A Public Meeting on the “Right to Dissent”

Janhastakshep, Campaign Against Fascist Designs invite you for a public meeting
Date & Time : November 26 at 5 P.M.
Venue: Gandhi Peace Foundation, Deen Dayal Upadhaya Marg, ITO, New Delhi.
Panelists: Mr. Surendra Mohan (Former M.P.), Mr. Rajendra Sachar (Former Chief Justice Delhi High Court), Mr. Neelabh Mishra (Journalist), Mr. Prashant Bhushan (Advocate Supreme Court), Mr. Manoj Mitta (Journalist), Mr. Jaspal Sidhu (Journalist) and others

On November 16, thousands of people gathered in the village Nanda Ka Pura in the district of Kaushambi in U.P. to pay their respectful homage to Uda Devi, a well known dalit martyr of the 1857 Indian War of Independence. To prevent the assembly the State Administration had imposed preventive measures U/s 144 of Cr. P.C. leading to lathi charge and firing on the people. People there were not deterred even by such repressive measures wherein 30 peoples sustained injuries.

On November 3, when the Sikh community in Punjab was protesting against the anti-Sikh violence of 1984 and against the denial of justice for the victims of that violence, a group of tenant- peasants of village Khanna-Chamiara were subjected to unprovoked and indiscriminate firing. These peasants were protesting against the attempts to vacate the land being cultivated by them for the past 60 to 70 years. The irony is; the entire operation culminating in the killing of two and injuring many peasants, was ordered by the so-called Task Force of S.G.P.C., which was supposed to protect the interest of Sikhs.

The country is witness to widespread popular movements on the issues of displacements of dalits and tribals in the States of West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Orissa. The rulers in different States are resorting to the draconian provisions under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) for suppressing the voice of dissent. In Chattisgarh mere criticism of the state government invites black laws such as “sedition” to be slammed upon members of the press, intellectuals and civil liberties activists. In West Bengal well know intellectuals such as Aparna Sen and Mahashweta Devi have been threatened under the UAPA.

Recently contempt proceedings have been initiated against Shri Prashant Bhushan, a noted Human Rights activist in the Supreme Court for his reported statement that Hon’ble Mr. Justice S.H.Kapadia should have recused himself from hearing matters relating to the Vedanta Group of Companies since there was an element of conflict of interest.

In his reported statement, Shri Prashant Bhushan had only raised the issue of judicial propriety wherein Hon’ble Mr. Justice S.H. Kapadia had candidly observed in the open court that he was holding shares in the Vedanta/Sterlite Group of Companies; and even after making such observation he proceeded in the hearing and passing orders in the matters involving the said Vedanta/Sterlite Group of Companies. It is the basic postulate in the Rule of Law that no person shall be judge in his own cause and justice should not only be done but seen to be done. The reported observation of Shri Prashant Bhushan was made with a view to bring about transparency in the judicial functioning. The fact that in a subsequent development, Hon’ble Mr. Justice Kapadia has recused himself from hearing matters relating to Vedanta/Sterlite Group of Companies on the self – same ground is also indicative of the prima facie correct view on the part of Shri Prashant Bhushan.

The resort to invoking contempt jurisdiction of the Superior Courts to deal with such situations is nothing but an attempt to gag the fearless voice of human rights activists who are striving to bring forward issues of judicial transparency and accountability to public domain. From being the institution which has been entrusted to protect the citizens constitutionally guaranteed rights, the courts are increasingly becoming willing instruments for further suppression and curtailment of people’s rights and freedom by the state and ruling political powers.

Jan Hastakshep as a part of its constant endeavor to raise basic issues concerning the working masses would request your participation in the meeting to be held on November 26 at 5 P.M. at Gandhi Peace Foundation, Deen Dayal Upadhaya Marg, New Delhi.

Prof. N.K. Bhattacharya

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