25 November 2006,
This year's National Law Day seminar honored India's Law Minister, Mr. P. Bhardwaj and former Chief Justice Lahoti for their contribution to Law and Judiciary. Unfortunately, the seminar ignored serious concerns of country's judicial and criminal system. The seminar limited the scope of creative legal discussions by whipping around "Terrorism" , Hindutva's favourite theme, in all of its nine sessions!
One of the recipient of the award, Justice C.J Lahoti is a strong proponent of Capital Punishment who disagreed with his successor Justice Y K Sabharwal, who wants to do away with the extreme step of awarding the life sentence as was done in European countries and many states of US.
The event was totally hijacked by Sangh Parivar Law lobbying groups and many of them asked for more draconian laws to protect security personnels.
The hidden agenda or Sangh Parivar was very visible from the topics selected by the event organizers. All of them ended with Hindutva's key word, "Terrorism" :
- Effectiveness of law in preventing terrorism;
- Impact of terrorism on economy;
- Media and terrorism;
- International cooperation to fight terrorism;
- Should capital punishment be mandatory for terrorist acts?;
- Human rights and terrorism;
- Role of Courts in dealing with terrorism;
- Inter-governmental coordination against terrorism;
- Impact of hostility between nations on terrorism.
India’s subordinate courts have a backlog of over 22 million cases while the 21 high courts and the Supreme Court have 3.5 million and 32,000 pending cases (2006) There were 13 judges for every million people. Merely 7.8% Muslim employees working in Judicial sector of 12 high-Muslim population states surveyed by Sachar Panel.
India not having ratified the Convention against Torture, its citizens do not have the opportunity to find recourse in remedies that are available under international law. The victims are trapped with the local Hindu caste system, which in every aspect militates against their rights. Many victims conclude that a justice system accessible to the poor of the land does not exist at all.
So far, two special anti-terror laws In India, have been taken off the statute book after they were being used to target members of a minorities in India. Before POTA, TADA, enacted by Rajiv Gandhi government at the height of Sikh revolt in punjab, was allowed to lapse when it came up for renewal because of an effective campaign against its alleged "misuse" against the minority communities. Various reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Indian Human Rights groups revealed hundreds of stories of abuse by security officials using these draconian laws.
According to the National Human Rights Commission, as on 30th June 2004, there were 3,32,112 prisoners in Indian jails out of which 2,39,146 were under trial prisoners. That’s more than 70 per cent. India's jails hold a disproportionate number of the country's minority Muslims, a sign of discrimination and alienation from the Hindu majority.
Police personnel, however, have continued to demand for special legal back up to cope with the terror threat. In the absence of POTA, cops probing the Mumbai serial blasts booked the alleged persons under MCOCA which, unlike the normal law, admits confessions recorded by senior police officials. During the event, Intelligence Bureau Chief ESL Narasimhan asked for adequate legal protection for cops in counter-terrorism operations.
He complained that officers responsible for neutralizing kashmir militant attacks are subjected to legal and extra-legal campaigns by Human Rights activists.
Even, the Union Minister for Law and Justice H R Bhardwaj, who was one of the recipients of the award, endorsed Intelligence Bureau Chief ESL Narasimhan's demand for new laws to tackle terrorism. Bhardwaj said that the criminal judicial system was caught between protection of human rights and the changing pattern of organized crimes against state.
But, the PM Manmohan Singh on Saturday turned down the demand of Intelligence Bureau chief E S L Narasimhan for the enactment of a new law.
In what was seen as a riposte to Narasimhan’s spirited pitch for a special law on the ground that existing legal architecture was not adequate to deal with the new-age terrorist, Singh suggested that authorities should take recourse to "stringent measures" under existing laws to "cut off" the illegal flow of money to terrorists through money laundering and organized crime.
Speaking at a seminar on "Law, Terrorism and Development" here, the PM was in complete agreement with the IB on the threat posed by different forms of terrorism. "Having large financial and material resources at their disposal, terrorist groups are able to use modern communication systems and state-of-the art technology to pursue their agenda. They have become more sophisticated, better networked and highly motivated in carrying out their nefarious designs. A matter of extreme concern is also their linkage with organized crime, like drug trafficking, gun running, counterfeit currency and money-laundering," he said.
However, he appeared to suggest that existing laws had enough teeth. "We also need to use relevant provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act to cut off the flow of funds to terrorist groups," Singh said.
On Thursday, Narasimhan had argued for a special law to cope with the changed scenario since the existing legal framework was conceived. The PM, who was present when he spoke, had kept mum.
The subject of a special law has been politically fraught, with vocal liberal groups charging that they are used to harass members of the minority community.
The PM spoke against stapling the terror tag on any community. "No community or religion can and should be blamed for irresponsible and violent acts of a few individuals of that community or religion. Terrorists have to be dealt with as terrorists per se." However, he suggested that leaders of all communities should work to encourage "fringe elements seeking to disrupt society" to join the national mainstream.
Law and Justice Minister Hans Raj Bhardwaj, retired Chief Justice R C Lahoti and eight others honored on Law Day for their "unique contribution" to the administration of justice. The awarders was picked by an 11-member jury led by former Chief Justice P N Bhagwati
Bhardwaj has been selected for contributing to legislative and judicial reforms and Justice Lahoti for making the administration of justice "litigant-friendly," event sponsor Indian Council of Jurists said in a statement.
Milon K. Banerjee has been nominated for his contribution to evolution of jurisprudence.
Advocate General of Uttar Pradesh S.M.A.Kazmi (constitutional law); Mr. M.R.Prasanna (company law); Ravi Singhania (corporate law); Amarjit Singh Chandhiok (civil law); Satish Aggarwala (narcotics and revenue laws);. A. Thiyagarajan (taxation laws) and Nipun Gupta (woman lawyer) would be the other recipients of the award.
On March 2, 2003,Washington Post Foreign Service (Page A27) reported a story of a 82-Year-Old Man, Kedar
Nath Gupta who is still fighting on charges dating to 1963 on custom duty allegations. The WP news report adds:
"There should be rigorous imprisonment," Satish Aggarwala, the prosecutor in the case, said in an interview before last month's court proceeding. "Why shouldn't he be sent to jail? He was involved in an economic offense."
Strangely, this lawyer is too one among the recipient of the law award in the country.
The awarders have been selected by a high profile jury chaired by former Supreme Court Chief Justice P.N. Bhagwati. The other jury members are Mr. Justice Shivraj Patil, Member, National Human Rights Commission; V. Narayanasamy, President, Indian Council of Jurists; Mr. Justice K.N. Saikia, retired Judge, Supreme Court; Mr. Justice A.N. Divecha, retired Chairman, MRTP Commission; Mr. Justice Faizan Uddin, retired Judge, Supreme Court; Mr. Justice D.S. Tewatia, former Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court; Mr. Vijay Karan, former Director of CBI; Mr. Justice H.L. Agarwal, former Chief Justice of Orissa High Court; Mr. Justice J.D. Jain, retired Judge, Delhi High Court and Mr. Adish C. Aggarwala, Chairman, All India Bar Association.
The awards are part of Law Day celebrations to commemorate the adoption of India's Constitution on November 26, 1949, two months before it came into force.
The event, jointly organized by Indian Council of Jurists, All India Bar Association and India Legal Information Institute includes a seminar on Law, Terrorism and Development, with nine working sessions.
About 20 per cent, or 200 million, are religious minorities. Muslims constitutes 138 million or 13.4 per cent, Christians 24 million or 2.3 per cent, Sikhs 19 million or 2 per cent, Buddhists 8 million or 0.8 per cent and Jains 4 million or 0.4 per cent. "Others" numbered 6.6 million or 0.6 per cent. Christians provided education at all levels to other religious groups without prosyletisation. According to Tahir Mahmoud, an Indian Muslim journalist, “The 2.3 per cent Christians in the Indian population cater to 20 per cent of all primary education in India, 10 per cent of all the literacy and community health care, 25 per cent of all existing care of destitutes and orphans, 30 per cent of all the handicapped, lepers and AIDS patients etc”.
1.38 billion.Muslims across India are severely under-represented in government employment, including PSUs. Ironically, West Bengal, a communist ruled state reported 0 (zero) percent of Muslims in higher positions in its PSUs. ( Justice Rajinder Sachar Committee)
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in its Report on the Prevention of Atrocities on Scheduled Castes released in 2002, had said there was "virtually no monitoring of the implementation of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act at any level." It had pointed out that Vigilance and Monitoring Committees, as prescribed under the Act, had not been constituted and where such Committees existed they hardly functioned. The quality of prosecution was poor because the functionaries entrusted with the work lacked both competence and motivation, it said.
The National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) registers a case of cruelty by husbands and relatives every nine minutes.
With Inputs from