Release IROM SHARMILA
Mr. Okram Ibobi Singh
Chief Minister of Manipur
Chief Minister of Delhi
Mr Raman Singh
Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh
Subject: IMMEDIATE RELEASE OF SONI SORI AND LINGARAM KODOPI
We are writing to ask you to drop all charges against Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi and release them immediately and unconditionally.
Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi are Adivasi activists who have been in detention in Chhattisgarh since 2011. They are accused of working with armed Maoists.
These charges are false and politically motivated, and are intended to silence their non-violent activism.
We consider Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi to be prisoners of conscience who have been arrested solely for questioning human rights violations committed by your government.
Soni Sori has been acquitted in five cases against her and granted bail in one case. Lingaram Kodopi has been acquitted in one of two cases against him.
We are also concerned that there has been no investigation into Soni Sori’s allegations that she was beaten, sexually assaulted and given electric shocks while she was in police custody on 8 and 9 October 2011.
A government hospital that examined Soni Sori under Supreme Court orders had reported that two stones had been inserted in her vagina and one in her rectum, and that she had annular tears in her spine.
The government of Chhattisgarh must investigate these allegations without further delay and bring those responsible to justice. We are concerned that many other Adivasis in Chhattisgarh today are in situations similar to that of Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi. We urge your government to respect its obligations under the Constitution of India and international law, and end this abuse of the rights of your citizens. Listening to the concerns of Adivasis will do much more to bring peace to Chhattisgarh than silencing their voices.
Nagaraja Mysore Rasghupathi ,
Amnesty International India
Delhi Solidarity Group
Human Rights Law Network
Khalra Centre for Human Rights Defenders
Sawajwadi Jan Parishad
Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression
I am writing to express solidarity to the ten-year-long fast of Ms. Irom Sharmila Chanu, the Iron Lady of Manipur and her cause.
I am informed that Sharmila has started the fast on 5 November 2000, protesting against the violence committed by state and non-state actors in Manipur. I am aware that the protest also demands an immediate end of impunity in the state, for which the withdrawal of the martial law, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA), from Manipur is a prerequisite.
I am worried about the sufferings of the ordinary people of Manipur at the hands of the underground militant organisations as well as the state agencies.
I am aware that the AFSPA is enforced in Manipur to support government actions in the state in countering secessionist activities and underground militant acts. Yet, it is now certain that the AFSPA has not helped in countering militancy in Manipur, but in fact has enraged it.
I am informed that the climate of impunity is one of the reasons why conflict continues in Manipur.
The AFSPA, as far I understand is an addition to the overall impunity framework that has contributed to the deterioration of the state of rule of law in Manipur. My opinion is also shared by national bodies including Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee; the Second Administrative Reforms Commission; and the Prime Minister's Working Group on Confidence-Building Measures in Jammu and Kashmir. I am informed that these eminent bodies have recommended the government to withdraw AFSPA from operation since they are of the informed opinion that a law like the AFSPA will only facilitate violence and not prevent it.
I am convinced that under the current circumstances in Manipur the withdrawal of AFSPA will not in itself solve the Manipur crisis.
Yet, it could be a bold and open step by the government to show that it is determined to find solution to an armed conflict that has haunted an entire generation in the state. The withdrawal of AFSPA from Manipur will be recognition to the sufferings of the state's people and an expression of respect and acknowledgment of their rights.
Additionally, withdrawing AFSPA from Manipur will be a catalyst to end the climate of impunity in the state. Jai Hind. Vande Mataram.
Your’s sincerely ,
INDIA: 10 questions to Union Home Minister Mr.Shinde on Manipur
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) appreciates the effort taken by the Home Minister of India in undertaking a visit to Manipur. Manipur is one of the states in India with a poor human rights record. During the past three years the number of encounter killings reported from the state has steadily increased, until the state administration faced severe criticism for the public execution of two persons on July 23, 2009 by the state police. Mr. Shinde and a team of officers from the Union Home Ministry are visiting Manipur today and tomorrow.
The Home Minister is known to be having a professional as well as no-nonsense approach in work. Many in India hold him at a high esteem, referring to the Minister as a person who assesses officers and institutions under his command on the basis of their performance. Based on these references, the AHRC wishes to place before the Home Minister the following questions, so that the Minister will be able to help the state administration and the people of Manipur in finding a sensible solution to the six decade long internal conflict in that state.
1. Can the state administration account for the money that it has spent in the past five years for countering insurgent activities in the state? Can it provide the exact details as to who was paid what amount? It is not required for the state government to publically account every single Rupee of the tax money that it has spent on countering insurgency. But it must be able to produce records to the satisfaction of the Union Home Ministry for at least those expenses, where the spending was Rs. 200,000 or above in a single payment.
The AHRC appreciates the value and sensitivity of 'human.int.' in counter insurgency work. Yet, the state administration must be able to account to the Union Home Ministry that supports the release of such 'Central Funds' to state government.
2. What training was provided to the Manipur State Police and its State Police Commando Unit in the past two years to deal with insurgency? Does it meet the requirements of training offered to a civilian police force that is to undertake counter insurgency activities respecting the rule of law? How many police officers have received such training?
3. What is the process of recruitment to the state police in Manipur? What is the guarantee that the candidates selected for training and appointment in the state police are not selected on the basis of bribes paid to the Chief Minister or to his party's MLAs?
The AHRC has credible information that to secure appointment as a Trainee Sub-Inspector in Manipur, a candidate is required to pay Rs. 1,400,000 to Rs. 1,800,000 as bribe to the Chief Minister or to a designated MLA as of 2010. The AHRC is informed that the officers upon appointment, realises through various means from the public the bribe they have paid to secure a job in the state police service. The AHRC also has credible information that in the process police officers are engaged in extortion, conniving with some of the criminal elements that are also listed in the prohibited organisations' list by the Union Government. It is reported that such widespread corruption is one of the important reasons for a high number of encounter killings and unabated criminal extortion in the state.
4. How many police officers have been investigated in the past three years for crimes alleged to have committed by them, in particular torture and criminal extortion? If any such investigation has been conducted, who has been prosecuted?
If not why?
5. How many instances of encounter killing -- other than the July 23 incident -- have been investigated in the past three years in Manipur? What prevents the state from complying the recommendations made by the National Human Rights Commission concerning encounter killing? If the state administration has conducted such investigations, why is that the reports not sent to the Commission?
6. Why is that most cases of encounter killing show the same pattern?
Most of the cases of encounter killing documented by human rights organisations in Manipur, shows the following pattern: a person is arrested by unidentified police commandos who are often accompanied by officers from a para-military unit or from a military detachment stationed in the state; the arrested person is detained in custody illegally, often for days; later the person found dead at a distant place; the state police immediately release a press note saying that the person was shot dead in an armed encounter; weapons (mostly 0.9 mm pistols, grenades, live cartridges) are shown as recovered from the deceased insurgent.
It would be interesting for the Union Home Ministry to verify how many such recovered/seized articles are produced in courts as material objects recovered from armed insurgents. How many of such recovered materials are kept in police custody? Do they all have separate identification marks? Does the articles and their number tally with the statements issued by the state police in each case? Does the state police have any such accounting system? If so, will the state police dare to make the list public? If not why?
Will the Home Ministry be willing to undertake an impartial accounting of recovered articles? The AHRC is willing to collaborate in such a process with the Union as well as State administration.
In 2009, between January and November, the state police have reported 272 executions, which was publically admitted by Mr. Joykumar Singh, the current Director General of Police. In most of the cases, the above pattern has been noted.
This proves two things. One, it defies logic. Further it could also suggest that the state police are ill equipped and ill prepared that many persons they arrest escape from their custody. Or, it has to be assumed that the state police is well informed that at least 24 times each month in 2009, the state police were able to intercept and engage an armed insurgent invariably resulting in the murder of the armed insurgent. If the latter were the case, there must be no more armed insurgents operating openly in the state, or the insurgents are so naïve that they always expose their armed presence to the state police. None of these would satisfy commonsense or the acumen of a lawyer, which Mr. Shinde is.
7. Will the state administration put an end to the illegal tax collection of some of the armed insurgent groups in Manipur? It is common knowledge that in Manipur many armed insurgent groups prohibited by the Union Government have setup illegal tax collection (criminal extortion) counters adjacent to police check posts on public roads. Every person, particularly drivers in Manipur know this or are their victims. Why have the state police not stopped it? Or are they hand-in-glove with the insurgents? Or is it the police themselves posing as insurgents?
The Home Minister must know that today in Manipur, it is hard to distinguish between an insurgent and a police officer. Both kills with impunity, extorts money by force from the people and are unaccountable to everything under the sun. Can the Home Minister contribute to change this situation?
8. What plans has the state administration made and executed to regain the confidence of the public? At the moment, Manipur is like a volcano that could erupt anytime. Has the state administration taken the effort to make public its public confidence building plans if they have any? If not, what prevented them in doing so?
9. Will the Home Minister meet Ms. Irom Chanu Sharmila? Reports from India inform that the Home Minister will meet human rights activists in Imphal. Does the Home Minister see Sharmila as a threat to the peace of Manipur or a unifying factor to its fragile social fabric?
10. Will the Home Minister make a public report about his visit to Manipur? The public need not know the nuances of the state's security scenario. But every Indian, especially each person in Manipur has a right to know what is their future in terms of their safety and security. Today they have only stories of fear and anger to say about their Chief Minister and the administration he leads. Can the Union Home Minister bring a difference?
If not what hope does Manipuries have of being part of the world's largest democracy?
AFSPA Must Go--The Draconian Law Completes 55 Years
On 4th of March 2009, when it was touching noon,(around 11:50 am), Mohd Azad Khan was reading a newspaper in the courtyard of his house along with one of his neighbouring friends, in Phoubakachao Makha Leikai Yumnan village of west Imphal district, Manipur. Azad, a barely 12 year old boy and a student of class seventh at the local high school, was sitting with his friend Kiyam Anad Singh (14 years), when some personnel of the Manipur Police Commandos rushed in to his house. One of the personnel dragged Azad by both of his hands and started beating him severly. Meanwhile, the commandos asked Kiyam the reason for keeping company with Azad. Didn’t he not know, Azad was an activist of an underground organisation. The commandos showed him a gun saying that it belonged to Azad and slapped him on his face. Subsequently, Azad was dragged out some 70 metres towards the north.
While Azad was being dragged out of the courtyard, the commandos fired some rounds in the air and at the same time other commandos prevented his mother and family from following them, pointing guns and forcing them to go inside their house. After dragging Azad, he was pushed down on the paddy field and shot dead. Almost immediately, the commandos threw a pistol near the dead body. The whole incident was witnessed by his family members as well as neighbouring villagers, as all of this happened in broad daylight. After the killing, the dead body was taken away by the raiding commandos in their vehicles. The villagers tried following the police commandos but were stopped.
Azad is not alone
Believe me, this is not the script of a horror/action film but a real life story. What is most disturbing is that the case of Azad is only one amongst the hundreds killed in cold blood. Over the years, cold blooded murder, or ‘encounter’, as they call it, has become a routine of Manipur. Like Azad, you would be reading the newspaper today and be a news item in tomorrow’s newspaper, which too would be limited to those published in Manipur and neighbouring areas. In the same year, on 23rd July, Chongkham Sanjit (27 years old), was killed in cold blood in broad daylight, barely 500 metres from the state assembly. But it was only when the newsweekly Tehelka, published the photographs of the episode by an anonymous photographer, that news of Sanjit’s cold blooded murder reached us.
Cold blooded killings, and, in particular, fake encounters by the Manipur Police Commandos (MPC) have become a day-to-day affair in the life of Manipuris. In 2008, there were 27 recorded cases of torture and killings by the MPC. In several cases, ordinary civilians carrying money and valuables have been robbed and sometimes killed. In few of the cases, official ‘action’ has been taken but for the most part, their extra-judicial activities goes scot free. In fact, it happens the other way around. Take the case of Azad. Her mother Garamjan Bibi deposed before an Independent People’s Tribunal headed by Justice (retired) K K Usha of Kerala High Court, during 11-13 December 2009. “When I tried to bring out the truth, filling a case with police, the police commandos, warned me to withdraw the case if I wanted to save my life.” It must be mentioned, in all of the cases, Commandos repeatedly threatened the petitioners to withdraw the cases. What is more glaring is that it is not just happening in Manipur only, but different parts of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Kashmir as well.
The root Cause
Why is it happening so? What makes these forces so powerful, or rather, so brutal? The answer is, Arms Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)-1958, a draconian law in the name of maintaining law and order in the so-called disturbed areas. According to the Act, in an area that is declared as ‘disturbed’, even a non- commissioned officer of the armed forces has powers to: "Fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the extent of causing death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law", against "assembly of five or more persons" or possession of deadly weapons. To arrest without a warrant and with the use of "necessary" force on anyone who has committed certain offenses or is suspected of having done so and to enter and search any premise at any time in order to make such arrests. It gives army officers legal protection for their actions. There can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under the law.
The act is not only problematic because of violation of rights that occur in ‘disturbed areas’. But it is also problematic because once the AFSPA is in force – as it is in all Northeast Indian states – the government through a simple notification can declare any area, the entire state, or parts of the state, as ‘disturbed’ without any public debate. The deployment of the armed forces, the suspension of fundamental freedoms and the ‘special powers’ of the armed forces can immediately come into force. An area can remain ‘disturbed’ for years with no end. The act legitimizes a localized form of indefinite emergency rule in the areas. Ironically, the Act is nothing but a replica of the 1942 Ordinance framed by the colonial powers to control the wave of Indian freedom struggle.
AFSPA must go
It has been 53 years, since the act came into being. And over the years, it has become an established fact that due to the draconian law, hundreds of ordinary citizens of the so-called disturbed states like Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Kashmir have lost their lives. Extra-judicial killings, illegal detention, rape, torture has become a routine affair for the people—men, women, old and child all alike, of these ‘disturbed areas’. The act has become a symbol of oppression, an object of hate and an instrument of discrimination and high handedness by the one who is supposed to protect their life, liberty and dignity. Even the Justice Reddy Committee, appointed by Government to study the issue during UPA-I admits it, "the Act, for whatever reason, has become a symbol of oppression, an object of hate and an instrument of discrimination and high handedness." And without an iota of doubt, the impacts of the draconian laws like AFSPA are far reaching and disastrous. These are tools of the Indian government, through which it is alienating and pushing towards the wall its ‘own-people’. Government after government, no matter which party is at the helm of affairs, is not worried about these people, nor ready to scrap this tool of oppression.
This 22nd May, when the draconian law is completing its 53th year of enactment and going to enter the 54th, it is the duty of us, the people from the so-called mainland India to stand up by the side of (or with) the oppressed and demand to scrap the AFSPA. After all, injustice anywhere is everywhere. It is time to join Irom Chanu Sharmila, who is on her fast unto death, now going to enter in eleventh year, with the firm resolution to see the Act meet its end and an end to the injustice (mostly unaccounted) by the armed forces on the innocent civilians. Today when hundreds and thousands of people from Kashmir to Manipur are demanding to scrap the AFSPA, let us come together and join hands, stand in solidarity with the people of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Kashmir and say : AFSPA must go now and by now. Enough is enough.
(Mahtab Alam is a Civil Rights Activist and an independent Journalist. He can be contacted at email@example.com)
INDIA: Use of torture to extract confession, anyone surprised?
The latest news by the WikiLeaks claims that India has systematically used torture to extract confessions and has allowed its armed forces to resort to brutal human rights abuses like extrajudicial executions and disappearances to instil fear, and thus control the population in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The report asserts that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was concerned about New Delhi's despicable tolerance of the issue and that the government practically did nothing to prevent torture and has consistently condoned it. The lack of action by the government and the impossibility of the government soldiers to be investigated or punished for engaging in torture has contributed in no less terms towards the alarmingly high number of extrajudicial executions and disappearances in that state, the leaked wires claim.
Torture, extrajudicial execution and disappearances are no news to Indians though. The diplomatic wires leaked by the WikiLeaks and the sudden news value it has attained in India and abroad is similar to someone expressing surprise after hearing that the earth's shape is very close to that of an oblate spheroid and not a perfect sphere. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), AHRC's national partners, as well as other civil society groups in the country and aboard have been contenting for years, with sufficient proof, that the practice of torture and encounter killings - a euphemism for extrajudicial executions in India - is consistent and widespread in the country. During the past six decades, the practice of torture and the number of encounter killings have only increased steadily and it never showed a tendency to decrease.
The AHRC has analysed this issue, and has been arguing that torture is used as a tool for social control in India. The AHRC has contented that similar is the state of affairs in other South Asian states like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. In fact more than 80 percent of AHRC's human rights interventions on its engagement in South Asia is against torture, all of which is available at http://humanrights.asia The AHRC has consistently argued that the widespread use of torture in the region is the result of the failed domestic institutions, in particular, the police, prosecution and the judiciary and hence is the central deficit in realising human rights in the region. The AHRC has been drawing the attention of national governments as well as that of the international human rights community to this issue, and has been consistently urging the international community in particular, to work with the national governments and the civil society in the region to address this perennial issue, without which there can be no visible improvement to the protection, promotion and fulfilment of human rights in the region.
Concerning India, the AHRC has reported, in the past six years, more than 500 cases with meticulously documented details, including names, dates, places and even affidavits of victims of torture. Each of these cases, reported through the Urgent Appeals programme of the AHRC, has been reported to the Government of India, the respective state governments and the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on Torture calling for an immediate intervention and necessary action. The AHRC has reported when the elected representatives and the law enforcement officers in the country have publically stated that they believe in torture as an effective and necessary tool for crime investigation. The national media has reported at least a dozen incidents in the past 36 months where uniformed police officers where documented torturing suspects in full public view. The AHRC has consistently argued with evidence, that today torture in India is not a mere tool for crime investigation, but it is more often used for extracting bribes, that it promotes corruption, is used for silencing political dissent and to instil fear in the population. The AHRC has argued with proof that torture is most often used against the poor and members of the minority communities. The Supreme Court of India, over the years and on several occasions, has held that the practice of torture is widespread in India and the Court has repeatedly ordered the government to take remedial actions to contain it. The National Human Rights Commission and the short-lived National Police Commission has recommended the Government of India that unless the police is trained and equipped to discharge their responsibilities, that meets the operative standards of a civilian service in a democratic state, the police will continue to use torture as a crude tool to meet their ends. Yet, the government of India has done nothing to address the issue so far.
The farcical approach of the Government of India concerning this serious issue that has made disastrous dents upon the very notion of democracy in the country is evident from the 242-worded law that it passed in the lower house of the Indian Parliament - the Lok Sabha - this year and claimed it to be the law that would suffice the need of the time and will enable the country to ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and is thereby equipped to end torture in India. The AHRC's analysis of the issue is now available in its most recent issue of Article 2, which is available here.
In states like Chhattisgarh and Orissa, where the national government as well as the state administrations are engaged in countering modern India's product to the region - the Naxalites - resulting out of the despicable neglect of the needs of its rural population, the police as well as state sponsored private militia like the Salwa Judum, are engaged in widespread use of torture with impunity. Conditions in Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir is the several folds multiplied effect of the same nemesis, where the Indian armed forces, armoured with the statutory immunity provided by the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 is in operation. It defies commonsense and insults intellect to expect a government that has done practically nothing to prevent torture in rest of the country where it has to fight no armed insurgents, not to allow its armed units stationed in Manipur or Jammu and Kashmir to practice torture or murder civilians.
Those who are from these states, including human rights defenders who have dared to speak against the government, have faced the wrath of the Indian administration. Internationally acclaimed human rights defender and lawyer, Mr. Parvez Imroz, from Jammu and Kashmir is yet to be allowed to travel outside India, since the government has denied him a passport. Human rights defenders in Manipur are afraid that they would be arrested, tortured and even murdered at the behest of the central government or the absolutely corrupt state administration, should they dare to speak about torture or about state-sponsored murders. Environmental activist and human rights defender, Mr. Jiten Yumnam, in Manipur was arrested last year and charged with a fabricated case registered under the non-bailable provisions of the draconian National Security Act, 1980 only because he has been vocal against corruption within the Manipur state administration. Jiten was arrested from Imphal airport, while he was preparing to travel to New Zealand to participate in an international human rights consultation.
Yet, in response to the WikiLeaks news, the government of India has officially responded that torture in India is its internal affair. The government spokesperson has claimed that the government views the news as not serious enough to make a detailed response. Indeed this is expected. It is the same response of the government whenever it is questioned about yet another brutal form of human rights violation practiced in India, caste-based discrimination. What the government fails to admit is that discrimination has never been an internal affair of India, though India still has a caste-enslaved population estimated to constitute 20 percent of the country's population, unable to free from this brutal social and structural evil. Neither are torture or extrajudicial executions, issues remote and irrelevant, to remain as a miniscule family feud between Indians. These are crimes having universal jurisdiction, that today, the rest of the world consider these crimes as crimes against humanity.
If the arguments advanced by the government of India are to be accepted, by condoning apartheid, India was interfering in South Africa's internal affairs and thereby breaching international law. India could also be held responsible for violating state sovereignty and international law for participating in the UN intervention in Rwanda. Lt. General Shiva Kumar, the third and the last Force Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda could be then held for leading an international invasion of Rwanda.
A government that condones caste based discrimination, or torture or extrajudicial executions disserve only contempt. Any government that obstructs the punishment and prevention calls for global humiliation. Its leaders can be prosecuted and punished if they travel to civilised jurisdictions.
Or is it that the government of India believes that Indians are not human. Conversely, is it that the government of India that is inhuman?
INDIA: Can there be a partially honest judiciary?
The simmering debate between three senior judges in India, involving the suspect in a criminal case and a former Union Minister from Tamilnadu state, Mr. A. Raja, and his alleged attempt to influence the court to obtain bail for the suspect with the assistance of the former Chairperson of the Tamilnadu and Pondicherry Bar Council, Mr. R. K. Chandramohan, has once again brought the lingering question of judicial independence and accountability in the country into the forefront of national debates. Of the three judges involved in the debate, one is a sitting judge of the Supreme Court, Justice H. L. Gokhale, the other is the former Chief Justice of India who is now the current Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission and the third judge is a former judge of the Madras High Court, Justice Regupathi. Chandramohan, the lawyer involved in the case has been temporarily suspended from practice and from the powerful post he occupied at the Bar Council, as it's Chairperson.
Four central questions that should be addressed and clarified in this issue are:
(1) Why did the courts -- the Madras High Court, when one of its judges were approached in his chamber, by none other than the Chairperson of the State Bar Council intervening criminally in the judicial process, and the Supreme Court of India, when its Chief Justice was addressed by the Chief Justice of Madras High Court at the request of the judge who was approached by the lawyer -- fail to immediately take actions against the bail petitioner, the lawyer and the minister?
(2) What prevented Justice Regupathi from initiating criminal proceedings against the lawyer, the accused and the minister when they tried to interfere with the court proceedings? The judge was empowered to do so. The courts in India have done it on several occasions in the past. The Indian courts have even misused the contempt of court proceedings often when the judges faced public criticism. Most of these cases involved, in lay language, 'small fries'. But in this case, which involved a powerful lawyer and a minister in the Union Cabinet, the judge appeared to be seeking consensus from his senior colleagues. One cannot be blamed if it is said that in cases involving powerful persons the court hesitates to act.
(3) What prompted the minister or his lawyer to engage in this otherwise audacious attempt of illegally approaching a High Court Judge to decide a case in favour of a particular person? Is it a practice that in this instance got exposed? It is difficult to believe that any lawyer worthy of his salt will dare to do such a task, risking his career. In this case, the lawyer involved is not a novice. He is the Chairperson of the State Bar Council.
(4) Why did not the State Bar Council take action when the judge himself first exposed the case, by his remarks in open court? The Bar Council is a statutory body empowered to take disciplinary actions against lawyers for misconduct. How did such a person become the Chairperson of the Bar Council? Is this the standard of the Bar Council? Now that the case has been exposed, what action has been taken to find the truth behind the matter other than the suspension of the lawyer from the Bar? Why no enquiry is initiated into the case?
Indeed these are some of the many questions that anyone could ask, coming to know the details about the case. Unfortunately, it is a sad irony in India that none in the country would dare to ask such questions, since that could amount to contempt, the way this miserably misused law is practiced in India.
The case not only casts shadow upon a former Union Minister or a retired Chief Justice or other judges in the country. The incident is one more indicator to the fact that it is time to seriously consider looking into the state of affairs within the Indian justice system. The country's judges must know that accountability, transparency and honesty are virtues that they can afford to insist upon the rest of the world only if they practice it among themselves.
The judiciary, irrespective of the geopolitical and legislative environment in which it works, has an inherent problem. It is the very notion of justice. In that, there cannot be a 'partially honest' judiciary. The nature of the institution demands absoluteness. It can be only either completely open, transparent and honest or absolutely dishonest. Justice cannot be 80 percent honest.
Those judges in India, who claim that 20 percent of their colleagues are dishonest, also have the responsibility to disclose the names and details of those judges who are corrupt, so that the litigants and lawyers can avoid such judges. There can never be percentages of honesty and dishonesty awarded to justice. Sadly, in India, it is so. Even worse is the fact that many in the country feel contented about the so-called 80 percent honest judges and thus about the judiciary as an institution. Any comments against it, other than from judges of the Supreme Court, warrants immediate contempt of court action.
This leads to the following additional questions. Can India continue to afford to have a judiciary that house judges having their names tainted with corruption? How long can the Supreme Court afford to have judges who will be transferred to High Courts in Sikkim or Guwahati, whenever their names and credential starts appearing in every place where a judge or his name should not be mentioned? How long can the Indian judiciary expect the people in Assam, Sikkim and Manipur to face the burden of having some of the tainted names in the country's justice system?
What would have been the approach of the higher judiciary, had the judges involved are from the lower courts, like a Magistrate or a Munsiff? Would the Supreme Court or the High Court allow a retired lower court judge to make such remarks like those made by the senior judges in this case? If not, what additional rights do these senior judges have than their colleagues in the lower courts?
Last but not least, how long can India continue to have this mess, what Indians today call as their judiciary?