mosques would be increased.

According to the Zee report, Kejriwal had declared that the Delhi Waqf Board would increase the salaries of imams in mosques which came under it from Rs 10,000 to Rs 18,000 per month and the salaries of helpers in these mosques from Rs 9,000 to Rs 16,000 per month

In his RTI application, Agarwal had asked for detailed information on the Delhi government’s decision to pay salaries, honorariums or monetary benefits of any other form to imams and others in these mosques. He sought information on the total number of mosques in Delhi where such benefits were being provided; the amount of benefits being paid; the government’s year-wise spend on such salaries, honorariums or monetary benefits; and the name of competent authority under the Delhi government for providing these benefits.

Agarwal had also asked to know if such monetary benefits were being provided by the Delhi government to Priests of temples of all other minority religions as well as those of Hindu Temples; the total number of such Gurdwaras, Churches or Temples of (other) minority religions and Hindu temples; and the name of competent authority for approving such benefits.

Not satisfied with the reply received from the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) and the non-adjudication of his first appeal by the First Appellate Authority (FAA), Agarwal then filed a complaint with the Central Information Commission. During the hearing of the second appeal, Agarwal submitted that incomplete information had been furnished to him, that too after a delay of approximately nine months and after much “dithering”, which he claimed indicated attempts to initially hide the information.

Honorariums rose from Rs 2.68 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 9.62 crore in 2020-21

Finally, on November 25, IC Makurkar passed an order in the matter. The order noted that the appellant, Agarwal, requested that the Commission take note of the fact that the Delhi Waqf Board, in a November 2, 2022 reply, denied paying salaries to imams or any other person, but in its revised reply filed in the course of the hearing, stated that it was giving imams and helpers “honorariums”.

According to this data provided by Waqf Board, the order stated, honorariums of Rs 2,68,10,123 were paid in 2014-15. In 2015-16, it was Rs 3,18,67,000; in 2016-17, Rs 2,75,43,907; in 2017-18, Rs 1,42,22,000; in 2018-19, Rs 2,33,58,333; in 2019-20, Rs. 9,34,83,700 and in 2020-21, it was Rs. 9,62,16,000.

“…[T]he total honorarium given to imams and others in mosques under control of Waf Board quadrupled since 2014,” the order noted. Significantly, the order observed that this sudden rise came after the announcement Kejriwal was said to have made at the conference of imams in January 2019, as noted by the Zee News report.

Submissions by Waqf Board law officer

Mahurkar’s order also recorded the submissions of the Waqf Board’s representative, law officer Shaista Siddique, who said that the Waqf Board was formerly under a religious Act for the sole purpose of religious and other charity matters.

According to Mahurkar’s order, Siddique tried to explain the matter of financial benefits to Imams by saying that while temples are run by trusts which look after the needs of the priests, masjids under the jurisdiction of the Waqf Board do not get support from any trust and hence these payments.

She said the honorariums to imams and muezzins in Delhi were being given as per a 1993 Supreme Court order in All India Imam Organisation And … versus Union Of India And Ors All India Imam Organisation And … vs Union Of India And Others where Justice R.M. Sahai had held that the responsibility to maintain Imams and others lies with the state and the Delhi Waqf Board.

On the issue of the total amount of funds disbursed to this end, Mahurkar’s order recorded the Waqf Board’s submissions that the Delhi government gives it a total annual grant of approximately Rs 62 crore. This amount is divided between five heads – salaries of Imams and others; widows’ pensions, establishment, Wakf development and staff salary.

Further, the Board submitted that it regularly receives nearly Rs 30 lakh in rent from its various Waqf properties. As per Agarwal’s demand, Mahurkar directed the CPIO (Delhi Wakf Board) to re-examine the matter and furnish correct, complete and detailed information on points 1, 3, 5, 6 and 12 of the RTI application and to transfer the application on queries 1 and 6-12 to the concerned departments.

He also directed the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) –Arvind Kejriwal’s --to provide information on points 1 and 6-12 of the RTI application, as well as complete information with all related documents on the honorariums being paid to imams and others in Delhi mosques which are not in the domain of the Waqf Board.

Article 27 and Muharkar’s comments on Muslims

Mahurkar’s biting remarks, however, came on the point raised by Agarwal regarding Article 27 of the Constitution, which, on the point of ‘Freedom as to payment of taxes for promotion of any particular religion’ states, “No person shall be compelled to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination.”

Observing that the appellant had claimed that “the utilisation of tax-payers’ money for promotion or maintenance of a particular religion is against provisions of the Indian Constitution,” Mahurkar trashed the aforementioned Supreme Court ruling which allowed grant of such remuneration. He said:

“Further with regard to the judgment by the Supreme Court in the case between All India Imam Organisation And … versus Union Of India And Others on May 13, 1993, that opened the doors to special financial benefits from public treasury to only Imams and muezzins in the mosques, the Commission observes that the highest court of the country, in passing this order, acted in violation of the provisions of the Constitution, particularly Article 27, which says that the tax payers’ money will not be used to favour any particular religion. The Commission notes that the said judgment set a wrong precedent in the country and has become a point of unnecessary political slugfest and also social disharmony in the society.”

In his order, Mahurkar also went ahead and wrote, in bold, what he felt about Partition, Muslims, and their rights:

“It is necessary to go into the history when it comes to giving special religious benefits to Muslim community by the State. A religious (Islamic) nation Pakistan was born out of the demand of a section of Indian Muslims for partition of India along religious lines. Despite Pakistan choosing to be a religious (Islamic) nation, India chose a constitution guaranteeing equal rights to all religions.”

The IC then slammed the policy of giving special benefits to Muslims:

“It is necessary to note here that it was the policy of giving special benefits to Muslim community before 1947 that played a key role in encouraging pan-Islamic and fissiparous tendencies in a section of Muslims ultimately leading to the nation’s partition. So giving salaries to Imams and others only in mosques, amounts to not just betraying the Hindu community and members of other non-Muslim minority religions but also encouraging pan-Islamist tendencies amongst a section of Indian Muslims which are already visible.”

“Steps like giving special religious benefits to Muslim community only like the one taken up in the present matter, in fact severely affects interfaith harmony as they invite contempt for the Muslims as a whole from a section of ultra-nationalist population,” he added.

Following this hearing, advocate-on-record Aldanish Rein wrote to attorney general of India R. Venkatramani seeking his permission to file criminal contempt of court proceedings against Mahurkar for his comments on the top court’s 1993 judgment, according to a report in Bar and Bench.

In the letter, Rein called Mahurkar’s comments “contemptuous” and said they were “an attempt to disgrace the Muslim community and further spread disharmony amongst different communities on the strength of the Supreme Court order for some ulterior motives.”

Background: Mahurkar

Saying that this was a “matter of extreme importance for the unity and integrity of the nation and interfaith harmony”, Mahurkar directed the registry to forward a copy of his order to the Union law minister, Kiran Rijiju, with the Commission’s recommendation for suitable action to ensure enforcement of provisions of Articles 25 to 28 of the Constitution in letter and spirit.

Incidentally, this is not the first time that Mahurkar has made such remarks. Last year, he had made some tweets which displayed his proximity to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological fountainhead of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

On June 26, 2021, he had also tweeted images of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s visit to his residence. Then on July 27, 2021, he had tweeted on the Uniform Civil Code, noting that Pakistan was “given” to “Indian Muslims”.

In 2007, the magazine Tehelka had in its Operation Kalank exposure on the violence in Gujarat in 2002 also contained a ‘sting operation’ in which he had made controversial revelations on the role of government pleader, Arvind Pandya in the proceedings before the Nanavaty Shah Commission.

Related:

After UP Madrasas Survey, Centre Stops Scholarships For Students of Class 1- 8

UP: After Madrasas, Yogi Govt to Survey Waqf Properties; Muslim Citizens Doubt ‘Intention’

 

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Bilkis Bano approaches Supreme Court to contest premature release of rape convicts

Survivor of Gujarat Riots Gang Rape Demands Justice, files petition against remission granted on August 15

30 Nov 2022

Bilkis bano

On November 30, Bilkis Bano approached the Supreme Court to contest the premature release of the 11 convicts who were given life sentences for the crime of gang rape and mass-murder during the Gujarat Riots in 2002. A writ petition has been filed by her, through Advocate Shobha Gupta, to the Supreme Court of India. Bilkis Bano has additionally filed a review petition in objection to the Supreme Court's ruling allowing the Gujarat Government to make a decision on the remission of the convicts.

Bilkis Bano's lawyer, advocate Shobha Gupta, mentioned the petitions before Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud this morning. She questioned if the panel headed by Justice Ajay Rastogi, who wrote the prior ruling permitting Gujarat to determine the remission plea, would be able to hear the case because he is now in a Constitution Bench hearing. In response to this, CJI Chandrachud stated that "The review has to be heard first. Let it come before Justice Rastogi," as reported by LiveLaw.

When advocate Gupta submitted that the matter had to be heard in an open court, CJI added that "only the court can decide that," as reported by LiveLaw.

In response to advocate Gupta emphasizing on urgent listing of this case, the CJI then stated that that he will decide on the listing after looking into the matter this evening.

Brief background of the case:

During the communal violence that engulfed Gujarat in February- March 2002, in a particularly brutal attack, 14 members of Bilkis Bano’s family were killed, including Bano’s two-and-a-half-year-old daughter whose head was smashed on a rock! On March 3, moving from one village to another, the group were spotted by gangs of men in two cars hunting for Muslims. At the time she was carrying Saleeha, her three-year-old daughter, in her arms. She recognised the men, mainly from her own village, who rushed towards her. They tore the child from her arms and smashed her head on the ground. The child died before her mother’s eyes. Three men gangraped the pregnant Bilkis. Her sister and cousin sister were also raped. One of them had given birth only the day before. The baby was with her. Every single one of the group of eight was killed including the baby. Bilkis, who had lost consciousness, was left for dead, but she survived.

After Bilkis Bano approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the Supreme Court ordered a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The accused were arrested in 2004 and the trial originally began in Ahmedabad. However, Bano expressed concerns about witness intimidation and evidence tampering and the case was transferred to Mumbai in August 2004. After a tortuous legal journey, the men were convicted by a special CBI court in January 2008. In 2017, the High Court upheld their conviction.

The order of remission:

After completing 14 years behind bars, Radheshyam Shah moved court for sentence remission. But the Gujarat High Court dismissed his plea stating the appropriate government to consider his plea under sections 432 and 433 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, was Maharashtra and not Gujarat. Then, Shah moved Supreme Court which ruled in May that Gujarat was the appropriate state to examine his plea. Besides, the presiding Judge who heard the trial in Mumbai after transfer, UD Salvi had also expressed his opinion against the remission.

A committee was formed to look into the plea for remission and according to Panchmahals collector Sujal Mayatra it “took a unanimous decision in favour of remission of all the 11 convicts in the case.” Both the Gujarat government and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) acceded to the request.

The convicts who were granted remission were: Jaswant Nai, Govind Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Mitesh Bhatt, Radhyesham Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Pradeep Mordhiya, and Ramesh Chandana. They are all residents of Randhikpur village located in Daud district of Gujarat. They were all known to Bilkis Bano and her family; while some were neighbours, others did business with her family. In May 2022, the Supreme Court bench of Justice Rastogi and Justice Vikram Nath had held that Gujarat Government was the appropriate government to consider the remission in the case and directed that the remission applications be decided within two months. On August 15, 2022, as India was celebrating her 75th Independence Day, these convicts walked out of jail and were felicitated with garlands by their family and friends.

Outrage followed and many legal luminaries and civil society members also wondered how remission was granted for serious crimes like gang rape and mass murder. Justice UD Salvi, the judge who had convicted the eleven men, told Bar and Bench, “A very bad precedent has been set. This is wrong, I would say. Now, convicts in other gang rape cases would seek similar reliefs.” Then nearly 9,000 people from different walks of life in Mumbai participated in a signature campaign urging the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to reverse the decision to grant remissions.

Then an NDTV investigation revealed that at least five people on the Advisory Committee that recommended the release are allegedly connected to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Citing an official document that lists the members of the advisory committee, NDTV said it included two BJP MLAs, a member of the BJP state executive committee and two others, who are also linked to the party.

Meanwhile, according to a report by journalist Barkha Dutt’s digital news platform Mojo Story, some of the eleven convicts were not living in their homes after their release. Families of some convicts said they were on pilgrimage, but none provided details of their whereabouts of when they would return. This is significant in light of the current hearings before the Supreme Court. If the court overturns the decision to grant remission, the men need to be traceable so that they can be re-imprisoned.

Petitions against the Remission:

On August 25, 2022, the Supreme Court bench comprising of the then Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice Vikram Nath had issued notice to the state on the petition challenging the order of Gujarat Government allowing premature release of 11 convicts sentenced to life in the Bilkis Bano case for gangrape & murder. While Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal had narrated the grim facts of the case, relating to exodus of Muslim population, rampant incidents of rape and murders, etc., the counsel appearing for State of Gujarat on the other hand opposed the petition on ground of maintainability.

The order can be read here.

In October, 2022, the Gujarat government told the Supreme Court that it decided to release the 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case on completion of their 14 years sentence as their "behaviour was found to be good". The approval for their release was granted despite opposition from a special court and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The Gujarat government also submitted before the Supreme Court that it was the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) that enabled the release of eleven men convicted in the Bilkis Bano case.

It is pertinent to note that one of the convicts, who was released by the Gujarat government on remission in the Bilkis Bano case, stands charge sheeted for outraging the modesty of a woman on June 19, 2020.

Mockery of Justice

Bilkis Bano case was and is among the rarest of rare case. Since March 2002, she has fought virtually alone in the most adverse of circumstances, helped mainly by a band of human rights activists, many of whom themselves became victims of the processes of injustice, precisely because of the help extended in cases like Bilkis’. After 20 years, Bilkis’s quest for justice is still not over. Today, a survivor of the most heinous crimes had to go to the court herself to demand justice, once again. It is not possible here to recount the dreadful story of her suffering. At every stage, her fight for justice has been destroyed, and her efforts trampled. The labour put in by multiple people, and the survivor herself, have come loose today. For securing women's rights in India, the pardons given to these convicts will have a long lasting effect. If, even the judiciary cannot defend the fundamental rights from excessive State power, then who will? If even conviction of a crime does not guarantee justice, then what will?

Related:

Bilkees Bano Case: Rejecting Appeals of 11 Accused Bombay High Court Upholds Convictions

‘Astonishing’, Need White Paper on Remission in Bilkis Bano: Justice Madan Lokur

Bilkis Bano case: SC orders copies of impleading petition to be given to convicts, State of Gujarat

Nearly 9,000 people participate in signature campaign to demand justice for Bilkis Bano

Bilkis Bano case: Convicts’ whereabouts unknown even as SC prepares to hear petitions challenging remission of sentences

Bilkis Bano case: SC issues notice in petition challenging remission of convicts’ sentences

Bilkis Bano case: Remission of convicts’ sentences challenged before SC

Bilkis Bano case: NHRC to discuss release of convicts?

A very bad precedent has been set: Judge who convicted 11 men in Bilkis Bano case

Over 6,000 Citizens Urge SC to Revoke Remission of Convicts in Bilkis Bano Case

Bereft of words, still numb: Bilkis Bano

Bilkis Bano case: Eleven people convicted of gang rape and murder freed

Bilkis Bano approaches Supreme Court to contest premature release of rape convicts

Survivor of Gujarat Riots Gang Rape Demands Justice, files petition against remission granted on August 15

Bilkis bano

On November 30, Bilkis Bano approached the Supreme Court to contest the premature release of the 11 convicts who were given life sentences for the crime of gang rape and mass-murder during the Gujarat Riots in 2002. A writ petition has been filed by her, through Advocate Shobha Gupta, to the Supreme Court of India. Bilkis Bano has additionally filed a review petition in objection to the Supreme Court's ruling allowing the Gujarat Government to make a decision on the remission of the convicts.

Bilkis Bano's lawyer, advocate Shobha Gupta, mentioned the petitions before Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud this morning. She questioned if the panel headed by Justice Ajay Rastogi, who wrote the prior ruling permitting Gujarat to determine the remission plea, would be able to hear the case because he is now in a Constitution Bench hearing. In response to this, CJI Chandrachud stated that "The review has to be heard first. Let it come before Justice Rastogi," as reported by LiveLaw.

When advocate Gupta submitted that the matter had to be heard in an open court, CJI added that "only the court can decide that," as reported by LiveLaw.

In response to advocate Gupta emphasizing on urgent listing of this case, the CJI then stated that that he will decide on the listing after looking into the matter this evening.

Brief background of the case:

During the communal violence that engulfed Gujarat in February- March 2002, in a particularly brutal attack, 14 members of Bilkis Bano’s family were killed, including Bano’s two-and-a-half-year-old daughter whose head was smashed on a rock! On March 3, moving from one village to another, the group were spotted by gangs of men in two cars hunting for Muslims. At the time she was carrying Saleeha, her three-year-old daughter, in her arms. She recognised the men, mainly from her own village, who rushed towards her. They tore the child from her arms and smashed her head on the ground. The child died before her mother’s eyes. Three men gangraped the pregnant Bilkis. Her sister and cousin sister were also raped. One of them had given birth only the day before. The baby was with her. Every single one of the group of eight was killed including the baby. Bilkis, who had lost consciousness, was left for dead, but she survived.

After Bilkis Bano approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the Supreme Court ordered a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The accused were arrested in 2004 and the trial originally began in Ahmedabad. However, Bano expressed concerns about witness intimidation and evidence tampering and the case was transferred to Mumbai in August 2004. After a tortuous legal journey, the men were convicted by a special CBI court in January 2008. In 2017, the High Court upheld their conviction.

The order of remission:

After completing 14 years behind bars, Radheshyam Shah moved court for sentence remission. But the Gujarat High Court dismissed his plea stating the appropriate government to consider his plea under sections 432 and 433 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, was Maharashtra and not Gujarat. Then, Shah moved Supreme Court which ruled in May that Gujarat was the appropriate state to examine his plea. Besides, the presiding Judge who heard the trial in Mumbai after transfer, UD Salvi had also expressed his opinion against the remission.

A committee was formed to look into the plea for remission and according to Panchmahals collector Sujal Mayatra it “took a unanimous decision in favour of remission of all the 11 convicts in the case.” Both the Gujarat government and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) acceded to the request.

The convicts who were granted remission were: Jaswant Nai, Govind Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Mitesh Bhatt, Radhyesham Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Pradeep Mordhiya, and Ramesh Chandana. They are all residents of Randhikpur village located in Daud district of Gujarat. They were all known to Bilkis Bano and her family; while some were neighbours, others did business with her family. In May 2022, the Supreme Court bench of Justice Rastogi and Justice Vikram Nath had held that Gujarat Government was the appropriate government to consider the remission in the case and directed that the remission applications be decided within two months. On August 15, 2022, as India was celebrating her 75th Independence Day, these convicts walked out of jail and were felicitated with garlands by their family and friends.

Outrage followed and many legal luminaries and civil society members also wondered how remission was granted for serious crimes like gang rape and mass murder. Justice UD Salvi, the judge who had convicted the eleven men, told Bar and Bench, “A very bad precedent has been set. This is wrong, I would say. Now, convicts in other gang rape cases would seek similar reliefs.” Then nearly 9,000 people from different walks of life in Mumbai participated in a signature campaign urging the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to reverse the decision to grant remissions.

Then an NDTV investigation revealed that at least five people on the Advisory Committee that recommended the release are allegedly connected to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Citing an official document that lists the members of the advisory committee, NDTV said it included two BJP MLAs, a member of the BJP state executive committee and two others, who are also linked to the party.

Meanwhile, according to a report by journalist Barkha Dutt’s digital news platform Mojo Story, some of the eleven convicts were not living in their homes after their release. Families of some convicts said they were on pilgrimage, but none provided details of their whereabouts of when they would return. This is significant in light of the current hearings before the Supreme Court. If the court overturns the decision to grant remission, the men need to be traceable so that they can be re-imprisoned.

Petitions against the Remission:

On August 25, 2022, the Supreme Court bench comprising of the then Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice Vikram Nath had issued notice to the state on the petition challenging the order of Gujarat Government allowing premature release of 11 convicts sentenced to life in the Bilkis Bano case for gangrape & murder. While Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal had narrated the grim facts of the case, relating to exodus of Muslim population, rampant incidents of rape and murders, etc., the counsel appearing for State of Gujarat on the other hand opposed the petition on ground of maintainability.

The order can be read here.

In October, 2022, the Gujarat government told the Supreme Court that it decided to release the 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case on completion of their 14 years sentence as their "behaviour was found to be good". The approval for their release was granted despite opposition from a special court and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The Gujarat government also submitted before the Supreme Court that it was the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) that enabled the release of eleven men convicted in the Bilkis Bano case.

It is pertinent to note that one of the convicts, who was released by the Gujarat government on remission in the Bilkis Bano case, stands charge sheeted for outraging the modesty of a woman on June 19, 2020.

Mockery of Justice

Bilkis Bano case was and is among the rarest of rare case. Since March 2002, she has fought virtually alone in the most adverse of circumstances, helped mainly by a band of human rights activists, many of whom themselves became victims of the processes of injustice, precisely because of the help extended in cases like Bilkis’. After 20 years, Bilkis’s quest for justice is still not over. Today, a survivor of the most heinous crimes had to go to the court herself to demand justice, once again. It is not possible here to recount the dreadful story of her suffering. At every stage, her fight for justice has been destroyed, and her efforts trampled. The labour put in by multiple people, and the survivor herself, have come loose today. For securing women's rights in India, the pardons given to these convicts will have a long lasting effect. If, even the judiciary cannot defend the fundamental rights from excessive State power, then who will? If even conviction of a crime does not guarantee justice, then what will?

Related:

Bilkees Bano Case: Rejecting Appeals of 11 Accused Bombay High Court Upholds Convictions

‘Astonishing’, Need White Paper on Remission in Bilkis Bano: Justice Madan Lokur

Bilkis Bano case: SC orders copies of impleading petition to be given to convicts, State of Gujarat

Nearly 9,000 people participate in signature campaign to demand justice for Bilkis Bano

Bilkis Bano case: Convicts’ whereabouts unknown even as SC prepares to hear petitions challenging remission of sentences

Bilkis Bano case: SC issues notice in petition challenging remission of convicts’ sentences

Bilkis Bano case: Remission of convicts’ sentences challenged before SC

Bilkis Bano case: NHRC to discuss release of convicts?

A very bad precedent has been set: Judge who convicted 11 men in Bilkis Bano case

Over 6,000 Citizens Urge SC to Revoke Remission of Convicts in Bilkis Bano Case

Bereft of words, still numb: Bilkis Bano

Bilkis Bano case: Eleven people convicted of gang rape and murder freed

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CAA discriminatory against Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka: DMK

The party, which is one of the 200 petitioners before the apex court challenging CAA, has now filed an additional affidavit

30 Nov 2022

CAA
Image: The News Minute

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has filed an additional affidavit before the Supreme Court stating that the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) is discriminatory against Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka. It further states that CAA is arbitrary as it relates to only three countries, that is Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh and confined to solely only six religions i.e., Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian community and expressly excludes the Muslim religion. Even while considering religious minorities, it keeps such Tamils of Indian origin who are presently staying in India as refugees after fleeing from Sri Lanka due to persecution, DMK states, as reported by LiveLaw.

The Supreme Court will be hearing the batch of over 200 petitions challenging the CAA on December 6

Persecution of Tamils

Focusing on the history of persecution faced by Tamils In Sri Lanka, the affidavit [filed in Writ Petition (Civil) 1539/2019] states that There are two separate Tamil communities in Sri Lanka – Sri Lankan Tamils and Indian Tamils, though they both are of the same ethnic origin and speak the same language, the Indian Tamils were introduced to Ceylon from South India by a British as bonded labour. The Sinhalese population of Sri Lanka, which is a Buddhist majority has historically considered the Tamils as invaders infringing on Sinhalese territory.

"I humbly submit that the step motherly behaviour of respondent number one towards Tamil refugees has left them living in constant fear of deportation and an uncertain future,” states the affidavit. It further states that statelessness has rendered these refugees without employment in organized sectors, with no right to vote or hold property and hordes of other entitlements that are enjoyed by citizens of the country.

“Due to such an ambiguity, they are forced to stay in camps where they are often exploited, having no prospects of security in future. The lack of jobs, access to basic rights and amenities have left these refugees handicapped and destroyed,” the affidavit asserts. The DMK further submits that CAA ignores “the reality for several decades that Tamil refugees who have settled in Tamil Nadu are deprived of fundamental rights and other rights due to non-citizenship and due to non-naturalization and the impugned Act does not provide any reasons to exclude them."

For over four decades, nearly 30,000 Indian-origin Tamils have been classified as stateless persons, based on technicalities, reported The Hindu.

There are over 1 lakh Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in India, who, in the eyes of the law are neither citizens nor refugees, thus rendering them stateless. This is a significant humanitarian crisis that they are facing.

According to a report of the Ministry of Home Affairs, more than 3 lakh refugees entered India in different phases between 1983 and 2012 due to the ethnic conflict in the island nation. While 99,469 were repatriated to Sri Lanka till 1995, some refugees left for other countries on their own. After 1995, there was no organised repatriation.

Court’s opinion

In October 2022, Justice G R Swaminathan of Madurai bench of Madras High Court made a comment that the Centre may consider including Hindu Tamils of Sri Lanka under the provisions of the CAA (2019). The court was hearing a petition of a 29-year-old woman, S Abirami, born to a Sri Lankan couple in Tamil Nadu’s Trichy and seeking Indian citizenship.

Resolution against CAA

In September 2021, the Tamil Nadu government under chief minister, Stalin passed a resolution against CAA 2019 saying that the law betrayed Sri Lankan refugees and usurped the rights of the refugees who wanted to settle down in India. In doing so, it was the 8th state to pass a resolution against CAA, 2019. “Refugees should be treated as only fellow human beings and there must be no discrimination on any grounds, be it religion, race or their country of origin and only this could be the “correct view,” Stalin had then said.

CAA 2019 challenged before SC

The Supreme Court bench consisting of then CJI UU Lalit, Justices Ravindra Bhat and Bela M. Trivedi decided to treat the petition filed by the Indian Union Muslim League as the lead matter at the previous hearing of October 31.

"Having noted that there are various matters projecting multiple issues, in our view the resolution to instant controversy can be achieved if 2-3 matters are taken as lead matters and convenience compilations are prepared well in advance, such process will make the conduct of the proceedings easy. We have been apprised that the Writ Petition filed by Indian Union Muslim League has been complete. The petition has been filed by Advocate Pallavi Pratap. We therefore appoint her and Mr. Kanu Agarwal as nodal counsels," the bench said.

The Centre has defended CAA stating that it is a “narrowly tailored legislation” seeking to address the problem which awaited India’s attention for several decades. “The CAA does not seek to recognise or seek to provide answers to all or any kind of purported persecution that may be taking place across the world or that may have taken place previously anywhere in the world,” the Home Ministry reasoned.

Related:

Is CAA 2019 stealthily making its way into our lives?

Controversial CAA 2019 challenge in SC on December 6, Centre urges non-interference in its ‘legislative competence’

Is the GoI’s database linkage plan a precursor to NRC?

CAA discriminatory against Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka: DMK

The party, which is one of the 200 petitioners before the apex court challenging CAA, has now filed an additional affidavit

CAA
Image: The News Minute

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has filed an additional affidavit before the Supreme Court stating that the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) is discriminatory against Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka. It further states that CAA is arbitrary as it relates to only three countries, that is Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh and confined to solely only six religions i.e., Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian community and expressly excludes the Muslim religion. Even while considering religious minorities, it keeps such Tamils of Indian origin who are presently staying in India as refugees after fleeing from Sri Lanka due to persecution, DMK states, as reported by LiveLaw.

The Supreme Court will be hearing the batch of over 200 petitions challenging the CAA on December 6

Persecution of Tamils

Focusing on the history of persecution faced by Tamils In Sri Lanka, the affidavit [filed in Writ Petition (Civil) 1539/2019] states that There are two separate Tamil communities in Sri Lanka – Sri Lankan Tamils and Indian Tamils, though they both are of the same ethnic origin and speak the same language, the Indian Tamils were introduced to Ceylon from South India by a British as bonded labour. The Sinhalese population of Sri Lanka, which is a Buddhist majority has historically considered the Tamils as invaders infringing on Sinhalese territory.

"I humbly submit that the step motherly behaviour of respondent number one towards Tamil refugees has left them living in constant fear of deportation and an uncertain future,” states the affidavit. It further states that statelessness has rendered these refugees without employment in organized sectors, with no right to vote or hold property and hordes of other entitlements that are enjoyed by citizens of the country.

“Due to such an ambiguity, they are forced to stay in camps where they are often exploited, having no prospects of security in future. The lack of jobs, access to basic rights and amenities have left these refugees handicapped and destroyed,” the affidavit asserts. The DMK further submits that CAA ignores “the reality for several decades that Tamil refugees who have settled in Tamil Nadu are deprived of fundamental rights and other rights due to non-citizenship and due to non-naturalization and the impugned Act does not provide any reasons to exclude them."

For over four decades, nearly 30,000 Indian-origin Tamils have been classified as stateless persons, based on technicalities, reported The Hindu.

There are over 1 lakh Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in India, who, in the eyes of the law are neither citizens nor refugees, thus rendering them stateless. This is a significant humanitarian crisis that they are facing.

According to a report of the Ministry of Home Affairs, more than 3 lakh refugees entered India in different phases between 1983 and 2012 due to the ethnic conflict in the island nation. While 99,469 were repatriated to Sri Lanka till 1995, some refugees left for other countries on their own. After 1995, there was no organised repatriation.

Court’s opinion

In October 2022, Justice G R Swaminathan of Madurai bench of Madras High Court made a comment that the Centre may consider including Hindu Tamils of Sri Lanka under the provisions of the CAA (2019). The court was hearing a petition of a 29-year-old woman, S Abirami, born to a Sri Lankan couple in Tamil Nadu’s Trichy and seeking Indian citizenship.

Resolution against CAA

In September 2021, the Tamil Nadu government under chief minister, Stalin passed a resolution against CAA 2019 saying that the law betrayed Sri Lankan refugees and usurped the rights of the refugees who wanted to settle down in India. In doing so, it was the 8th state to pass a resolution against CAA, 2019. “Refugees should be treated as only fellow human beings and there must be no discrimination on any grounds, be it religion, race or their country of origin and only this could be the “correct view,” Stalin had then said.

CAA 2019 challenged before SC

The Supreme Court bench consisting of then CJI UU Lalit, Justices Ravindra Bhat and Bela M. Trivedi decided to treat the petition filed by the Indian Union Muslim League as the lead matter at the previous hearing of October 31.

"Having noted that there are various matters projecting multiple issues, in our view the resolution to instant controversy can be achieved if 2-3 matters are taken as lead matters and convenience compilations are prepared well in advance, such process will make the conduct of the proceedings easy. We have been apprised that the Writ Petition filed by Indian Union Muslim League has been complete. The petition has been filed by Advocate Pallavi Pratap. We therefore appoint her and Mr. Kanu Agarwal as nodal counsels," the bench said.

The Centre has defended CAA stating that it is a “narrowly tailored legislation” seeking to address the problem which awaited India’s attention for several decades. “The CAA does not seek to recognise or seek to provide answers to all or any kind of purported persecution that may be taking place across the world or that may have taken place previously anywhere in the world,” the Home Ministry reasoned.

Related:

Is CAA 2019 stealthily making its way into our lives?

Controversial CAA 2019 challenge in SC on December 6, Centre urges non-interference in its ‘legislative competence’

Is the GoI’s database linkage plan a precursor to NRC?

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Why Judiciary and Executive must heed President Murmu’s serious concerns on prisoners’ rights

Appalled at the government’s talk of building more jails, President Murmu made a strong appeal that the governments and judiciary should work together to tackle problems like poor legal aid, pre-trial detentions and the over-representation of marginalised communities inside jails.

30 Nov 2022

President

“These days I hear that we need to set up more jails. Why do we need them? If we are moving ahead as a society, if we are making progress, why do we need more jails? Is this development? Should we not be, in fact, closing down the existing ones?” asked President Droupadi Murmu last week at the valedictory session of the Law Day celebrations organised by the Supreme Court. These were her closing lines of a nine-minute speech in which she touched upon her experiences visiting prisons when she was an MLA of Odisha and later the governor of Jharkhand. 

Listening attentively to her remarks at the Constitution day celebrations organised by the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi on November 26, 2022, were CJI D.Y Chandrachud and Union law minister Kiren Rijiju. 

Her strong speech raised several crucial issues – the callousness of the bureaucracy, the overcrowding of prisons, the social identity of those languishing in prisons and prolonged pre-trial detention. The President was forthright. Judges of the Supreme Court and high courts, as well as the Union law minister Kiren Rijiju were among the audience. She wanted them to deliberate on the issue and come up with a solution. “The executive, the legislature and the judiciary will have to come together and find a solution,” she added.

Immediately, following President Murmu’s speech, a bench of Justices S.K. Kaul and Abhay S. Oka, on Tuesday, November 29, directed the state jail authorities to submit details of prisoners who have been languishing in jail even after securing bail. As per the court’s direction, the details have to be first sent to the respective state governments, who will then forward the documents to the National Legal Service Authority within 15 days.

Over the past decade, the Supreme Court and high courts have, on multiple occasions, raised the issue of overcrowding and the need to decongest prison spaces across India. But much of the courts’ observations and directions have remained at the judicial level. Efforts to decongest have been abrupt and have largely proved inadequate. As of today, 6,05,600 prisoners are crammed inside 1,378 prisons which are meant to accommodate 4,25,609 prisoners.

Jurisprudence 

In the landmark Re-Inhuman Conditions In 1382 prisons, the apex court in 2016 directed state governments to take necessary measures to urgently decongest prisons. As one of the immediate outcomes, a committee on prison reforms, headed by former Supreme Court Justice Amitava Roy, was set up. Though the committee was set up in 2018 and was asked to provide recommendations within 12 months, it was given several extensions. In March this year, it has been now given a final six-month extension to submit the report.

So often, Courts have expressed “shock” and sought responses from the Union and state home departments for measures taken to tackle the issue of poor prison conditions. One such order, taken up suo motu by the top court, was passed in March 2020 as a part of de-congestion measures for the COVID-19 pandemic. Many states released prisoners in large batches at the time, albeit temporarily.

However, one major issue and systemic failure during 2020-2021 were that the Courts did not sit and hence bail applications were simply not heard. While this was a huge lacunae in which the Executive and Judiciary both played a part –as access to justice was not regarded as part of a basic, essential commodity—the police arm of the state continued with arrests and round-ups; the courts were simply not available for bail.

Now, as the dangers of the pandemic abated, numbers have spiraled, again, in 2022. In Maharashtra, those released on temporary bail and parole have all returned to jail, taking the prison occupancy rate to a staggering 180%. In some states like Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, the occupancy rate has touched a staggering 200%. 

The annual reports of the National Crime Record Bureau are telling. They provides not just the total number of people in prisons but also provides the break-up of the caste and religious backgrounds of those who are incarcerated. While there is no consistent methodology followed in gathering information, the approximate estimate shows that over 70% of those in jail belong to the Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs). Experts say the real figure may be higher. 

https://cjp.org.in/are-women-entitled-to-special-provisions-in-prison/

Citizens for Justice and Peace (www.cjp.org.in) had done a detailed report especially on Conditions of Women Prisoners had focused on the over-crowding and utter failure of the state administration(s) to provide health care, employment, education as recommended by the Supreme Court of India and the Model Jail manual (2017).

President Murmu, herself hails from the Santhali tribe in Uparbeda village in the Baidaposi area of Rairangpur in Odisha, says it is important to know who ends up in jail. She spoke emotively of her time as MLA from Odisha whereas chairperson of the Standing Committee for Home she had a chance to visit all jails and see the condition of those inside who had absolutely no access to legal aid. During this stint, she says, she visited all prisons across the state, at regular intervals. “I was not asked to visit them. I did that of my own volition. I wanted to know who are these people, how they survive, what happens to them when in jail.” 

“They are those who don’t know anything about their fundamental rights, fundamental duties or the preamble (of the Constitution) … they are left in jail to languish for 10, 20, 30 years… in many cases the crime is as petty as having slapped another person,” she said.

As custodians of prisoners, it is the judiciary that needs to keep a close check on the condition of prisoners and ensure their rights are not violated. But judges seldom pay visits to jails. Murmu, as a governor of Jharkhand later, continued to focus on prisons. In Jharkhand too, she says, the condition was no better. While STs constitute 22% of Odisha’s population, this number is 26% in Jharkhand. In these states, however, people from these communities represent close to 30% of the prison population.

Former Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramanna, just weeks before his retirement, had stated t a meeting of the National Legal Services Authority (Nalsa) in Jaipur, Rajasthan: “In our criminal justice system, the process is the punishment. From hasty indiscriminate arrests to difficulty in obtaining bail, the process leading to the prolonged incarceration of undertrials needs urgent attention.” 

It was the short 70 plus day tenure of CJI UU Lalit that saw the country’s attention sharply focus on the need for bail.

Before that, on July 11, 2022 a division bench of the Supreme Courtr (Justices  Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M M Sundresh, re-iterated the well recognised principle of bail being the rule and jail the exception and stressed that this is not being followed properly by the country’s investigating agencies as well as the courts. The Supreme Court then asked the Central government to consider formulating a separate law to streamline the grant of bail. In its  85-page-order, issued certain directions that should be kept in mind with regard to the issue of granting bail to under trial prisoners.

Soon after D.Y. Chandrachud took charge as the CJI earlier this month, he announced that the apex court will look into bail matters on priority. At an event organised by the Bar Council of India, CJI Chandrachud said one of the reasons bail applications reach the apex court is because of the “reluctance at grassroots to grant bail”.

The CJI said, “Judges at the grassroots are reluctant to grant bail not because they do not understand crime but there is a sense of fear of being targeted for granting bail in heinous cases.” As an urgent measure, the CJI decided to distribute pending bail cases among the Supreme Court judges and the courts are now in the process of disposing of them before the Christmas holidays start in December.

Bail, however, is not the only issue plaguing the prisons and judiciary. According to data provided by the NCRB’s 2021 report, of the total 1.44 crore cases registered under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 13 lakh cases were disposed of in the year 2020. Of the pending cases, a large chunk is constituted by old cases that are still awaiting trial. 

While the judiciary has at least identified and shown willingness to tackle the issue, the government – both at the Centre and state level – has only considered setting up more prisons in response. Soon after the change of guard in Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, Maharashtra’s home minister, proudly announced that a new prison will soon be set up in Mumbai. Within the Mumbai metropolitan region, there are already five prisons but all are overcrowded. In 2019, the Union government came up with a Rs 1,800 crore plan to as many as 199 new jails across India. These decisions are taken with no clear de-congestion plans for existing prisons. 

President Murmu has now expressed serious concerns about plans to increase the number of jails. And if society is making progress, there is no place for prisons, she said. “Is this our idea of development, to build more jails?” she asked.

She ended her speech by saying that she has left some things unsaid, which the judiciary and the government should think about and understand. This was yet another indication that the problems that plague Indian prisons cannot be resolved unless these two institutions decide to tackle them together and on priority.

Related:

SC, once again, seeks DLSA intervention to ensure that under trials unable to provide surety are released from prison

Lower court judges hesitant to give bail: Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud

Re-evaluate premature release policy for convicts serving life terms: SC to UP gov’t

Why Judiciary and Executive must heed President Murmu’s serious concerns on prisoners’ rights

Appalled at the government’s talk of building more jails, President Murmu made a strong appeal that the governments and judiciary should work together to tackle problems like poor legal aid, pre-trial detentions and the over-representation of marginalised communities inside jails.

President

“These days I hear that we need to set up more jails. Why do we need them? If we are moving ahead as a society, if we are making progress, why do we need more jails? Is this development? Should we not be, in fact, closing down the existing ones?” asked President Droupadi Murmu last week at the valedictory session of the Law Day celebrations organised by the Supreme Court. These were her closing lines of a nine-minute speech in which she touched upon her experiences visiting prisons when she was an MLA of Odisha and later the governor of Jharkhand. 

Listening attentively to her remarks at the Constitution day celebrations organised by the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi on November 26, 2022, were CJI D.Y Chandrachud and Union law minister Kiren Rijiju. 

Her strong speech raised several crucial issues – the callousness of the bureaucracy, the overcrowding of prisons, the social identity of those languishing in prisons and prolonged pre-trial detention. The President was forthright. Judges of the Supreme Court and high courts, as well as the Union law minister Kiren Rijiju were among the audience. She wanted them to deliberate on the issue and come up with a solution. “The executive, the legislature and the judiciary will have to come together and find a solution,” she added.

Immediately, following President Murmu’s speech, a bench of Justices S.K. Kaul and Abhay S. Oka, on Tuesday, November 29, directed the state jail authorities to submit details of prisoners who have been languishing in jail even after securing bail. As per the court’s direction, the details have to be first sent to the respective state governments, who will then forward the documents to the National Legal Service Authority within 15 days.

Over the past decade, the Supreme Court and high courts have, on multiple occasions, raised the issue of overcrowding and the need to decongest prison spaces across India. But much of the courts’ observations and directions have remained at the judicial level. Efforts to decongest have been abrupt and have largely proved inadequate. As of today, 6,05,600 prisoners are crammed inside 1,378 prisons which are meant to accommodate 4,25,609 prisoners.

Jurisprudence 

In the landmark Re-Inhuman Conditions In 1382 prisons, the apex court in 2016 directed state governments to take necessary measures to urgently decongest prisons. As one of the immediate outcomes, a committee on prison reforms, headed by former Supreme Court Justice Amitava Roy, was set up. Though the committee was set up in 2018 and was asked to provide recommendations within 12 months, it was given several extensions. In March this year, it has been now given a final six-month extension to submit the report.

So often, Courts have expressed “shock” and sought responses from the Union and state home departments for measures taken to tackle the issue of poor prison conditions. One such order, taken up suo motu by the top court, was passed in March 2020 as a part of de-congestion measures for the COVID-19 pandemic. Many states released prisoners in large batches at the time, albeit temporarily.

However, one major issue and systemic failure during 2020-2021 were that the Courts did not sit and hence bail applications were simply not heard. While this was a huge lacunae in which the Executive and Judiciary both played a part –as access to justice was not regarded as part of a basic, essential commodity—the police arm of the state continued with arrests and round-ups; the courts were simply not available for bail.

Now, as the dangers of the pandemic abated, numbers have spiraled, again, in 2022. In Maharashtra, those released on temporary bail and parole have all returned to jail, taking the prison occupancy rate to a staggering 180%. In some states like Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, the occupancy rate has touched a staggering 200%. 

The annual reports of the National Crime Record Bureau are telling. They provides not just the total number of people in prisons but also provides the break-up of the caste and religious backgrounds of those who are incarcerated. While there is no consistent methodology followed in gathering information, the approximate estimate shows that over 70% of those in jail belong to the Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs). Experts say the real figure may be higher. 

https://cjp.org.in/are-women-entitled-to-special-provisions-in-prison/

Citizens for Justice and Peace (www.cjp.org.in) had done a detailed report especially on Conditions of Women Prisoners had focused on the over-crowding and utter failure of the state administration(s) to provide health care, employment, education as recommended by the Supreme Court of India and the Model Jail manual (2017).

President Murmu, herself hails from the Santhali tribe in Uparbeda village in the Baidaposi area of Rairangpur in Odisha, says it is important to know who ends up in jail. She spoke emotively of her time as MLA from Odisha whereas chairperson of the Standing Committee for Home she had a chance to visit all jails and see the condition of those inside who had absolutely no access to legal aid. During this stint, she says, she visited all prisons across the state, at regular intervals. “I was not asked to visit them. I did that of my own volition. I wanted to know who are these people, how they survive, what happens to them when in jail.” 

“They are those who don’t know anything about their fundamental rights, fundamental duties or the preamble (of the Constitution) … they are left in jail to languish for 10, 20, 30 years… in many cases the crime is as petty as having slapped another person,” she said.

As custodians of prisoners, it is the judiciary that needs to keep a close check on the condition of prisoners and ensure their rights are not violated. But judges seldom pay visits to jails. Murmu, as a governor of Jharkhand later, continued to focus on prisons. In Jharkhand too, she says, the condition was no better. While STs constitute 22% of Odisha’s population, this number is 26% in Jharkhand. In these states, however, people from these communities represent close to 30% of the prison population.

Former Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramanna, just weeks before his retirement, had stated t a meeting of the National Legal Services Authority (Nalsa) in Jaipur, Rajasthan: “In our criminal justice system, the process is the punishment. From hasty indiscriminate arrests to difficulty in obtaining bail, the process leading to the prolonged incarceration of undertrials needs urgent attention.” 

It was the short 70 plus day tenure of CJI UU Lalit that saw the country’s attention sharply focus on the need for bail.

Before that, on July 11, 2022 a division bench of the Supreme Courtr (Justices  Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M M Sundresh, re-iterated the well recognised principle of bail being the rule and jail the exception and stressed that this is not being followed properly by the country’s investigating agencies as well as the courts. The Supreme Court then asked the Central government to consider formulating a separate law to streamline the grant of bail. In its  85-page-order, issued certain directions that should be kept in mind with regard to the issue of granting bail to under trial prisoners.

Soon after D.Y. Chandrachud took charge as the CJI earlier this month, he announced that the apex court will look into bail matters on priority. At an event organised by the Bar Council of India, CJI Chandrachud said one of the reasons bail applications reach the apex court is because of the “reluctance at grassroots to grant bail”.

The CJI said, “Judges at the grassroots are reluctant to grant bail not because they do not understand crime but there is a sense of fear of being targeted for granting bail in heinous cases.” As an urgent measure, the CJI decided to distribute pending bail cases among the Supreme Court judges and the courts are now in the process of disposing of them before the Christmas holidays start in December.

Bail, however, is not the only issue plaguing the prisons and judiciary. According to data provided by the NCRB’s 2021 report, of the total 1.44 crore cases registered under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 13 lakh cases were disposed of in the year 2020. Of the pending cases, a large chunk is constituted by old cases that are still awaiting trial. 

While the judiciary has at least identified and shown willingness to tackle the issue, the government – both at the Centre and state level – has only considered setting up more prisons in response. Soon after the change of guard in Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, Maharashtra’s home minister, proudly announced that a new prison will soon be set up in Mumbai. Within the Mumbai metropolitan region, there are already five prisons but all are overcrowded. In 2019, the Union government came up with a Rs 1,800 crore plan to as many as 199 new jails across India. These decisions are taken with no clear de-congestion plans for existing prisons. 

President Murmu has now expressed serious concerns about plans to increase the number of jails. And if society is making progress, there is no place for prisons, she said. “Is this our idea of development, to build more jails?” she asked.

She ended her speech by saying that she has left some things unsaid, which the judiciary and the government should think about and understand. This was yet another indication that the problems that plague Indian prisons cannot be resolved unless these two institutions decide to tackle them together and on priority.

Related:

SC, once again, seeks DLSA intervention to ensure that under trials unable to provide surety are released from prison

Lower court judges hesitant to give bail: Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud

Re-evaluate premature release policy for convicts serving life terms: SC to UP gov’t

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SC, once again, seeks DLSA intervention to ensure that under trials unable to provide surety are released from prison

A failure to provide bail bonds or surety is a common occurrence leading to many under trials languishing in jails, despite securing bail

30 Nov 2022

Under trials

On November 28, the Supreme Court raised serious concerns over underseals who have been granted bail but are unable to fill in the bail bonds or provide surety in court, preventing them from being released from prison.

The Supreme Court was hearing a plea where a misinterpretation of its order by a trial court judge in Andhra Pradesh resulted in the accused languishing in custody even after interim bail was granted by the top court. The accused was granted bail after being in custody for 9 years but the accused had to undergo custody for two additional years.

A bench comprising of Justices A. S. Bopanna and S. Ravindra Bhat observed that, "This is a regular phenomenon where accused are given bail but they are not able to give bail bonds or local surety. It will be appropriate that the district legal service authority (DLSA) should devise some method," as provided by LiveLaw.

The order of November 28, 2022 may be read here. 

"This case depicts very sorry condition of affairs," the Supreme Court had previously said in reference to the circumstance. The Supreme Court had also made the observation that corrective measures needed to be taken, particularly when legal services authorities were used to start the proceedings.

The counsel representing the petitioner, senior advocate Mahalakshmi Pavani, informed the court that only a small number of High Courts had submitted their reports in response to the order dated May 9, 2022, which required all High Courts to do so in relation to bail orders that had not been followed. The counsel for the Rajasthan High Court informed the Court that a report had been submitted.

The order of May 9, 2022 may be read here.

The Court listed the matter after three weeks and has directed the other High Courts to file the status report in the meanwhile.

Background to the Plea

The accused was granted interim bail by the Apex Court on September 28, 2020, and he was ordered to appear before the Trial Court within three days of the date of the order. The Order further instructed the Trial Court to grant him temporary bail with whatever terms and restrictions it saw fit. The Trial Court heard the bail request on October 29, 2020. Despite this, he was not released on bail, with the court ruling that the application was not viable because the three-day time limit established by the Apex Court had passed.

The fact that it was the Trial Court misinterpreted the provision of "three days," which was added to the aforementioned order to speed up the procedure, resulted in a two-year delay in the accused's release on bail, disturbed the Bench.

On May 9, 2022, The Supreme Court bench of comprising Justices U.U. Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat, P.S. Narasimha and Sudhanshu Dhulia had expressed their concern over the misinterpretation of its order by a trial court judge in Andhra Pradesh, which resulted in the accused languishing in custody even after securing interim bail from the Apex Court.

The four-judge bench referred to the cases of that Hussainara Khatoon & Ors vs Home Secretary, State Of Bihar [1979 SCR (3) 532] and Moti Ram & Ors vs State Of M.P [1979 SCR (1) 335] and expressed dismay over the current case, as while detention for 9 years was judged to be adequate to release the accused on bail, the accused had suffered custody for two more years.

Directions passed in the order passed on May 9, 2022:

1)  “Every High Court shall give us details of all such orders which remain to be complied with and about the persons concerned who are still languishing in jail. One of the ways to address the problem would be to have a register and maintain the figures as to in how many matters orders directing release of the persons on bail were issued and if out of such total number of matters, any person stood deprived of the opportunity of being released on bail for some reason or the other. The Register must indicate the reason including whether proper security etc. could be arranged by the concerned person or not. Such matters should then be listed before the concerned court in the succeeding month and the fact that the person has not yet been released on bail, be brought to the notice of the concerned Court under whose orders the relief of bail was afforded to the person(s). 

2)  Let the details be given by each High Court within six weeks from today. Before parting, we must record that the petitioner has now been released on bail. In effect, where the custody of a person for 9 years was found to be sufficient to entitle him to be released on bail, is now turned into custody for 11 years. This is nothing but 5 reincarnation of Hussainara Khatoon1 & Moti Ram.”

Previous Jurisprudence:

It is pertinent to note that Section 436A of the Criminal Procedure Code prescribes release of prisoners by a court on a personal bond with or without surety if he or she has spent half the maximum period of sentence. The issue of under trials languishing in jail has been brought up by the Supreme Code many a times, but there has not been much reforms.

In December 2017, a public interest litigation (PIL) had brought up the issue of over 300 under trials, who despite being granted bail by courts were languishing in capital’s jails due to their inability to furnish bail bonds and surety bonds.

A Bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C. Hari Shankar, in a significant ruling titled Ajay Verma v Govt of NCT of Delhi W.P.(C) 10689/2017, said it was the responsibility of every judge issuing an order of bail to monitor its execution and enforcement.

“The importance of the rights of prisoners under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, who have been accused of even serious crimes, cannot be overlooked under any circumstance,” the High Court had remarked.

The High Court had observed that failure of a court in ensuring that an order of bail was complied with could lead to departmental action against the concerned judicial magistrate.

In April 2022, yet another case of struggling in production of bail bonds, Arshad Yusuf, Inayat Altaf Sheikh and Showkat Ahmad Ganai, three Kashmiri students in an engineering college in Agra, were charged with sedition in October, 2021 for allegedly celebrating Pakistan beating India in a World Cup match. The Allahabad High Court granted them bail, but they are yet to leave prison as their families have no money to furnish their bail bonds.

Role of DLSA

It is the function of the District Legal Services Authority to provide free and competent legal aid in the nature of counselling and legal advice, as well as free legal services in the conduct of cases before Courts and Tribunals. It is their duty to make special endeavours for rendering free legal aid to under trial prisoners whose cases are pending in courts. Thus, the assistance of prison officers and panel lawyers of District Legal Services Authority can be taken for drafting bail applications, to be moved by under trial prisoners.

Article 39A of the Constitution of India provides that State shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity, and shall in particular, provide free legal aid, by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disability. 

Under the Legal Services Authorities Act, persons eligible to receive legal aid include members of Scheduled castes/scheduled tribes, victims of human trafficking, women, children, mentally ill persons, victims of mass disaster, ethnic violence, caste atrocity, flood, drought, earthquake or industrial disaster or persons with low income. Legal Services Authorities after examining the eligibility criteria of an applicant and the existence of a prima facie case in his favour provide him counsel at State expense, pay the required Court Fee in the matter and bear all incidental expenses in connection with the case. The person to whom legal aid is provided is not called upon to spend anything on the litigation once it is supported by a Legal Services Authority.

The issue of under trials languishing in jail due to lack of ability to supply bail bonds and surety has been under the consideration of the court since a long time. On February 5, 2016, in Re – Inhuman Conditions in 1382 Prisons [WP (C) No.406 of 2013], it was held that prisoners, like all human beings, deserve to be treated with dignity and to give effect to this, following directions were issued by the Supreme Court:

       i.  “The Under Trial Review Committee in every district should meet every quarter and the first such meeting should take place on or before March 31, 2016. The Secretary of the District Legal Services Committee should attend each meeting of the Under Trial Review Committee and follow up the discussions with appropriate steps for the release of undertrial prisoners and convicts who have undergone their sentence or are entitled to release because of remission granted to them;

     ii.  The Under Trial Review Committee should specifically look into aspects pertaining to effective implementation of Section 436 of the Cr.P.C. and Section 436A of the Cr.P.C. so that under trial prisoners are released at the earliest and those who cannot furnish bail bonds due to their poverty are not subjected to incarceration only for that reason. The Under Trial Review Committee will also look into issue of implementation of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 particularly with regard to first time offenders so that they have a chance of being restored and rehabilitated in society;

   iii.  The Member Secretary of the State Legal Services Authority of every State will ensure, in coordination with the Secretary of the District Legal Services Committee in every district, that an adequate number of competent lawyers are empaneled to assist under trial prisoners and convicts, particularly the poor and indigent, and that legal aid for the poor does not become poor legal aid;

   iv.   The Secretary of the District Legal Services Committee will also look into the issue of the release of under trial prisoners in compoundable offences, the effort being to effectively explore the possibility of compounding offences rather than requiring a trial to take place.” 

 

Related:

Lower court judges hesitant to give bail: Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud

Re-evaluate premature release policy for convicts serving life terms: SC to UP gov’t

SC, once again, seeks DLSA intervention to ensure that under trials unable to provide surety are released from prison

A failure to provide bail bonds or surety is a common occurrence leading to many under trials languishing in jails, despite securing bail

Under trials

On November 28, the Supreme Court raised serious concerns over underseals who have been granted bail but are unable to fill in the bail bonds or provide surety in court, preventing them from being released from prison.

The Supreme Court was hearing a plea where a misinterpretation of its order by a trial court judge in Andhra Pradesh resulted in the accused languishing in custody even after interim bail was granted by the top court. The accused was granted bail after being in custody for 9 years but the accused had to undergo custody for two additional years.

A bench comprising of Justices A. S. Bopanna and S. Ravindra Bhat observed that, "This is a regular phenomenon where accused are given bail but they are not able to give bail bonds or local surety. It will be appropriate that the district legal service authority (DLSA) should devise some method," as provided by LiveLaw.

The order of November 28, 2022 may be read here. 

"This case depicts very sorry condition of affairs," the Supreme Court had previously said in reference to the circumstance. The Supreme Court had also made the observation that corrective measures needed to be taken, particularly when legal services authorities were used to start the proceedings.

The counsel representing the petitioner, senior advocate Mahalakshmi Pavani, informed the court that only a small number of High Courts had submitted their reports in response to the order dated May 9, 2022, which required all High Courts to do so in relation to bail orders that had not been followed. The counsel for the Rajasthan High Court informed the Court that a report had been submitted.

The order of May 9, 2022 may be read here.

The Court listed the matter after three weeks and has directed the other High Courts to file the status report in the meanwhile.

Background to the Plea

The accused was granted interim bail by the Apex Court on September 28, 2020, and he was ordered to appear before the Trial Court within three days of the date of the order. The Order further instructed the Trial Court to grant him temporary bail with whatever terms and restrictions it saw fit. The Trial Court heard the bail request on October 29, 2020. Despite this, he was not released on bail, with the court ruling that the application was not viable because the three-day time limit established by the Apex Court had passed.

The fact that it was the Trial Court misinterpreted the provision of "three days," which was added to the aforementioned order to speed up the procedure, resulted in a two-year delay in the accused's release on bail, disturbed the Bench.

On May 9, 2022, The Supreme Court bench of comprising Justices U.U. Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat, P.S. Narasimha and Sudhanshu Dhulia had expressed their concern over the misinterpretation of its order by a trial court judge in Andhra Pradesh, which resulted in the accused languishing in custody even after securing interim bail from the Apex Court.

The four-judge bench referred to the cases of that Hussainara Khatoon & Ors vs Home Secretary, State Of Bihar [1979 SCR (3) 532] and Moti Ram & Ors vs State Of M.P [1979 SCR (1) 335] and expressed dismay over the current case, as while detention for 9 years was judged to be adequate to release the accused on bail, the accused had suffered custody for two more years.

Directions passed in the order passed on May 9, 2022:

1)  “Every High Court shall give us details of all such orders which remain to be complied with and about the persons concerned who are still languishing in jail. One of the ways to address the problem would be to have a register and maintain the figures as to in how many matters orders directing release of the persons on bail were issued and if out of such total number of matters, any person stood deprived of the opportunity of being released on bail for some reason or the other. The Register must indicate the reason including whether proper security etc. could be arranged by the concerned person or not. Such matters should then be listed before the concerned court in the succeeding month and the fact that the person has not yet been released on bail, be brought to the notice of the concerned Court under whose orders the relief of bail was afforded to the person(s). 

2)  Let the details be given by each High Court within six weeks from today. Before parting, we must record that the petitioner has now been released on bail. In effect, where the custody of a person for 9 years was found to be sufficient to entitle him to be released on bail, is now turned into custody for 11 years. This is nothing but 5 reincarnation of Hussainara Khatoon1 & Moti Ram.”

Previous Jurisprudence:

It is pertinent to note that Section 436A of the Criminal Procedure Code prescribes release of prisoners by a court on a personal bond with or without surety if he or she has spent half the maximum period of sentence. The issue of under trials languishing in jail has been brought up by the Supreme Code many a times, but there has not been much reforms.

In December 2017, a public interest litigation (PIL) had brought up the issue of over 300 under trials, who despite being granted bail by courts were languishing in capital’s jails due to their inability to furnish bail bonds and surety bonds.

A Bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C. Hari Shankar, in a significant ruling titled Ajay Verma v Govt of NCT of Delhi W.P.(C) 10689/2017, said it was the responsibility of every judge issuing an order of bail to monitor its execution and enforcement.

“The importance of the rights of prisoners under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, who have been accused of even serious crimes, cannot be overlooked under any circumstance,” the High Court had remarked.

The High Court had observed that failure of a court in ensuring that an order of bail was complied with could lead to departmental action against the concerned judicial magistrate.

In April 2022, yet another case of struggling in production of bail bonds, Arshad Yusuf, Inayat Altaf Sheikh and Showkat Ahmad Ganai, three Kashmiri students in an engineering college in Agra, were charged with sedition in October, 2021 for allegedly celebrating Pakistan beating India in a World Cup match. The Allahabad High Court granted them bail, but they are yet to leave prison as their families have no money to furnish their bail bonds.

Role of DLSA

It is the function of the District Legal Services Authority to provide free and competent legal aid in the nature of counselling and legal advice, as well as free legal services in the conduct of cases before Courts and Tribunals. It is their duty to make special endeavours for rendering free legal aid to under trial prisoners whose cases are pending in courts. Thus, the assistance of prison officers and panel lawyers of District Legal Services Authority can be taken for drafting bail applications, to be moved by under trial prisoners.

Article 39A of the Constitution of India provides that State shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity, and shall in particular, provide free legal aid, by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disability. 

Under the Legal Services Authorities Act, persons eligible to receive legal aid include members of Scheduled castes/scheduled tribes, victims of human trafficking, women, children, mentally ill persons, victims of mass disaster, ethnic violence, caste atrocity, flood, drought, earthquake or industrial disaster or persons with low income. Legal Services Authorities after examining the eligibility criteria of an applicant and the existence of a prima facie case in his favour provide him counsel at State expense, pay the required Court Fee in the matter and bear all incidental expenses in connection with the case. The person to whom legal aid is provided is not called upon to spend anything on the litigation once it is supported by a Legal Services Authority.

The issue of under trials languishing in jail due to lack of ability to supply bail bonds and surety has been under the consideration of the court since a long time. On February 5, 2016, in Re – Inhuman Conditions in 1382 Prisons [WP (C) No.406 of 2013], it was held that prisoners, like all human beings, deserve to be treated with dignity and to give effect to this, following directions were issued by the Supreme Court:

       i.  “The Under Trial Review Committee in every district should meet every quarter and the first such meeting should take place on or before March 31, 2016. The Secretary of the District Legal Services Committee should attend each meeting of the Under Trial Review Committee and follow up the discussions with appropriate steps for the release of undertrial prisoners and convicts who have undergone their sentence or are entitled to release because of remission granted to them;

     ii.  The Under Trial Review Committee should specifically look into aspects pertaining to effective implementation of Section 436 of the Cr.P.C. and Section 436A of the Cr.P.C. so that under trial prisoners are released at the earliest and those who cannot furnish bail bonds due to their poverty are not subjected to incarceration only for that reason. The Under Trial Review Committee will also look into issue of implementation of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 particularly with regard to first time offenders so that they have a chance of being restored and rehabilitated in society;

   iii.  The Member Secretary of the State Legal Services Authority of every State will ensure, in coordination with the Secretary of the District Legal Services Committee in every district, that an adequate number of competent lawyers are empaneled to assist under trial prisoners and convicts, particularly the poor and indigent, and that legal aid for the poor does not become poor legal aid;

   iv.   The Secretary of the District Legal Services Committee will also look into the issue of the release of under trial prisoners in compoundable offences, the effort being to effectively explore the possibility of compounding offences rather than requiring a trial to take place.” 

 

Related:

Lower court judges hesitant to give bail: Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud

Re-evaluate premature release policy for convicts serving life terms: SC to UP gov’t

Related Articles


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Is the Centre overreaching itself in returning Collegium recommendations, again?

The Centre has, in the recent past, cherry picked recommendations and has defied the norm of approving reiterated names

29 Nov 2022

SCImage: PTI

The Union government has returned 20 files of appointment of judges to the Supreme Court Collegium while reportedly expressing ‘strong reservations’. In the past few months there has been a sort of a cold war between the Union government and the Higher Judiciary, with the former making adverse remarks about the viability of the Collegium system and the latter defending the same and expressing anguish that the Centre was delaying the process of judicial appointments.

Once again, files of recommended names, have been returned to the Collegium for reconsideration. Out of these 20 files, 11 were fresh recommendations while 9 were reiterated. As a norm, reiterated recommendations have to be approved by the government. However, the Union government has made a departure from this last year itself when the collegium recommended the elevation of advocates Nagendra Ramachandra Naik and Aditya Sondhi to the Karnataka High Court not once, but three times.

If there is a disagreement between the Collegium and the executive, and the former still wants to go ahead with the appointment, the executive must accept it as “healthy convention”, the Supreme Court has said. In April, a three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde passed an order on appointment of judges to the high courts which said:

“If the Supreme Court collegium after consideration of the aforesaid inputs still reiterates the recommendation(s) unanimously...such appointment should be processed and appointment should be made within three to four weeks.” the court also set a period of 18 weeks within which the appointment of High Court judges should ideally be complete.

Kiren Rijiju badgers the system

In past months, Union Law Minister, Kiren Rijiju has made comments against the collegium system, openly criticizing it and making public comments about the viability of the collegium system. Previously, this minister held the portfolio of minister of state for home.

In July 2022, during the monsoon session of the Parliament, Rijiju had said that the government cannot just sign off on recommendations blindly and needs to conduct background checks and disapprove those which do not meet the laid out grounds.

On September 17, again,  while speaking at an event in Udaipur, Rjasthan, RIjiju had said there was a need to rethink the collegium system to expedite the process of appointments to the higher judiciary and also blamed the collegium system for pending appointments in the higher judiciary. “The system in place is causing trouble and everyone knows it,” he said. He said appointments in higher judiciary are “pending”, but “not due to the law minister but due to the system”.

In September, thereafter, a Supreme Court bench headed by CJI NV Ramana had censured the executive for “cherry-picking” the members of various tribunals, which are quasi-judicial bodies.

Brazenly undeterred, In October 2022, Rijiju once again sparked a controversy by saying that judges spend half their times spent in deciding who to appoint as judges instead of delivering justice, as he termed the collegium system “opaque” and described the Indian selection system as the only one where judges appoint judges. He made these comments at an event held in Ahmedabad called Sabarmati Samvad, organised by weekly magazine Panchajanya (the magazine published by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh).

“If we follow the spirit of the Constitution, appointing judges is the task of the government. Secondly, there is no practice anywhere in the world except in India that judges appoint judges themselves... People can see the politics among the leaders but they do not know the politics going on inside the judiciary while appointing judges as the deliberations are intense,” he added. 

When asked about these comments during ‘Rozgar Mela program’ in Shillong, he told media persons that he is firm on his stance.https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif

Speaking at the India Today Conclave, Union Law Minister, Kiren Rijiju on November 5, 2022, had made some strong remarks against the Collegium system, calling it ‘opaque’ and lacking accountability. He said his government is making the most of the present system till an alternative mechanism is put in place.

Speaking to the Indian Express on the charge of the Collegium working being opaque, Justice Chandrachud said there is a “legitimate… public interest in knowing how judges are appointed” but “we also need to preserve the privacy of the people”, members of the Bar or judges of the High Court “who are under consideration”.

The Executive-judiciary faceoff

On November 11, 2022, the apex court had issued a notice to the union law secretary on a petition filed over the delay in clearing the names approved by the Collegium for appointment as judges. A bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Abhay Sreenivas Oka have been hearing the matter which is a contempt petition filed by the Advocates Association Bengaluru in 2021 (The Advocates' Association Bengaluru v. Shri Barun Mitra, Secretary)  against the Centre not approving 11 names reiterated by the Supreme Court collegium. The Association contended that the Centre's conduct is in gross violation of the directions in PLR Projects Ltd v. Mahanadi Coalfields Pvt Ltd wherein the Supreme Court directed that names reiterated by the Collegium must be cleared by the Centre within 3 to 4 weeks.

"Keeping names on hold is not acceptable. It is becoming some sort of a device to compel these persons to withdraw their consent as has happened", the bench noted in the order. The Court stressed that after second reiteration, the only option before the Centre is to issue the appointment order. In some cases, the Centre sought reconsideration. But despite a second reiteration, the government did not clear the names and the persons withdrew their names and the Court lost the opportunity to have an eminent person on the Bench.

On November 25, speaking at Times Now Summit 2022 Rijiju had said, “Never say that the government is sitting on the files, then don’t send the files to the government, you appoint yourself, you run the show…” Describing the Collegium system as “alien” to the Constitution, he had said, “You tell me under which provision the Collegium system has been prescribed.”

On November 28, referring to the comments made by Rijiju but without naming him Justice Kaul said, "When someone high enough says that..it should not have happened..Mr AG, I have ignored all press reports, but this has come from somebody high enough also. With an interview... I am not saying anything else.."

He further said, “The issue is, names are not being cleared. How does the system work? We have expressed our anguish…It appears that the Govt is not happy that the NJAC has not passed the muster. Can that be the reason to not clear the names?" The judge continued, "The whole process takes time, IB inputs are taken. Your inputs are taken. Supreme Court collegium considers your inputs and sends the name. Once it is reiterated, that is the end of the matter, as the law stands now."

Justice Kaul therefore asked the Attorney General and the Solicitor General to convey the "sentiments of the bench" to the Govt and ensure that law of the land is followed.

The matter has been posted for hearing on December 8.

Appointment of judges

The appointment of judges used to happen under the full discretion of the executive until the case of  the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association vs. Union of India in 1993. 

The first case to deal with on the issue of appointment of judges is SP Gupta vs. Union of India AIR 1982 SC 149. In this case, a number of petitions involving important constitutional questions regarding the appointment and transfer of judges and the independence of judiciary and the control of appointment of judges vested with the executive, virtually. This was not to be changed until eleven years later in 1993.

In Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association vs. Union of India (1993) 4 SCC 441 the SC overruled the judgement in SP Gupta vs. Union of India and introduced a specific system to appoint judges rather than affirming the executive discretion as was done in the SP Gupta case.

In 1998, the President referred to the Supreme Court [‘Presidential Reference’ for clarification of SC AOR Association vs. Union of India, AIR 1999 SC 1], using his constitutional powers vested in him under Article 143, for clarification, the SC’s guidelines in the case of SC AOR Association vs. Union of India. The President called for an opinion of the SC on multiple questions on transfer and appointment of judges and the role of CJI in the whole process.

This judgement outlined a more detailed procedure to the whole appointment process by mandating that the CJI should consult with 4 senior most judges of the Supreme Court while making recommendations to the SC and that the sole individual opinion of the CJI does not constitute consultations within the context of Article 124(2). For a detailed analysis of the evolution of the collegium system, click here.

Now that the Centre has returned 20 files to the Collegium, it remains to be seen what will transpire on the next date of hearing of this case as these recommendations continue to remain in limbo. The constant back and forth between the executive and the judiciary is not only causing tension between the two pillars of democracy but is reflective of how this friction is causing undue delay in judicial functions. Appointment of judges is an important task. Earlier this year, the Union Law Ministry had informed the Parliament that 405 positions of High Courts judges were vacant as of March 2022. The total sanctioned strength is of 1,104 judges in High Courts out of which 699 positions were filled. As of November 1, the number of vacancies at High Courts was 335 against a sanctioned strength of 1,108.

Related:

Collegium system & transparency of judicial appointments: a conundrun

Six Members in the Supreme Court Collegium until May 13, 2023

“Unacceptable”, Centre withholding names approved by Collegium: Supreme Court Issues Notice to law secretary over delay in judicial appointments

Is the Centre overreaching itself in returning Collegium recommendations, again?

The Centre has, in the recent past, cherry picked recommendations and has defied the norm of approving reiterated names

SCImage: PTI

The Union government has returned 20 files of appointment of judges to the Supreme Court Collegium while reportedly expressing ‘strong reservations’. In the past few months there has been a sort of a cold war between the Union government and the Higher Judiciary, with the former making adverse remarks about the viability of the Collegium system and the latter defending the same and expressing anguish that the Centre was delaying the process of judicial appointments.

Once again, files of recommended names, have been returned to the Collegium for reconsideration. Out of these 20 files, 11 were fresh recommendations while 9 were reiterated. As a norm, reiterated recommendations have to be approved by the government. However, the Union government has made a departure from this last year itself when the collegium recommended the elevation of advocates Nagendra Ramachandra Naik and Aditya Sondhi to the Karnataka High Court not once, but three times.

If there is a disagreement between the Collegium and the executive, and the former still wants to go ahead with the appointment, the executive must accept it as “healthy convention”, the Supreme Court has said. In April, a three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde passed an order on appointment of judges to the high courts which said:

“If the Supreme Court collegium after consideration of the aforesaid inputs still reiterates the recommendation(s) unanimously...such appointment should be processed and appointment should be made within three to four weeks.” the court also set a period of 18 weeks within which the appointment of High Court judges should ideally be complete.

Kiren Rijiju badgers the system

In past months, Union Law Minister, Kiren Rijiju has made comments against the collegium system, openly criticizing it and making public comments about the viability of the collegium system. Previously, this minister held the portfolio of minister of state for home.

In July 2022, during the monsoon session of the Parliament, Rijiju had said that the government cannot just sign off on recommendations blindly and needs to conduct background checks and disapprove those which do not meet the laid out grounds.

On September 17, again,  while speaking at an event in Udaipur, Rjasthan, RIjiju had said there was a need to rethink the collegium system to expedite the process of appointments to the higher judiciary and also blamed the collegium system for pending appointments in the higher judiciary. “The system in place is causing trouble and everyone knows it,” he said. He said appointments in higher judiciary are “pending”, but “not due to the law minister but due to the system”.

In September, thereafter, a Supreme Court bench headed by CJI NV Ramana had censured the executive for “cherry-picking” the members of various tribunals, which are quasi-judicial bodies.

Brazenly undeterred, In October 2022, Rijiju once again sparked a controversy by saying that judges spend half their times spent in deciding who to appoint as judges instead of delivering justice, as he termed the collegium system “opaque” and described the Indian selection system as the only one where judges appoint judges. He made these comments at an event held in Ahmedabad called Sabarmati Samvad, organised by weekly magazine Panchajanya (the magazine published by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh).

“If we follow the spirit of the Constitution, appointing judges is the task of the government. Secondly, there is no practice anywhere in the world except in India that judges appoint judges themselves... People can see the politics among the leaders but they do not know the politics going on inside the judiciary while appointing judges as the deliberations are intense,” he added. 

When asked about these comments during ‘Rozgar Mela program’ in Shillong, he told media persons that he is firm on his stance.https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif

Speaking at the India Today Conclave, Union Law Minister, Kiren Rijiju on November 5, 2022, had made some strong remarks against the Collegium system, calling it ‘opaque’ and lacking accountability. He said his government is making the most of the present system till an alternative mechanism is put in place.

Speaking to the Indian Express on the charge of the Collegium working being opaque, Justice Chandrachud said there is a “legitimate… public interest in knowing how judges are appointed” but “we also need to preserve the privacy of the people”, members of the Bar or judges of the High Court “who are under consideration”.

The Executive-judiciary faceoff

On November 11, 2022, the apex court had issued a notice to the union law secretary on a petition filed over the delay in clearing the names approved by the Collegium for appointment as judges. A bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Abhay Sreenivas Oka have been hearing the matter which is a contempt petition filed by the Advocates Association Bengaluru in 2021 (The Advocates' Association Bengaluru v. Shri Barun Mitra, Secretary)  against the Centre not approving 11 names reiterated by the Supreme Court collegium. The Association contended that the Centre's conduct is in gross violation of the directions in PLR Projects Ltd v. Mahanadi Coalfields Pvt Ltd wherein the Supreme Court directed that names reiterated by the Collegium must be cleared by the Centre within 3 to 4 weeks.

"Keeping names on hold is not acceptable. It is becoming some sort of a device to compel these persons to withdraw their consent as has happened", the bench noted in the order. The Court stressed that after second reiteration, the only option before the Centre is to issue the appointment order. In some cases, the Centre sought reconsideration. But despite a second reiteration, the government did not clear the names and the persons withdrew their names and the Court lost the opportunity to have an eminent person on the Bench.

On November 25, speaking at Times Now Summit 2022 Rijiju had said, “Never say that the government is sitting on the files, then don’t send the files to the government, you appoint yourself, you run the show…” Describing the Collegium system as “alien” to the Constitution, he had said, “You tell me under which provision the Collegium system has been prescribed.”

On November 28, referring to the comments made by Rijiju but without naming him Justice Kaul said, "When someone high enough says that..it should not have happened..Mr AG, I have ignored all press reports, but this has come from somebody high enough also. With an interview... I am not saying anything else.."

He further said, “The issue is, names are not being cleared. How does the system work? We have expressed our anguish…It appears that the Govt is not happy that the NJAC has not passed the muster. Can that be the reason to not clear the names?" The judge continued, "The whole process takes time, IB inputs are taken. Your inputs are taken. Supreme Court collegium considers your inputs and sends the name. Once it is reiterated, that is the end of the matter, as the law stands now."

Justice Kaul therefore asked the Attorney General and the Solicitor General to convey the "sentiments of the bench" to the Govt and ensure that law of the land is followed.

The matter has been posted for hearing on December 8.

Appointment of judges

The appointment of judges used to happen under the full discretion of the executive until the case of  the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association vs. Union of India in 1993. 

The first case to deal with on the issue of appointment of judges is SP Gupta vs. Union of India AIR 1982 SC 149. In this case, a number of petitions involving important constitutional questions regarding the appointment and transfer of judges and the independence of judiciary and the control of appointment of judges vested with the executive, virtually. This was not to be changed until eleven years later in 1993.

In Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association vs. Union of India (1993) 4 SCC 441 the SC overruled the judgement in SP Gupta vs. Union of India and introduced a specific system to appoint judges rather than affirming the executive discretion as was done in the SP Gupta case.

In 1998, the President referred to the Supreme Court [‘Presidential Reference’ for clarification of SC AOR Association vs. Union of India, AIR 1999 SC 1], using his constitutional powers vested in him under Article 143, for clarification, the SC’s guidelines in the case of SC AOR Association vs. Union of India. The President called for an opinion of the SC on multiple questions on transfer and appointment of judges and the role of CJI in the whole process.

This judgement outlined a more detailed procedure to the whole appointment process by mandating that the CJI should consult with 4 senior most judges of the Supreme Court while making recommendations to the SC and that the sole individual opinion of the CJI does not constitute consultations within the context of Article 124(2). For a detailed analysis of the evolution of the collegium system, click here.

Now that the Centre has returned 20 files to the Collegium, it remains to be seen what will transpire on the next date of hearing of this case as these recommendations continue to remain in limbo. The constant back and forth between the executive and the judiciary is not only causing tension between the two pillars of democracy but is reflective of how this friction is causing undue delay in judicial functions. Appointment of judges is an important task. Earlier this year, the Union Law Ministry had informed the Parliament that 405 positions of High Courts judges were vacant as of March 2022. The total sanctioned strength is of 1,104 judges in High Courts out of which 699 positions were filled. As of November 1, the number of vacancies at High Courts was 335 against a sanctioned strength of 1,108.

Related:

Collegium system & transparency of judicial appointments: a conundrun

Six Members in the Supreme Court Collegium until May 13, 2023

“Unacceptable”, Centre withholding names approved by Collegium: Supreme Court Issues Notice to law secretary over delay in judicial appointments

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Centre returns Saurabh Kirpal’s file to Collegium for the 5th time

If elevated as judge, he will become India’s first openly gay judge

29 Nov 2022

Saurabh KripalImage: Times of India

Among the files returned by the Centre to the Supreme Court Collegium for elevation as High Court judges, includes Senior Advocate Saurabh Kirpal who had openly declared that he is homosexual. Kirpal happens to be the son of former Chief Justice of India BN Kirpal. His recommendation by the collegium is among the 9 files which were reiterated, yet returned by the Centre.

In November last year, the news had broken out that Kirpal was recommended by the collegium to be elevated as judge of the Delhi High Court, making him the first openly gay candidate to be considered for becoming a judge of a High Court.

The Centre returning his files makes this the 5th time his candidature being deferred. The first time his name was recommended was in 2017 by the Delhi High Court Collegium then headed by Justice Gita Mittal. But the government reportedly shot down the proposal citing intelligence reports of Kirpal’s partner being a Swiss national. Kirpal’s partner Nicholas Bachmann is a human rights activist. Kirpal’s name was recommended again, and the recommendation was deferred in September 2018, January 2019, and April 2019.

In November last year, then CJI NV Ramana after consultation with two other senior members of the judiciary, Justices UU Lalit and AM Khanwilkar, paved the path for recommending Kirpal’s elevation.

It was touted that his recommendation was not accepted by the Centre due to security concerns over his partner being a foreign national. However, Kirpal has refuted these claims in an interview a couple of years ago. “Justice Vivian Bose, one of India’s greatest judges, in the Supreme Court who had an American wife,” he said, also giving examples of former Chief Justices Ravi Dhawan and Patnaik who also had foreign nationals as wives. “So having a foreign partner surely can be no grave security risk to the post of a High Court judge,” he said.

Who is Saurabh Kirpal?

Saurabh Kirpal is a lawyer who has vociferously advocated for the rights of the LGBTQIA community. He was a part of the team of lawyers, including Arundhati Katju and Menaka Guruswamy, that was at the forefront of the litigation that led to the historic reading down of Section 377 on September 6, 2018. Kirpal was counsel for Navtej Johar and Ritu Dalmia, two of the main petitioners in the case. The court had on that day decriminalised consensual sex between two adults of the same sex.

He is the son of former Supreme Court Chief Justice BN Kirpal. He has a B.Sc (Hons) from Delhi’s prestigious St. Stephen’s College, following which he read law at Oxford University. He holds a Masters in Law from the University of Cambridge. He has previously worked with the United Nations in Geneva. He has also served as a junior to Mukul Rohatgi. Kirpal has practiced law for over two decades. In March this year, Kirpal was designated as a senior advocate at the Delhi High Court.

Related:

SC Collegium recommends elevation of first openly gay judge to Delhi HC

Madras HC bats for LGBTQIA+ again, issues more directions to police, media

Madras HC issues guidelines for sensitisation of stakeholders in LGBTQIA+ matters

When a judge allows himself to be counselled, justice can mean a transformation

 

Centre returns Saurabh Kirpal’s file to Collegium for the 5th time

If elevated as judge, he will become India’s first openly gay judge

Saurabh KripalImage: Times of India

Among the files returned by the Centre to the Supreme Court Collegium for elevation as High Court judges, includes Senior Advocate Saurabh Kirpal who had openly declared that he is homosexual. Kirpal happens to be the son of former Chief Justice of India BN Kirpal. His recommendation by the collegium is among the 9 files which were reiterated, yet returned by the Centre.

In November last year, the news had broken out that Kirpal was recommended by the collegium to be elevated as judge of the Delhi High Court, making him the first openly gay candidate to be considered for becoming a judge of a High Court.

The Centre returning his files makes this the 5th time his candidature being deferred. The first time his name was recommended was in 2017 by the Delhi High Court Collegium then headed by Justice Gita Mittal. But the government reportedly shot down the proposal citing intelligence reports of Kirpal’s partner being a Swiss national. Kirpal’s partner Nicholas Bachmann is a human rights activist. Kirpal’s name was recommended again, and the recommendation was deferred in September 2018, January 2019, and April 2019.

In November last year, then CJI NV Ramana after consultation with two other senior members of the judiciary, Justices UU Lalit and AM Khanwilkar, paved the path for recommending Kirpal’s elevation.

It was touted that his recommendation was not accepted by the Centre due to security concerns over his partner being a foreign national. However, Kirpal has refuted these claims in an interview a couple of years ago. “Justice Vivian Bose, one of India’s greatest judges, in the Supreme Court who had an American wife,” he said, also giving examples of former Chief Justices Ravi Dhawan and Patnaik who also had foreign nationals as wives. “So having a foreign partner surely can be no grave security risk to the post of a High Court judge,” he said.

Who is Saurabh Kirpal?

Saurabh Kirpal is a lawyer who has vociferously advocated for the rights of the LGBTQIA community. He was a part of the team of lawyers, including Arundhati Katju and Menaka Guruswamy, that was at the forefront of the litigation that led to the historic reading down of Section 377 on September 6, 2018. Kirpal was counsel for Navtej Johar and Ritu Dalmia, two of the main petitioners in the case. The court had on that day decriminalised consensual sex between two adults of the same sex.

He is the son of former Supreme Court Chief Justice BN Kirpal. He has a B.Sc (Hons) from Delhi’s prestigious St. Stephen’s College, following which he read law at Oxford University. He holds a Masters in Law from the University of Cambridge. He has previously worked with the United Nations in Geneva. He has also served as a junior to Mukul Rohatgi. Kirpal has practiced law for over two decades. In March this year, Kirpal was designated as a senior advocate at the Delhi High Court.

Related:

SC Collegium recommends elevation of first openly gay judge to Delhi HC

Madras HC bats for LGBTQIA+ again, issues more directions to police, media

Madras HC issues guidelines for sensitisation of stakeholders in LGBTQIA+ matters

When a judge allows himself to be counselled, justice can mean a transformation

 

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"Every Indian citizen has the duty to prevent abuse of the Constitution": Justice KM Joseph On Constitution Day

Defending the core values enshrined in our Constitution is the duty of every Indian citizen, said the fourth in seniority judge of the Supreme Court

29 Nov 2022

"Every Indian citizen has the duty to prevent abuse of the Constitution": Justice KM Joseph On Constitution DayImage: The Hindu


The people of our nation are charged with the duty of operating the Constitution and giving life to it by defending the core values enshrined in it and preventing it from being abused, said Justice K.M. Joseph on Saturday. The Supreme Court judge further explained, "Each generation of citizens is duty bound to remain alert and on their toes to safeguard the core value which the Constitution seeks to uphold and promote." He added, "Every act or omission of one generation will either be a milestone marking the progress of a nation, or God forbid, the times which future generations will unerringly point to as tragic aberrations."

Justice Joseph, as one of the senior puisne judges of the apex court, was speaking at the Constitution Day celebrations organised by the Supreme Court. During his brief address, he spoke about how it was the bounden duty of citizens to protect constitutional ideals and fend off attempts of misusing the "noble instrument". "It is a legitimate right and duty of every citizen from every walk of life to prevent the Constitution from being abused," he said. To deliver his point home, he quoted British philosopher and statesman, Edmund Burke who had said, "Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little." Justice Joseph also pointed out that the architect of our Constitution, Dr B.R. Ambedkar had himself reportedly said if he found the charter being misused, he would be "the first to burn it".

Speaking about the core values of the constitution, Justice Joseph enumerated, "One of the most cherished ideals "firmly enshrined" in the Preamble to the Constitution is fraternity. Our Constitution contemplates that Bharat will be a secular nation. Liberty is also a fundamental norm. 'Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship' are not merely words appropriately proclaimed in the Preamble, but are meant to ignite the minds and hearts of every citizen."

Justice Joseph also highlighted how the Constitution of India conferred a fundamental duty on every citizen to promote transcendental harmony and a spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India. He said that the adoption of the Constitution marked the culmination of a "long but uniquely peaceful struggle by millions who stood shoulder to shoulder bearing their differences based on religion, caste and the region from which they hailed". "It is a fundamental duty to cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom. Not unnaturally, therefore, citizens also have the fundamental duty to promote harmony and a spirit of harmony transcending religious, linguistic, regional, or sectional diversities," Justice Joseph observed.

Related:

"Only accommodation of differences can promote Unity in Diversity": Chief Justice DY Chandrachud on Constitution Day

Our Constitution does not speak the language of exclusion: minority judgement holds EWS as unconstitutional

It's Welfare & Social Justice under the Indian Constitution, not "freebies"

 

"Every Indian citizen has the duty to prevent abuse of the Constitution": Justice KM Joseph On Constitution Day

Defending the core values enshrined in our Constitution is the duty of every Indian citizen, said the fourth in seniority judge of the Supreme Court

"Every Indian citizen has the duty to prevent abuse of the Constitution": Justice KM Joseph On Constitution DayImage: The Hindu


The people of our nation are charged with the duty of operating the Constitution and giving life to it by defending the core values enshrined in it and preventing it from being abused, said Justice K.M. Joseph on Saturday. The Supreme Court judge further explained, "Each generation of citizens is duty bound to remain alert and on their toes to safeguard the core value which the Constitution seeks to uphold and promote." He added, "Every act or omission of one generation will either be a milestone marking the progress of a nation, or God forbid, the times which future generations will unerringly point to as tragic aberrations."

Justice Joseph, as one of the senior puisne judges of the apex court, was speaking at the Constitution Day celebrations organised by the Supreme Court. During his brief address, he spoke about how it was the bounden duty of citizens to protect constitutional ideals and fend off attempts of misusing the "noble instrument". "It is a legitimate right and duty of every citizen from every walk of life to prevent the Constitution from being abused," he said. To deliver his point home, he quoted British philosopher and statesman, Edmund Burke who had said, "Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little." Justice Joseph also pointed out that the architect of our Constitution, Dr B.R. Ambedkar had himself reportedly said if he found the charter being misused, he would be "the first to burn it".

Speaking about the core values of the constitution, Justice Joseph enumerated, "One of the most cherished ideals "firmly enshrined" in the Preamble to the Constitution is fraternity. Our Constitution contemplates that Bharat will be a secular nation. Liberty is also a fundamental norm. 'Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship' are not merely words appropriately proclaimed in the Preamble, but are meant to ignite the minds and hearts of every citizen."

Justice Joseph also highlighted how the Constitution of India conferred a fundamental duty on every citizen to promote transcendental harmony and a spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India. He said that the adoption of the Constitution marked the culmination of a "long but uniquely peaceful struggle by millions who stood shoulder to shoulder bearing their differences based on religion, caste and the region from which they hailed". "It is a fundamental duty to cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom. Not unnaturally, therefore, citizens also have the fundamental duty to promote harmony and a spirit of harmony transcending religious, linguistic, regional, or sectional diversities," Justice Joseph observed.

Related:

"Only accommodation of differences can promote Unity in Diversity": Chief Justice DY Chandrachud on Constitution Day

Our Constitution does not speak the language of exclusion: minority judgement holds EWS as unconstitutional

It's Welfare & Social Justice under the Indian Constitution, not "freebies"

 

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Must take serious steps against ‘forced’ religious conversions: Centre Tells Supreme Court

In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, the Centre has stated that it is aware of the grave issue of “forced conversions”

28 Nov 2022

SC

In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, the Union Government said that it is "cognizant of the gravity and the seriousness" of the issue of forced religious conversions. This affidavit is in response to a PIL filed by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay seeking measures to control forced conversions, the Union said that, "the relief sought in the present petition would be taken up in all seriousness by the Union of India and appropriate steps shall be taken as the Central Government is cognizant of the matter."

Incidentally, on April 9, 2021, a three judge bench of the Supreme Court, (Justices Rohinton Nariman, BR Gavai and Hrishikesh Roy) had dismissed a previously filed PIL by the same petitioner, Ashwini Upadhyaya commenting, “ I don't see a reason as to why any person above 18 cannot choose his religion. There is a reason why the word ‘propagate’ is there in the Constitution", had observed Supreme Court judge Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman. These oral observation was made when a bench headed by him was hearing a PIL filed by Ashwini Upadhyaya seeking to control black magic, superstition & mass religious conversion of SC/STs through intimidation, threats & gifts. Also observing that the PIL was nothing but a "publicity interest litigation", which was of a "harmful kind", the bench warned the petitioner that heavy costs will be imposed if the matter was pressed. Following that, the petitioner withdrew the petition but had within three days on April 12, 2021 made a representation to the Ministry of Home Affairs. This was followed by the present petition filed in January 2022 (Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay vs Union of India - W. P. (C) 63/2022).

The present and ongoing petition has sought for direction to the Union and State Governments to take stringent steps in order to curb forceful religious conversion by intimidation, threats and deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits. Upadhyay also sought directions to the Law Commission of India to prepare a Report as well as a Bill to control religious conversions.

The Supreme Court on the previous hearing on November 14, had termed the issue "very serious" and directed the Union to make its stand clear. In the affidavit filed in pursuance of the Court direction, the Ministry of Home Affairs stated "the right to freedom of religion does not include a fundamental right to convert other people to a particular religion. The said right certainly does not include the right to convert an individual through fraud, deception, coercion, allurement or such means"

November 14, 2022: Forceful conversion of religion will not only affect the Union of India but also affect the freedom of religion and conscience of individuals, the Supreme Court of India observed on Monday.

Terming this as a "very serious issue", a Bench of Justices MR Shah and Hima Kohli asked the Union of India to make its stand clear by filing a counter affidavit in the matter within November 22.

November 18: No coercive action against voluntary religious conversion: MP High Court Four days later, the Madhya Pradesh High Court barred state government to mandate inter-faith couples to declare conversion before district administration. The Madhya Pradesh High Court has barred the state government from using coercion against anyone who disobeys section 10 of the MP Freedom of Religion Act, which requires anyone who wishes to convert to another religion to notify the district administration in advance. The petitioners had asked the court to invalidate the MP Freedom of Religion Act 2021 as being unconstitutional.

The Madhya Pradesh High Court then issued this significant ruling, prohibiting the State Government from using coercion against anyone who violates Section 10 of the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021, which calls for anyone wishing to change their religion to make a declaration to the District Magistrate.

A bench of Justice Sujoy Paul and Justice Prakash Chandra Gupta further ordered the state not to prosecute the adult citizens if they solemnize the marriage of their own free will after finding section 10 to be prima facie unconstitutional.

November 28, 2022, Supreme Court:

"The issue with respect to alleged conversion of religion, if it is found to be correct and true, is a very serious issue which may ultimately affect the security of the nation as well as the freedom of religion and conscience of the citizens. Therefore, it is better that Union government may make their stand clear and file counter on what further steps can be taken by Union and/or others to curb such forced conversion maybe by force, allurement or fraudulent means."

Referring to the judgment of the top court in Rev. Stainislaus vs. State of Madhya Pradesh and Ors., the Union said, "The Hon'ble Court held that the word 'propagate' does not envisage the right to convert a person rather is in the nature of the positive right to spread one's religion by exposition of its tenets." The Supreme Court in the five-judge bench led by Chief Justice A. N. Ray had examined the scope of the words 'propagate' and 'public order'. The Union further submitted that the Supreme Court in the judgment had upheld the enactments which sought to control and curb the menace of organized, sophisticated large scale illegal conversions.

Union stressed upon the fact that such enactments are necessary for protecting the cherished rights of vulnerable sections of the society including women and economically and socially backward classes. Union also pointed out that the States of Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Haryana, have already made the legislations in this regard.

CJP’s Constitutional Challenges to State Laws against Autonomy and Free Choice 

Early last week, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the earlier (2020-2021) batch of petitions challenging the Freedom of Religious Acts introduced by some states legislatures in the name of ‘love jihad‘ against religious conversions done for the sake of marriages. Senior Advocate, CU Singh, appearing on behalf of ‘Citizens for Justice and Peace‘, one of the petitioners, mentioned the pleas before a Bench comprising the Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud, Justice Hima Kohli and Justice JB Pardiwala, for urgent listing.Informing the court about urgency of the matter, CU Singh informed the bench that the court had already decided the issue of right of change of faith being a part of fundamental right of choice in Shafin Jahan’s matter.

The petitions mentioned by the senior advocate CU Singh particularly challenge the constitutional validity of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020 and the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018.

The Apex Court had also issued a notice in these batch of petition in January 2021. The laws promulgated by Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh also have been challenged before the court. Last year, Madhya Pradesh government made it mandatory for people to inform the officials two months in advance about interfaith marriage or willful conversion to another religion. Section 10 of the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act stipulates punitive actions including imprisonment and penalty if an individual fails to adhere to the law.

Related:

MP: Ahead of Assembly Polls, Govt Enacts PESA 1996, CM Believes 'It Will Stop Tribal Conversion'

No coercive action against voluntary religious conversion: MP High Court

 

Must take serious steps against ‘forced’ religious conversions: Centre Tells Supreme Court

In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, the Centre has stated that it is aware of the grave issue of “forced conversions”

SC

In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, the Union Government said that it is "cognizant of the gravity and the seriousness" of the issue of forced religious conversions. This affidavit is in response to a PIL filed by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay seeking measures to control forced conversions, the Union said that, "the relief sought in the present petition would be taken up in all seriousness by the Union of India and appropriate steps shall be taken as the Central Government is cognizant of the matter."

Incidentally, on April 9, 2021, a three judge bench of the Supreme Court, (Justices Rohinton Nariman, BR Gavai and Hrishikesh Roy) had dismissed a previously filed PIL by the same petitioner, Ashwini Upadhyaya commenting, “ I don't see a reason as to why any person above 18 cannot choose his religion. There is a reason why the word ‘propagate’ is there in the Constitution", had observed Supreme Court judge Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman. These oral observation was made when a bench headed by him was hearing a PIL filed by Ashwini Upadhyaya seeking to control black magic, superstition & mass religious conversion of SC/STs through intimidation, threats & gifts. Also observing that the PIL was nothing but a "publicity interest litigation", which was of a "harmful kind", the bench warned the petitioner that heavy costs will be imposed if the matter was pressed. Following that, the petitioner withdrew the petition but had within three days on April 12, 2021 made a representation to the Ministry of Home Affairs. This was followed by the present petition filed in January 2022 (Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay vs Union of India - W. P. (C) 63/2022).

The present and ongoing petition has sought for direction to the Union and State Governments to take stringent steps in order to curb forceful religious conversion by intimidation, threats and deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits. Upadhyay also sought directions to the Law Commission of India to prepare a Report as well as a Bill to control religious conversions.

The Supreme Court on the previous hearing on November 14, had termed the issue "very serious" and directed the Union to make its stand clear. In the affidavit filed in pursuance of the Court direction, the Ministry of Home Affairs stated "the right to freedom of religion does not include a fundamental right to convert other people to a particular religion. The said right certainly does not include the right to convert an individual through fraud, deception, coercion, allurement or such means"

November 14, 2022: Forceful conversion of religion will not only affect the Union of India but also affect the freedom of religion and conscience of individuals, the Supreme Court of India observed on Monday.

Terming this as a "very serious issue", a Bench of Justices MR Shah and Hima Kohli asked the Union of India to make its stand clear by filing a counter affidavit in the matter within November 22.

November 18: No coercive action against voluntary religious conversion: MP High Court Four days later, the Madhya Pradesh High Court barred state government to mandate inter-faith couples to declare conversion before district administration. The Madhya Pradesh High Court has barred the state government from using coercion against anyone who disobeys section 10 of the MP Freedom of Religion Act, which requires anyone who wishes to convert to another religion to notify the district administration in advance. The petitioners had asked the court to invalidate the MP Freedom of Religion Act 2021 as being unconstitutional.

The Madhya Pradesh High Court then issued this significant ruling, prohibiting the State Government from using coercion against anyone who violates Section 10 of the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021, which calls for anyone wishing to change their religion to make a declaration to the District Magistrate.

A bench of Justice Sujoy Paul and Justice Prakash Chandra Gupta further ordered the state not to prosecute the adult citizens if they solemnize the marriage of their own free will after finding section 10 to be prima facie unconstitutional.

November 28, 2022, Supreme Court:

"The issue with respect to alleged conversion of religion, if it is found to be correct and true, is a very serious issue which may ultimately affect the security of the nation as well as the freedom of religion and conscience of the citizens. Therefore, it is better that Union government may make their stand clear and file counter on what further steps can be taken by Union and/or others to curb such forced conversion maybe by force, allurement or fraudulent means."

Referring to the judgment of the top court in Rev. Stainislaus vs. State of Madhya Pradesh and Ors., the Union said, "The Hon'ble Court held that the word 'propagate' does not envisage the right to convert a person rather is in the nature of the positive right to spread one's religion by exposition of its tenets." The Supreme Court in the five-judge bench led by Chief Justice A. N. Ray had examined the scope of the words 'propagate' and 'public order'. The Union further submitted that the Supreme Court in the judgment had upheld the enactments which sought to control and curb the menace of organized, sophisticated large scale illegal conversions.

Union stressed upon the fact that such enactments are necessary for protecting the cherished rights of vulnerable sections of the society including women and economically and socially backward classes. Union also pointed out that the States of Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Haryana, have already made the legislations in this regard.

CJP’s Constitutional Challenges to State Laws against Autonomy and Free Choice 

Early last week, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the earlier (2020-2021) batch of petitions challenging the Freedom of Religious Acts introduced by some states legislatures in the name of ‘love jihad‘ against religious conversions done for the sake of marriages. Senior Advocate, CU Singh, appearing on behalf of ‘Citizens for Justice and Peace‘, one of the petitioners, mentioned the pleas before a Bench comprising the Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud, Justice Hima Kohli and Justice JB Pardiwala, for urgent listing.Informing the court about urgency of the matter, CU Singh informed the bench that the court had already decided the issue of right of change of faith being a part of fundamental right of choice in Shafin Jahan’s matter.

The petitions mentioned by the senior advocate CU Singh particularly challenge the constitutional validity of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020 and the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018.

The Apex Court had also issued a notice in these batch of petition in January 2021. The laws promulgated by Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh also have been challenged before the court. Last year, Madhya Pradesh government made it mandatory for people to inform the officials two months in advance about interfaith marriage or willful conversion to another religion. Section 10 of the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act stipulates punitive actions including imprisonment and penalty if an individual fails to adhere to the law.

Related:

MP: Ahead of Assembly Polls, Govt Enacts PESA 1996, CM Believes 'It Will Stop Tribal Conversion'

No coercive action against voluntary religious conversion: MP High Court

 

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Sabrang

60 cops, a Dalit man on horseback in his wedding procession and a happy bride

The cops even gave the newly-wed couple Rs. 11,000 in cash as a wedding gift

28 Nov 2022

Sambhal
Image: The Times of India

In a rather pleasantly surprising incident, a Dalit man rode a horse for his wedding procession under heavy police protection in Uttar Pradesh’s Sambhal village. The bride Ravina wanted to see her groom ride a horse on her big day and her wish was fulfilled by 44 constables, 14 sub-inspectors, one inspector and a circle officer. Such heavy protection was deemed necessary as restrictions were imposed by the upper caste of  Lohamai village in Gunnar area.

The bride’s uncle made a written request to SP, Sambhal Chakresh Mishra who then sent the police force to ensure that the wedding festivities take place without any disturbance and trouble from the upper castes. Moreover, the cops contributed and gifted the couple Rs. 11,000 in cash. The bride’s family was grateful for the support provided for the police. This incident comes as a breath of fresh amidst the constant news of hatred that keeps coming up. Certainly, the fact that such protection was required merely for riding a horse and playing DJ music for the ‘baraat’ which is how a usual wedding procession takes place in many parts of the country, is unfortunate and disheartening. The imposition of such a restriction by the upper castes is itself a depiction of hatred and what the cops did was a show of support from the State and a demonstration of how the State can safeguard the rights of such communities when need arises.

Interestingly, this year has seen other similar incidents where cops have stepped up to protect Dalit families. In January, nearly 100 cops stood guard as a Dalit groom rode a horse in Sarsi village of Madhya Pradesh’s Neemuch district. In another instance in the same state, a constable in Chhattarpur district who was to get married on February 9 was stopped from riding the horse by upper caste men and they even stopped the wedding band chased the DJ away.

In Rajasthan’s Chadi village, Bundi district, Shriram Meghwal married his bride, in January this year, as he rode on a horse for the wedding procession. All this, under the initiative of the Bundi police and district administration under ‘Operation Samanta’ (Operation Equality). Meghwal said he was the first dalit in the village to ride a mare at a wedding. Another wedding that took place under this initiative was of one Manoj Bairwa in Neem ka Kheda village when he rode a mare and this happened more than three decades after Bairwa's uncle was thrashed in the same village by upper caste men as he belonged to the Scheduled Caste community and dared to ride a horse on his wedding day, reported New Indian Express.

Even an IPS officer was not spared from the vicious caste prejudice as he was about to be married in February this year. He hailed from Bhagatpura Jaisinghpura village under Bhabru police station in Jaipur, Rajasthan and IPS officer Sunil Kumar Dhanwanta rode the horse amid heavy police protection keeping view several incidents in the past where Dalit grooms were targeted for riding a horse, reported Times Now.

Such an initiative is a welcome move, and more and more districts need to adopt the same to avoid incidents of violence resulting from upper castes preventing Dalits from leading normal lives. As such attacks are invariably reported from various parts of the country, districts in northern states which have had a history of such incidents need to introspect and take such initiatives in public interest and in the interest of social harmony as also to safeguard rights of the Dalit community.

IN January, a Dalit groom on horseback was attacked by upper castes in Madhya Pradesh’s Ganiyari, a village dominated by upper caste Lodhi Thakur community. The following month, the house of a Dalit was attacked by members of Gujjar community in Kachnariya village in Madhya Pradesh’s Rajgarh district after he announced that he will take out his marriage procession riding a horse and have a DJ play at hi wedding, reported Indian Express.

In May, a Dalit wedding was disrupted by upper caste men in Piplaya Kala village, Rajgarh district, MP. Five persons were arrested, and the wedding procession then took place amid police security as the groom rode the mare. In February, stones were pelted at a Dalit wedding procession as the groom rode a horse in Mota village of Gujarat’s Banaskantha district.

Related:

Dalit Bridegrooms On Horses Challenge India’s Caste Status Quo

Minor Dalit boy killed, CJP moves NCSC for further protection for family

Death of Dalit teen boy, after assault by teacher, sparks angry protests: UP

60 cops, a Dalit man on horseback in his wedding procession and a happy bride

The cops even gave the newly-wed couple Rs. 11,000 in cash as a wedding gift

Sambhal
Image: The Times of India

In a rather pleasantly surprising incident, a Dalit man rode a horse for his wedding procession under heavy police protection in Uttar Pradesh’s Sambhal village. The bride Ravina wanted to see her groom ride a horse on her big day and her wish was fulfilled by 44 constables, 14 sub-inspectors, one inspector and a circle officer. Such heavy protection was deemed necessary as restrictions were imposed by the upper caste of  Lohamai village in Gunnar area.

The bride’s uncle made a written request to SP, Sambhal Chakresh Mishra who then sent the police force to ensure that the wedding festivities take place without any disturbance and trouble from the upper castes. Moreover, the cops contributed and gifted the couple Rs. 11,000 in cash. The bride’s family was grateful for the support provided for the police. This incident comes as a breath of fresh amidst the constant news of hatred that keeps coming up. Certainly, the fact that such protection was required merely for riding a horse and playing DJ music for the ‘baraat’ which is how a usual wedding procession takes place in many parts of the country, is unfortunate and disheartening. The imposition of such a restriction by the upper castes is itself a depiction of hatred and what the cops did was a show of support from the State and a demonstration of how the State can safeguard the rights of such communities when need arises.

Interestingly, this year has seen other similar incidents where cops have stepped up to protect Dalit families. In January, nearly 100 cops stood guard as a Dalit groom rode a horse in Sarsi village of Madhya Pradesh’s Neemuch district. In another instance in the same state, a constable in Chhattarpur district who was to get married on February 9 was stopped from riding the horse by upper caste men and they even stopped the wedding band chased the DJ away.

In Rajasthan’s Chadi village, Bundi district, Shriram Meghwal married his bride, in January this year, as he rode on a horse for the wedding procession. All this, under the initiative of the Bundi police and district administration under ‘Operation Samanta’ (Operation Equality). Meghwal said he was the first dalit in the village to ride a mare at a wedding. Another wedding that took place under this initiative was of one Manoj Bairwa in Neem ka Kheda village when he rode a mare and this happened more than three decades after Bairwa's uncle was thrashed in the same village by upper caste men as he belonged to the Scheduled Caste community and dared to ride a horse on his wedding day, reported New Indian Express.

Even an IPS officer was not spared from the vicious caste prejudice as he was about to be married in February this year. He hailed from Bhagatpura Jaisinghpura village under Bhabru police station in Jaipur, Rajasthan and IPS officer Sunil Kumar Dhanwanta rode the horse amid heavy police protection keeping view several incidents in the past where Dalit grooms were targeted for riding a horse, reported Times Now.

Such an initiative is a welcome move, and more and more districts need to adopt the same to avoid incidents of violence resulting from upper castes preventing Dalits from leading normal lives. As such attacks are invariably reported from various parts of the country, districts in northern states which have had a history of such incidents need to introspect and take such initiatives in public interest and in the interest of social harmony as also to safeguard rights of the Dalit community.

IN January, a Dalit groom on horseback was attacked by upper castes in Madhya Pradesh’s Ganiyari, a village dominated by upper caste Lodhi Thakur community. The following month, the house of a Dalit was attacked by members of Gujjar community in Kachnariya village in Madhya Pradesh’s Rajgarh district after he announced that he will take out his marriage procession riding a horse and have a DJ play at hi wedding, reported Indian Express.

In May, a Dalit wedding was disrupted by upper caste men in Piplaya Kala village, Rajgarh district, MP. Five persons were arrested, and the wedding procession then took place amid police security as the groom rode the mare. In February, stones were pelted at a Dalit wedding procession as the groom rode a horse in Mota village of Gujarat’s Banaskantha district.

Related:

Dalit Bridegrooms On Horses Challenge India’s Caste Status Quo

Minor Dalit boy killed, CJP moves NCSC for further protection for family

Death of Dalit teen boy, after assault by teacher, sparks angry protests: UP

Related Articles


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