India: Human Rights Defenders being silenced by the court?

January 17, 2016

Pushkar Raj (who taught political science in Delhi University and was the National General Secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) in India and is now based in Melbourne) published a piece entitled “Who will speak for the Human Rights Defenders?” in Samaj Weekly and reproduced by on 17 January 2016.  In this piece he concludes that the Bombay high court judgment cancelling Prof. Sai Baba’s bail and initiating contempt proceedings against the writer Arundhati Roy is a major blow to the human rights defenders in India and a departure from the courts’ support to the cause of human rights.

Dr. Sai Baba was arrested in 2014 for allegedly indulging in maoist activities. He was charged under various sections of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and later denied bail. In an article in a magazine Arundhati Roy had questioned the manner of arrest of the professor and grounds on which he was denied bail. She had criticized the courts in the country for following different set of rules while granting bail depending on person’s ideology and proximity with the government of the day.

Dr. Sai Baba organized and participated in the meetings in the capital that highlighted the misery of the indigenous population. Arundhati Roy stressed that Dr. Sai Baba is primarily a human rights defender who should be treated humanely in light of his 90 per cent disability and the jurisprudence principle of presumption of innocence till proven guilty. In the article which is the subject of ‘interference in administration of justice’ charge against her, the writer puts her perspective with her own set of arguments. These arguments may be right or wrong. ..It is a matter of concern that the contempt proceedings against Arundhati Roy, might serve as a warning to the writers and thinkers of the country to stay away from the public issues. Already, a section of the government has vilified a large number of writers because they dared to voice against encouraging and growing intolerance in the Indian society.

Any kind of threatening message coming from any branch of the government on thought and its expression is an erosion of our constitutional values and detrimental to the interest of our society…The Bombay high court judgment is regrettable that it has come from an institution – the judiciary – that the writers and HRDs of the country look up for protection of their life and civil liberties. Several of courts’ landmark judgments preserved and expanded the rights of the individual rather than shrinking them. In that light, the Bombay high court bench judgment is an exception. The present case is sure to go to the Supreme Court. One hopes that it will be reviewed and nullified in the interest of civil liberties and constitutional values of the country.

Source: Who will speak for the Human Rights Defenders? |

One Response to “India: Human Rights Defenders being silenced by the court?”

  1. […] See also my earlier: […]

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