Saturday, December 16, 2006


e – Voice Of Human Rights Watch – e-news weekly Spreading the light of humanity & freedom

Editor : Nagaraj.M.R.........................vol.2 issue.40.......................................16/12/2006


- Gross violations of human rights by police

At the outset , HRW salutes the few honest police personnel who are silently doing their duties inspite of pressures , harassment by political bosses & corrupt superiors , inspite of frequent transfers , promotion holdups , etc. overcoming the lure of bribe ,those few are silently doing their duties without any publicity or fanfare. we salute them & pay our respects to them and hereby appeal to those few honest to catch their corrupt colleagues.

The police are trained , to crack open the cases of crimes by just holding onto a thread of clue. Based on that clue they investigate like "Sherlock holmes" and apprehend the real criminals. nowadays , when police are under various pressures , stresses – they are frequently using 3rd degree torture methods on innocents. Mainly there are 3 reasons for this :

1) when the investigating officer (I.O) lacks the brains of Sherlock holmes , to cover-up his own inefficiency he uses 3rd degree torture on innocents.

2) When the I.O is biased towards rich , powerful crooks , to frame innocents & to extract false confessions from them , 3rd degree torture is used on innocents.

3) When the I.O is properly doing the investigations , but the higher-ups need very quick results – under work stress I.O uses 3rd degree torture on innocents.

Nowhere in statuette books , police are legally authorized to punish let alone torture the detainees / arrested / accussed / suspects. Only the judiciary has the right to punish the guilty not the police. Even the judiciary doesn't have the right to punish the accussed / suspects , then how come police are using 3rd degree torture unabetted. Even during encounters , police only have the legal right , authority to immobilize the opponents so as to arrest them but not to kill them.

There is a reasoning among some sections of society & police that use of 3RD DEGREE TORTURE by police is a detterent of crimes. It is false & biased. Take for instance there are numerous scams involving 100's of crores of public money – like stock scam , fodder scam , etc involving rich businessmen , VVIP crooks. Why don't police use 3rd degree torture against such rich crooks and recover crores of public money where as the police use 3rd degree torture against a pick-pocketer to recover hundred rupees stolen ? double standards by police.

In media we have seen numerous cases of corrupt police officials in league with criminals. For the sake of bribe , such police officials bury cases , destroy evidences , go slow , frame innocents , murder innocents in the name of encounter , etc. why don't police use 3rd degree torture against their corrupt colleagues who are aiding criminals , anti nationals ? double standards by police.

All the bravery of police is shown before poor , innocents , tribals , dalits , before them police give the pose of heroes. Whereas , before rich , VVIP crooks , they are zeroes. They are simply like scarecrows before rich crooks.

Torture in any form by anybody is inhuman & illegal. For the purpose of investigations police have scientific investigative tools like polygraph, brain mapping , lie detector , etc. these scientific tools must be used against rich crooks & petty criminals without bias.

On "world human rights day"(10/12/2006) , hereby we urge the GOI & all state governments :

1) to book cases of murder against police personnel who use 3rd degree torture on detainees and kill detainees in the name of encounter killings.

2) To dismiss such inhuman , cruel personnel from police service and to forfeit all monetary benefits due to them like gratuity , pension , etc.

3) To pay such forfeited amount together with matching government contribution as compensation to family of the victim's of 3rd degree torture & encounter killings.

4) To review , all cases where false confessions were extracted from innocents by 3rd degree torture.

5) To make liable the executive magistrate of the area , in whose jurisdiction torture is perpetrated by police on innocents.

6) To make it incumbent on all judicial magistrates ,to provide a torture free climate to all parties , witnesses in cases before his court.

7) To make public the amount & source of ransom money paid to forest brigand veerappan to secure the release of matinee idol mr. raj kumar.

8) To make public justice A.J.Sadashiva's report on "torture of tribals , human rights violations by Karnataka police in M.M.HILLS , KARNATAKA".

9) To make it mandatory for police to use scientific tools of investigations like brain mapping , polygraph , etc without bias against suspects rich or poor.

10) To include human rights education in preliminary & refresher training of police personnel.

11) To recruit persons on merit to police force who have aptitude & knack for investigations.

12) To insulate police from interference from politicians & superiors.

13) To make police force answerable to a neutral apex body instead of political bosses. Such body must be empowered to deal with all service matters of police.

14) The political bosses & the society must treat police in a humane manner and must know that they too have practical limitations. Then on a reciprocal basis , police will also treat others humanely.

15) The police must be relieved fully from the sentry duties of biggies & must be put on detective , investigative works.

Jai hind . vande mataram.

Your’s sincerely ,


Private Sector – Its obligations to Dalits -- By Rajindar Sachar A lively but in my view, ill-informed, discussion is taking place in public on the question of job quota in the private sector. The controversy has become sharper by the weight of legal opinion of the Attorney General that it was not possible to provide reservation for SCs and STs in the private sector without amending the Constitution. I have my reservation on the correctness of this view. I realize that emphasis is made on job quota possibility because of our feudal and hierarchical social system which puts a job in an office whether in private or public sector as the highest achievement. However, I feel that though emphasis on job may be kept up, the real battle dalits need to fight is to have a share in the expanding business opportunities and that too in proprietary capacity. It is in this context that I put forward an alternative which is immediately available and which can give more affluence, recognition and opportunities to dalits not only for jobs in private sector but for expanding the opportunities to share in the growth of Indian economy, and that too without amending the Constitution. It is well known that Central and State Governments award thousands of crores worth of public works and contracts to the private sector. All these activities flow from the Government playing a very crucial and significant role either to make a particular avenue open to the private sector like the privatization and modernization of airports, express highways Public Works Department, Delhi Development Authority (DDA), Delhi and similar ones in number of other States for roads or even construction of Govt. properties which are to be executed by the private contractors. I am of the view that if proper steps available even under the present legal set up are taken, a very large segment of dalits population can be absorbed and can take benefit of the rising economy. It is in this context that a reference to USA legislation called the “Public Works Employment Act of 1997” would be apt. That Act had a minority business enterprise clause which provided that 10% (minority population of USA) of the federal funds granted for local public works projects must be used by state and local grantees to procure services or supplies from business owned and controlled by “minority group members”, the latter being defined in the Act as United States citizens who are “Negroes, Spanish-speaking, Orientals…….”. This provision was challenged as denying an equal protection clause provided under the 14th amendment of the US Constitution (from which Article 14 of our Constitution has been adopted). The Court upheld the validity of the legislation as it contained provisions designed to uplift those socially-economically disadvantaged persons to a level where they may effectively participate in the business mainstream of USA economy. The arguments raised as to why the private contractors should be compelled and limit their choice in this particular manner as to from where the supplies will be received and whom they will sub-contract was rejected, by holding that “legislation When effectuating a limited and properly tailored remedy to cure the effects of prior discrimination, such “a sharing of the burden by innocent parties is not impermissible”. Question of constitutional objection is totally off the mark. After 44th amendment Right to Property is no longer a fundamental right. Only Parliamentary legislation is necessary to deprive a person of it without compensation. It is also well settled that Article 19 confers no right on an individual to carry on business with the Govt. – if it wishes it has to be on terms settled by Govt. As such, no objection can be taken by the private sector to the provision making it incumbent on it to share proportionately with Dalits the funds given to it by the Govt. or local body agencies. Similarly, governments could prescribe conditions as a part of scheme of disinvestment of public sector. It would then be permissible for the Central and State Governments to provide that out of these amounts the private contractor will have to ensure that a certain percentage which, to start with, could be fixed at 10% (though it is low as compared to the dalits population of 15-16%) to be made available to them either in the matter of sub-contracting or executing some works or in the matter of employment. Such a course would require not only no constitutional amendment but not even an Act of Parliament. The reason being that the Government, being the spending authority, it is permissible for it by executive orders to direct that a certain portion of this money available will be utilized either for providing employment or for sub-contracts to the dalits. This is what was done in USA and which while upholding the said legislation very eloquently observed – “if we are ever to become a fully integrated society, one in which the colour of a person’s skin will not determine the opportunities available to him or her, we must be willing to take steps to open those doors.” The same principle aptly applies to the position of dalits in our country. Our Supreme Court has held that “economic empowerment of the poor, in particular the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, as is enjoined under Article 46, is a constitutional objective as basic human and fundamental right to enable the labourer, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to raise their economic empowerment.” I see no reason why our Supreme Court which is far more progressive and poor-oriented than the USA’s Supreme Court, will not reject similar challenge. But of course the overriding question still remains – is there a political will and determination in the Central and State Governments to take on the combined forces of Big Business. I am convinced that it is not only jobs but business opportunities that need to be opened to Dalits, to make a real change in their social and economic set up.


Right To Information Emasculated - By Prashant Bhushan

The amendments proposed to the Right to Information Act are a substantial roll back of the Act. The persistent manner in which the government is pushing them despite mounting public criticism, indicates that the prime minister has not outgrown his bureaucratic background. The disclosure of the text of the proposed amendments has given the lie to the statement put out by the prime minister’s office to the effect that the amendments actually for the first time empower the citizens to access file notings and that the restrictions relate only to notings on defence and personnel related matters. Apart from the fact that the central information commission had repeatedly ruled that the un-amended Act did not restrict access to file notings, it can be seen that the text of the amendment restricts access to all file notings except “substantial file notings on plans, schemes, programmes of the central government or a state government, as the case may be that relate to development and social issues.” This is done by amending the definition of records in the Act.

This amendment will by itself take the life out of the Act. It is the notings that are supposed to deal with the reasons and rationale for any order or decision of the government. Very often, it is the noting of an honest officer, which explains what is wrong with a proposed decision of the government. In the Panna-Mukta oil deal, it was the noting of the then superintendent of police, CBI, which gave the reasons and circumstances that explained why the decision to hand over ONGC’s developed oilfields to Enron and Reliance was against public interest. Moreover, it is only the notings of various officers which will eventually reveal whether an officer’s role was above board or whether he was acting on extraneous considerations. Thus, notings are often critical for fixing accountability. In the absence of notings, it would almost always be impossible for people to fully appreciate the official rationale for a decision.

Though the amendment restricts notings on most subjects, it may be noted that even if it related to only defence and personnel related matters, it would still be objectionable. This is because information (including notings) on defence and security matters are already exempt under Section 8(1) (a) of the Act, and there is no justification for exempting notings on personnel related matters. The transfers, postings, disciplinary proceedings, suspensions, and promotions of government servants play a critical role in governance. It is well known that there is a lot of corruption and extraneous influence in such matters, which has been having a deleterious effect on governance. Honest officers are often victimised by punishment postings. Corrupt officers are often rewarded with postings on crucial positions. It is well known that bribes are fixed for postings and transfer of officers in “lucrative” departments like police, excise, income tax etc. In Maharashtra, it was discovered in response to an application under the RTI Act, that the postings of most police officers were on the recommendations of the MPs and ministers. By far, the most effective way of checking such arbitrariness in such personnel related matters is by having complete transparency in such matters, so that people can see not just the final decision (which is always said to be on exigencies of service), but also the rationale and the entire decision making process which led to the decision.

It is often said that such disclosure of notings related to personnel matters would inhibit officers from expressing themselves freely and frankly. The truth, however, is that no honest officer is likely to be inhibited from frankly expressing himself for fear that what he writes may become known. It is only the dishonest officer wanting to make a dishonest noting who is likely to be deterred by such transparency. In fact such transparency would act as a shield for honest persons who are less likely to be victimised if the entire transaction were open to public gaze.

Apart from the amendment to exclude file notings, four amendments have been proposed to Section 8 dealing with exemptions, each of which widens the exemptions under the Act. Firstly, the amendment to the proviso to clause (i) of Section 8 now restricts access to cabinet papers to only the actual decisions and reasons thereof, after the decision, rather than to all papers. This is also unreasonable. In a democracy where the cabinet is just the representative of the people, who are the real masters, there is no justification for excluding all cabinet papers from public view, especially after the decision has been taken. If any papers are of a nature that their disclosure would adversely affect defence or security, those are already excluded under Section 8 (a). Similarly, any cabinet paper whose disclosure would be injurious to public interest in any way is already excluded under the various other clauses in Section 8.

Three new exemptions are sought to be inserted in Section 8. The first relates to the identity of officers who “made inspections,observations, recommendations, or gave legal advice or opinions …” Thus this clause seeks to mask the identity of public officials who have played any role in the decision-making, even on developmental and social issues. Again, the object seems to be to save officials from being held publicly accountable by withholding the precise role played by different officials in the decision- making. This is again anti-democratic and without merit.

Another exemption added by the newly introduced clause (k) in Section 8 is to restrict “information pertaining to any process of any examination conducted by any public authority, or assessment or evaluation made by it for judging the suitability of any person for appointment or promotion to any post or admission to any course or any such other purpose.” Again, there is no justification for removing from public scrutiny the process of deciding selections and promotions where there is rampant corruption. The opacity of such systems of recruitment and selection is what is allowing such corruption and arbitrariness to go on. The amendment is designed to allow these bodies to continue with such arbitrary and corrupt appointments and selections.

Notings are supposed to deal with the reasons and rationale for any order or decision of the government. Very often, it is the noting of an honest officer which explains what is wrong with a proposed decision of the government

Another exemption sought to be introduced is to exempt “copies of noting, or extracts from the document, manuscript and file so far as it relates to legal advice, opinion, observation or recommendation made by any officer during the decision-making process, prior to the executive decision or policy formulation”. Such a blanket exemption for restricting all access to the entire decision making, before any decision is made would allow the officials to present every decision, however corrupt and against public interest as a fait accompli. Take the Enron deal for example. With such a clause, it would be impossible for people to know how the then finance secretary had effectively prevented the central electricity Authority from carrying out a financial evaluation of the project, by falsely showing that the finance ministry had carried out such an evaluation. Thus the country came to be saddled with a liability of Rs 10,000 crore, which could have been prevented if the correspondence between the finance ministry, power ministry and the central electricity authority had been accessible and known, before the contract with Enron had been signed. This clause seeks to prevent such examination.

Similarly, many genetically modified foods are in the process of being cleared for release currently, without any transparency about the process of clearance and the various bio safety tests that they have been and have not been subjected to. This amendment will prevent access to this process of clearance until after they have been cleared and irreparable damage to human health and environment has been done.

It can be seen, therefore, that the amendments proposed are not just substantive, but very far reaching which will take the life out of the Act, which only seeks to give effect to the fundamental rights of citizens under Art 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution. These amendments would be clearly unconstitutional as imposing an unreasonable restriction to the citizens’ right to know what is being done by their public servants. In any case, such far- reaching amendments to such a critical statute must not be passed by parliament without sending them to the parliamentary standing committee.


The Judiciary: Cutting Edge Of A Predator State - By Prashant Bhushan

At a time when the dominant class in India is obsessed with power and when India appears to be at the threshold of becoming an “economic and military superpower”, it is interesting that Tehelka has organized this seminar called, “The summit of the powerless”. Though one hardly sees any powerless people here, or even many who represent them, it is still important that a meeting on this theme has been organized by Tehelka.

It is this obsession with power which is the driving force behind the vision of India of the ruling elite of this country. That is why we see the frequent “power summits” being organized by major media organizations which are dominated by talk of India as an “emerging superpower”, with a booming sensex and a GDP growth poised to reach 8, 9 and even 10%. And it is this power crazed libido of the elite which have made them the cheerleaders of the government which is straining to become the Asian right hand of the United States. This single minded pursuit of a strategic relationship with the US has made us lose our moral bearings as we vote against our old friends like Iran and keep quiet on unimaginable atrocities being committed by the US in Iraq and by Israel in Palestine.

What kind of society is this “power driven” vision of India producing. While the elite celebrate the booming sensex, the consumer boom among the middle classes which the spectacular GDP growth appear to be giving them, the poor are pushed to greater and greater destitution, as the agricultural economy collapses and they are sought to be deprived of whatever little they have in terms of land and other natural resources. After all, when agriculture is not contributing to the GDP growth, why not take away the land, water and other resources from agriculture and give them to the sectors which are leading the growth-the SEZs and the IT industry for example. That (and the opportunity for a real estate killing) explains the stampede for setting up SEZs and IT parks, which will be high growth privileged enclaves, helped no doubt by the cheap compulsory acquisition of land, the absence of taxes, labour and environmental laws. They are envisioned almost as private and self governing States with their own police and courts. It makes no difference to those who hope to occupy these enclaves that India is almost at the bottom of the heap in terms of the Human Development Index, in terms of the percentage of people in the country who have access to housing, food, water, sanitation, education and healthcare.

So as the rural economy is destroyed (partly by agricultural imports) and the poor are deprived of their land, their forests, their water and indeed all their resources, to make way for mining leases, dams, SEZs and IT parks, all of which augur faster GDP growth, the poor get pushed to suicide or to urban slums. Here they struggle for existence in subhuman conditions with no sanitation, water, electricity, and always at the mercy of the weather, corrupt policemen and municipal officials. These slums often exist side by side with luxurious enclaves of the ultra rich who pass by them with barely a scornful glance and regard them as a nuisance who should be put away beyond their gaze. And if the government cannot accomplish that, there are always the courts to lend a helping hand. In the past two years about 2 lakh slum dwellers from the Yamuna Pushta and other Jhuggi colonies of Delhi have been removed on the orders of the court and thrown to the streets or dumped in the boondocks of Bawana (40 Kms from Delhi) and without any sanitation, water, electricity or even drainage. It would be surprising if many of them do not become criminals or join the ranks of naxalites who have come to control greater and greater parts of the country.

What kind of society are we creating? A society which is not only deeply divided in economic classes with a vast chasm dividing them, but also one where the preoccupations of the dominant classes are becoming increasingly crassly materialistic, narcissistic and base. If one were to examine the content of the mainstream electronic media-even news channels, particularly private channels which are the main source of information and entertainment for the middle class elite, one would find that it is characterized by an increasingly vacuous intellectual content and pandering more and more to the baser instincts of sex, violence and a morbid fascination for gossip particularly about the private lives of Bollywood stars. Stories about real people and serious public interest issues have been reduced to mere sound bytes of a few seconds. The interest of the middle classes in and their attention span for serious issues of public interest have been reduced to a vanishing point, as the culture of consumerism and self indulgence has taken over contemporary society. Even as scientific evidence piles up about how the world is headed towards environmental catastrophe due to global warming, not many among our well to do elite have even bothered to understand the issue, let alone bother about tackling the problem. They are oblivious of and unconcerned about the disaster which will certainly affect their children if not themselves during their lifetimes.

A sickness afflicts the soul of the dominant elite of India today. It is a sickness which has led to a total loss of vision and has made us lose our moral bearings. It is this sickness which is allowing us to celebrate our great GDP growth and our emerging superpower status when the majority of our countrymen sink to deeper and deeper depths of destitution and despair. It is this sickness which allows us to rejoice in our becoming the main sidekick of the global bully, while we shut our eyes to the enormous injustice being done to the oppressed people of Iraq, Palestine and other countries at the receiving end of the bully’s muscle. It is this sickness which has produced the vision of the State as the facilitator of this rapaciously exploitative model of development. A vision where the State’s role is seen as an institution which tries to facilitate the maximization of GDP growth. Which naturally requires the State to withdraw from its welfare obligations and facilitate a privatized society run on laissez faire economics. After all, private enterprise, run on the profit motive is the best bet for maximizing GDP growth. It is this model which snatches land from the farmer for the SEZs, the IT parks and the mines. That vision is producing a society which is intoxicated with a kind of development and feeling of “power” which are sowing the seeds of its own destruction in not too far a future. We have become a society of many Neros who are fiddling while the country is on fire.

It is not surprising then that the “powerless” regard the State as predator rather than protector. Even more unfortunately, the recent role of the judiciary which was mandated by the constitution to protect the rights of the people is making it appear as if it has become the cutting edge of a predator State.

There was a time, not so long ago, when the Supreme Court of India waxed eloquent about the Fundamental right to life and liberty guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution to include all that it takes to lead a decent and dignified life. They thus held that the right to life includes the right to Food, the right to employment and the right to shelter: in other words, the right to all the basic necessities of life. That was in the roaring 80’s when a new tool of public interest litigation was fashioned where anyone could invoke the jurisdiction of the Courts even by writing a post card on behalf of the poor and disadvantaged who were too weak to approach the courts themselves. It seemed that a new era was dawning and that the courts were emerging as a new liberal instrument within the State which the poor could access to get some respite from the various excesses and assaults of the executive.

Alas, all that seems a distant dream now, given the recent role of the courts in not just failing to protect the rights of the poor that they had themselves declared not long ago, but in fact spearheading the massive assault on the poor since the era of economic liberalization. This is happening in case after case, whether they are of the tribal oustees of the Narmada Dam, or the urban slum dwellers whose homes are being ruthlessly bulldozed without notice and without rehabilitation, on the orders of the court, or the urban hawkers and rickshaw pullers of Delhi and Mumbai who have been ordered to be removed from the streets again on the orders of the court. Public interest litigation has been turned on its head. Instead of being used to protect the rights of the poor, it is now being used by commercial interests and the upper middle classes to launch a massive assault in the poor in the drive to take over urban spaces and even rural land occupied by the poor, for commercial development. While the lands of the rural poor are being compulsorily taken over for commercial real estate development for the wealthy, the urban poor are being evicted from the public land that they have been occupying for decades for commercial development by big builders, for shopping malls and housing for the wealthy. Roadside hawkers are being evicted on the orders of the Courts (which will ensure that people will shop only in these shopping malls). All this is being done, not only in violation of the rights of the poor declared by the Courts, but also in violation of the policies for slum dwellers and hawkers which have been formulated by the governments. Usually these actions of the Court seem to have the tacit and covert approval of the government (and the court is used to do what a democratically accountable government cannot do). Let us examine a few of these cases.

In the Narmada case, the Court recently refused to restrain further construction of the Dam which would submerge thousands of families without rehabilitation even when it was clear that this was not only in violation of the Narmada Tribunal Award, but against their declared fundamental rights. The court’s behaviour in first refusing to hear the matter, then repeatedly adjourning it, then allowing the construction to be completed on the specious ground that they needed the report of the Shunglu Committee, clearly demonstrated a total lack of sensitivity to the oustees and a total subordination of their rights to the commercial interests of those industrialists led by Narendra Modi who are eyeing the Narmada waters for their industries, water parks and golf courses. The gap between the rhetoric and the actions of the Court could not be more yawning.

Meanwhile, as the Narmada oustees were being submerged without rehabilitation, a massive programme of urban displacement of slum dwellers without rehabilitation was being carried out in Delhi and Bombay, also on the orders of the High Courts. Sometimes on the applications of upper middle class colonies, sometimes on their own, the Courts have been issuing a spate of orders for clearing slums by bulldozing the jhuggis on them, on the ground that they are on public land. Some of this is being done with the tacit approval of the government, such as the slums on the banks of the Yamuna which are being cleared for making way for the constructions for the Commonwealth games. And all this, without even issuing notices to the slum dwellers, in violation of the principles of natural justice.

This was not all. The Court’s relentless assaults on the poor continued with the Supreme Court ordering the eviction of Hawkers from the streets of Bombay and Delhi. Again, turning their backs on Constitution bench judgements of the Court that Hawkers have a fundamental right to hawk on the streets, which could however be regulated, the Court now observed that streets exist primarily for traffic. They thus ordered the Municipality and the police to remove the “unlicenced hawkers” from the streets of Delhi. All this again without any notice or hearing to the hawkers. This effectively meant that almost all the more than 1.5 lakh hawkers would be placed at the mercy of the authorities, since less than 3 percent had been given licences. More recently, the Delhi High Court has ordered the removal of rickshaws from the Chandni Chowk area, ostensively to pave the way for CNG buses. This order will not only deprive tens of thousands of rickshaw pullers of a harmless and environmentally friendly source of livelihood, it will also cause enormous inconvenience to tens of thousands of commuters who use that mode of transport.

Several recent judgements of the court have grossly diluted the various labour laws which were enacted to protect the rights of workers. The government has been wanting to dilute these laws for bringing about what they call “labour reforms”, in line with the new economic policies, but they have been unable to do so because of political opposition. The courts have thus stepped in to do what the government cannot do politically. They have not only diluted the protection afforded to workmen by various laws but have openly stated that the Court’s interpretation of the Laws must be in line with the government’s new economic policy- a fantastic proposition which means that the executive government can override parliamentary legislation by executive policy. The same proposition was enunciated by the Supreme Court in the Mauritius double taxation case, where the court said that the government can by executive notification give a tax holiday to Mauritius based companies, even though it is well settled that tax exemptions can only be given by the Finance Act which has to be passed by Parliament. Thus we find that the Courts are becoming a convenient instrument for the government to bypass Parliament and implement executive policy which is in violation of even Parliamentary legislation. This congruence of interest between the executive and the courts is most common when it comes to policies which are designed to benefit the wealthy elite.

One important reason why the court can do such things is because it is completely unaccountable. The executive government must seek reelection every 5 years which acts as a restraint on its anti poor policies. The court has no such restraint. There is no disciplinary authority over judges, with the system of impeachment having been found to be completely impractical. On top of this, the Supreme Court has by a self serving judgement removed judges from accountability from even criminal acts by declaring that no criminal investigation can be conducted against judges without the prior approval of the Chief Justice of India. This has resulted in a situation where no criminal investigation has been conducted against any judge in the last 15 years since this judgement despite common knowledge of widespread corruption in the judiciary. Even serious public criticism and scrutiny of the judiciary has been effectively barred by the threat of contempt of Court. And now, they have effectively declared themselves as exempt from even the right to information Act. Is it surprising then that they suffer from judicial arrogance which enables them to deliver such judgements.

This has bred and is continuing to breed enormous resentment among the poor and the destitute. Feeling helpless and abandoned, nay violated by every organ of the State, particularly the judiciary, many are committing suicides, but some are taking to violence. That explains the growing cadres of the Maoists who now control many districts and even States like Chhatisgarh. The government and the ruling establishment thinks that they can deal with this menace by stongarm military methods. That explains why the government relies more and more on the advice of former cops like Gill and Narayanan and why there is talk of using the Army and Air Force against the Maoists. Tribals in Chhattisgarh are being forced to join a mercenary army funded by the State by the name of Salva Judum to fight the Maoists. But all this will breed more Maoists. No insurrection bred out of desperation can be quelled by strongarm tactics. The very tactics breed more misery and desperation and will push more people to the Maoists.

Unless urgent steps are taken to correct the course that the elite establishment of this country is embarked upon, we will soon have an insurgency on our hands which will be impossible to control. Then, when the history of the country’s descent towards violence and chaos is written, the judiciary of the country can claim pride of place among those who speeded up this process. We desperately and urgently need a new vision for the country as well as for the judiciary. We need to rediscover and perhaps reinvent the concept of the State as a welfare State. Our judiciary was created by the British who created it mainly to protect the interests of the empire. That is one of the reasons why it in inaccessible to the common people. We need to reinvent the judiciary in line with a new vision for India. A judiciary which will really be people friendly, which can be accessed without the mediation of professional lawyers and which will consider it its mission to protect the rights of the poor. Unless we can demonstrate the capacity to form that vision and translate in into action, we are headed for serious trouble.



Dear sir,

INDIA: Dalit female village head unable to conduct her public obligations due to manipulative caste discrimination

Name of victim: Mrs. Munia devi Address of victim: Koirajpur village under Harhua Block, Varanasi district, Uttar Pradesh state, India Alleged perpetrators: 1. Mr. Ravindra singh, the resident of village Koirajpur, Varanasi district, Uttar Pradesh, India 2. Mrs Sushma singh wife of Mr. Ravindra singh, the resident of Koirajpur village, Varanasi district, Uttar Pradesh, India 3. Mr.Lalchand, the secretary of the Koirajpur village 4. Satendra rai, Food Inspector 5. Nilesh Uppal, Supply Inspector Pindra 6. Rameshwar singh, Supply Inspector, Badagaon 7. Sanjay singh, Nayab Tahasildar Athgaonva Duration of the incident: From September 2005 to date

I am writing to you to inquire into the situation of Mrs. Munia devi, the current village head of Koirajpur village, under Harhua Block in Varanasi district of Uttar Pradesh, India.

I have been informed that Munia is from the Chamar community belonging to the Scheduled Caste in India. I understand that Munia was elected as the village head in September 2005, but is still denied to the rights to discharge her duties and has being denied control over the management of the village by the upper caste persons named above. I am surprised to know that the village secretary who was appointed by the government to help the village head in manage affairs has joined hands with the upper caste people and is not aiding Munia in any way.

I have also learned that Munia was physically assaulted by Mr. Ravindra singh for voicing her opposition to the corruption within PDS (Public Distribution System) shop. I know that Munia was allegedly verbally abused and intimidated by Mr. Ravindra Singh, the husband of PDS shop keeper.

I am aware that the election of Munia as the village head of Koirajpur village was because the constituency was reserved for a member from the Scheduled Caste or Tribe during the 2005 elections. However, I understand that even though Munia was elected she is not able to discharge her duties as the village head thus far due to the threats and intimidation of the upper caste members named above and also due to the non-cooperation of the village secretary Mr. Lalchand.

I am also aware that the 73rd amendment of the Indian Constitution was to percolate local administration to village level and also to facilitate empowerment of the marginalized communities in India especially the members of the lower caste and those from the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe and the women. However, from the facts made available to me regarding Munia's case suggest to me that such an attempt is yet to take real shape owing to various tactics played by the upper caste Hindus in rural villages in India. I am aware that while on the one hand this case could be considered as yet another example of caste based discrimination in India, I also see this case as a glaring example of the administrative failure in several parts of India, particularly in rural villages.

It is clear that the acts meted out against Munia are a crime under Section 3(x) and section 4 of the Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. However, I am surprised to know why no action has been taken against the perpetrators in this case. I therefore urge you to immediately institute an impartial inquiry into this case and see to it that the complaints of Munia are addressed and also necessary action is taken under the provisions of the above law against the alleged perpetrators. I am also informed that the Asian Human Rights Commission is writing a separate letter to Mr. Doudou Diene the United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism and racial discrimination to express concern about this case and calling for an intervention.

I look forward to your urgent intervention in this case.

Sincerely your’s,



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