Statement by Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL)
On 14 April, 2016 the Chhattisgarh government dismissed Sukma’s Chief Judicial Magistrate Prabhakar Gwal. A 2006 batch judicial officer, Gwal, belongs to the Dalit community and has questioned the manner in which the police have been indiscriminately arresting tribals in the conflict zones of Chhattisgarh. It is in this background, on 8th February 2016, the Sukma Superintendent of Police complained to the District Judiciary against Gwal stating that among other things he has been granting bail to naxal accused and such decisions have “adversely affected the morale of the security forces” and “weakens the judicial process”. It is based on such complaints that Chhattisgarh government dismissed Gwal on the grounds of “public interest” following the recommendation of the Chhattisgarh High Court.
Police high-handedness and harassment of those involved in the administration of justice is nothing new to the conflict zones of Chhattisgarh. Recently advocates of the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group (JagLAG) have been forcefully evicted from Jagdalpur and pressure is being mounted on them by the police administration and police backed vigilante groups to cease their legal practice. JagLAG has been providing legal Aid to many tribals incarcerated in Jagdalpur and Dantewada. Similarly Social activists such as Soni Sori and Bela Bhatia and journalists like Malini Subramaniam, Prabhat Singh, Santosh Yadav and Somaru Nag who have been raising issues of Human rights violations by the police administration have been threatened, attacked or even arrested. Under the pretext of “Mission 2016”, i.e., the present offensive launched by the government to wipe out the Maoist movement in Chhattisgarh, the police in these areas have been taking steps to see that no alternate voice emanates from these areas.
Chhattisgarh jails are filled with tribals who have been arrested, several false and fabricated criminal cases are foisted upon them and they remain incarcerated for several years. Anyone who supports such tribals and questions the policies of the state are branded as “terrorists” or “anti-national”. In such a situation, the judicial system is their last hope. Hence, it is vital that the judiciary be allowed to carry on its functions in accordance with law and without any interference from the police. Gwal’s termination is a further step in this direction.
Interference by the security agencies in the judiciary seems to be a larger and concerted effort on the part of the BJP, the ruling party at both the Center and Chhattisgarh state. In an unprecedented move, the National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval briefed the Supreme Court judges on national security issues and the threat of terrorism at the three-day retreat held earlier in this month. Police excesses in the name of security concerns have been abundant especially in Kashmir, the North-East, Chhattisgarh, etc. It is wrong that only one view point is projected. To present a one-sided, security-centric view would amount to interfering in the judiciary.
The Indian Association of Peoples’ Lawyers condemns these acts of interference in the judiciary and harassment of those administering justice by the security agencies. Such interference also militates against the basic structure of the Constitution – namely the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary. IAPL calls upon all, especially those from the legal fraternity to resist these moves to prejudice the judiciary and also demands the immediate reinstatement of Prabhakar Gwal as the Sukma CJM.
Adv. Surendra Gadling (Nagpur),
Adv. Ravindra Balla (Hyderabad),
Adv. Maharukh Adenwalla (Mumbai),
Adv. Sudha Bharadwaj (Raipur)
Adv. Ankit Grewal (Chandigarh)
for Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL)