Retired Judge Jyotsana Yagnik threatened; murder convicts out on bail
The undersigned civil society organizations and concerned citizens have taken serious note of a news report (IE May 11, 2015) about the intimidation of a retired judge, Ms Jyotsana Yagnik, who, in her capacity as special judge had, in August 2012, convicted former Gujarat BJP minister Maya Kodnani, former Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi and 30 others in the 2002 massacre of 97 Muslims in Naroda Patiya. Ms Yagnik has received at least 22 threat letters since the verdict, as well as blank phone calls at her home. The 62 year old judge has informed the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team about the threats and phone calls, but instead of strengthening her protection, the government has scaled down her security cover.
The SIT convenor and Additional DIG of Police has denied knowledge of the letters, according to the news-report. Meanwhile convict Maya Kodnani, condemned to life imprisonment as principal conspirator in a massacre, has been out on bail since mid-2014, and convict Babu Bajrangi, sentenced to imprisonment till death is now about to enjoy three months bail for medical treatment.
The Indian criminal justice system is being politically degraded with every passing day. With regard to the violence in Gujarat in 2002, there have been instances of several encounter-accused policemen being re-instated and cases against them being quietly dropped. Meanwhile in Maharashtra, there is no sign that the murderers of Narendra Dabholkar and Gobind Pansare will ever be caught. In Bihar, the acquittals of those accused of massacring Dalits in Shankarbigha and Bathani-tola show that the justice system is incapable or unwilling to punish those who commit mass crimes. Now we have an upright judge being threatened, whilst murder convicts guilty of heinous crimes are out on bail, and suspended policemen obtain re-instatement.
An onslaught on justice is taking place in broad daylight. It is now clear that the Modi-led government finds India’s criminal justice system and independent judiciary to be an obstacle blocking its long-term plans. The incidence of prejudice in the courts is nothing new - the 1984 pogrom inaugurated a new era in the erosion of Indian justice. The NDA government has given impetus to this process. The ideological hooligans of the so-called 'Sangh parivar' are convinced they are above the law. Corruption does not merely have monetary implications. The erosion of judicial independence taking place before our eyes is also corruption. Building trustworthy public institutions is a prolonged process that takes decades. But they can be destroyed very rapidly, especially when state power is used (covertly or openly), to intimidate judges like Ms Jyotsna Yagnik.
Criminals these days feel free to physically intimidate the judiciary, and the police appear to be treating it as a minor matter. Threatening a judge exemplifies a fascist mentality. Politicised justice breeds hatred and despair among its victims. Those who manipulate justice, on the other hand, are announcing their profound contempt for the very value of justice. They are sending all of us a sinister message – justice is whatever we say it is. Let us remind ourselves, therefore, that if justice becomes a device for strengthening one political group at the expense of others, for eliminating enemies and assisting allies, law will have cast off even the mask of neutrality. If judicial decisions become predictable, this can only mean that the judiciary has been compromised and hooliganism has entered the working of the state at the highest levels. Only an alert public can defeat this kind of politics.
By undermining the citizens’ faith in a fearless judiciary, the elimination of law will threaten the very foundations of the democratic state. All elected representatives should remember that the Constitution is the fundamental statute of the Indian Union, which protects us from violent and tyrannical behaviour by criminals and/or persons in power. If they keep silent in the face of the ongoing sabotage of justice, our MP’s and MLA’s shall be betraying their oath of office. We ask all judicial, police & IAS officials to remember their oath of loyalty to the Indian Constitution.
In light of the above, we demand that the Gujarat government take immediate steps to ensure Ms Jyotsana Yagnik’s safety, and investigate the threats she has received. If any harm comes to this judge, the Gujarat government and its patron at the Centre will be held responsible by public opinion.
We call upon all democratic civil society organizations and concerned individuals to launch a campaign to strengthen the criminal justice system and the autonomy of the judiciary. Instances of the perversion of justice by any party, official or civil, should be highlighted and resisted.
Battini Rao, Convener, People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS)
Subhash Gatade, New Socialist Initiative
Ovais Sultan Khan
Harsh Kapoor (PADS)
Ram Puniyani, All India Secular Forum
Ann Ninan Journalist, Noida
Suhas Borker, Working Group on Alternative Strategies
Javed Anand, Citizens for Justice and Peace Mumbai
Harsh Mander, Aman Biradari, Delhi
Jawad Mohammed, Chennai
Kareem Sait, Chennai
Darryl DMonte, Journalist, Mumbai
Professor D N Jha, Formerly at Delhi University
Sumi Krishna, Independent researcher, Bangalore
Chitra Joshi, Delhi University
John Dayal, New Delhi
Badri Raina, Delhi
Prakash N. Shah, Editor, Nireekshak, Ahmedabad
Anand Patwardhan, Mumbai
Sukla Sen, EKTA (Committee for Communal Amity), Mumbai
Kishor V Thaker, Ahmedabad
Warisha Farasat, Advocate
Rabin Chakraborty, Kolkata
Salil Biswas, Kolkata
Rana P Behal
Jyoti Punwani, journalist, mumbai
Dr. Zaheer Ahmed Sayeed, Chennai
Ritu Dewan, Executive Director, Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai
Sagar Rabari, Ahmedabad
Prof Pritam Singh, Oxford, UK
Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Feminist and Human Rights Activist, Mumbai
Rashmi Varma, London
Shobha Aggarwal, Advocate & Jt. Secretary, PIL Watch Group, New Delhi
Kasim Sait Progressive-Interactions, Chennai
Xavier Dias, Ranchi, Jharkhand
Dr. Mary Mathai
Madhusree Mukerjee, author
Nisha Biswas, Kolkata
Debdatta Chakrabarti, USA
Sanjay Kumar, People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism, New Delhi
Mohammad Imran, NRI SAHI, Lucknow, India and NJ, USA
Virginia Saldanha, Secretary ICWM
Tapan Bose, South Asia Forum for Human Rights New Delhi
Ania Loomba, Delhi and Philadelphia
Pushpa Achanta, Independent journalist, Bangalore
Rohini Hensman, Writer and researcher, Bombay
Kumar Prashant Gandhian worker/Thinker, Mumbai
Kavita Panjabi, Jadavpur University
Mahmood Farooqui, Writer, Delhi
Khalid Azam, United States
Fiaz A. Khan
Sujay Basu, Kolkata
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DG Vanzara's letter - Times of India (2013)
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