Travesty Of Justice

‘No’ to Dealth Penalty

Sar Geelani, Amit Bhattacharyya & Rona Wilson

In yet another grim reminder of its inability to understand the grievances of the downtrodden and discriminated, trying to find solutions in retributive justice, the administration has found gallows as the only shelter for its own insecurities. In the judgement delivered on 22/5/2017 by Justice Jyoti Swarup Srivastav, Sessions Judge 1st, Munger (Sessions Trial No. 319/2015) what is evident is a desperate state trying to make its presence felt by enforcing the most barbaric practice that has been decried by many a country in the civilized world. The five accused - Rattu Kora (aged 30 years), Bipin Mandal (27 years), Adhiklal Pandit (68 years), Bano Kora (45 years) and Mannu Kora (30 years) have been sentenced to death on the charge of being involved in an IED blast on 10.4.2014 at a place near Sawa Lakh Baba, PS Oangta OP, district Monger, Bihar under section 147, 148, 149, 121 (A), 122, 124, 341, 307, 302, 353 of IPC, section 16, 17, 18, 20, 23, 35, 27 of UAP Act, section 3/4 of Explosive Act and 134(B) of Representative of People's Act during parliamentary elections in which some CRPF jawans were killed and some of them injured.

The said judgement is not based on any concrete evidence against the accused. First, it is based entirely on the version of the police witnesses. Second, three of the accused, namely, Bipin Mandal, Bano Kora and Mannu Kora, had not even been mentioned earlier by the informant and so their names did not figure in the FIR. Their names were mentioned, along with others, during examination by the informant. Third, the witnesses who have claimed to have learnt the names of the accused from other people did not mention the names of the persons from whom they have supposedly gathered information. Fourth, there is also the omission of witnesses to be called for examination during the trial. Fifth, even the test identification parade (TI parade) was not conducted to identify the accused persons by name. Sixth, under the Indian system of justice, death penalty can be given only in the "rarest of the rare" cases, whereas in this case, it is accorded on mere suspicion and that too based solely on police evidence.

Such a judgement is but a travesty of justice. It has proved beyond doubt the pitiable condition that prevails in India's judicial system and shown that it is virtually impossible for the poor and downtrodden people to get justice under it.

People have witnessed on many occasions how in Bihar during the 1990s, private feudal armies such as the Ranvir Sena killed landless agricultural labourers (mostly dalits) and poor peasants with impunity, and when they resisted, punishment was meted out to the victims of brutality rather than the perpetrators of it. One can recall the death sentence meted out by Gaya court in 2001 to four landless agricultural labourers, lamely, Nanhelal Mochi, Krishna Mochi, Vir Kuyen Paswan and Dharmendra Singh; the apex court also dittoed it. Those prisoners are still in prison along with two other landless agricultural labourers sentenced to life imprisonment namely, Viyas Kahar and Bugal Mochi. The beauty of the system of justice is that the ring leaders of the mass killing at Arwal, Bathanitola, Nagribazar and other places have been acquitted in the court by virtue of being of high caste, landowning origin. People belonging to minority communities such as Muslims are being hanged after being branded as 'terrorists', while the ringleaders of communal riots and genocides such as those in Gujarat got acquittal and now adorn several top political posts. On the other hand, Swadhhi Pragna, the prime accused in the 2004 Malegaon blast case and highly connected with the ruling politico-fundamentalist group got released on bail.

According to an estimate of the National Crime Records Bureau (2015), of all the under-trial prisoners in the Indian prisons, more than 55 percent belong either to the Muslims, Dalit or Adivasi communities. It was stated in one report of the 'Law Commission in India' that more than 70 percent of the under-trial prisoners in India are poor and totally deprived of the right to education. It also stated: 'In India, rich people get bail, while poor people stay in prison'. Not only this. There are many instances of people who have spent long years of their precious lives in prison awaiting trial and have at last been acquitted of all charges. The pressing question is: Can the system of justice give back to those tormented lives those precious years that have been effaced from their lives forever?

In the recent years, as also in the past, India has been projected as the most attractive destination for capital investment in the world. Be it the UPA (1 & 2) as well as the NDA under Narendra Modi there is a pronounced eagerness to be perceived as a country that would and can be an appropriate place for the world to avail the venues opened up by the neoliberal policies without being party to or complicit to the lack of regards for the human rights standards set by the world community through the UN charter envisaged in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). But India's love for retributive justice as the way out for all the ills that are structural and fundamental to continuing inequality in the form of class, caste, region, religion etc., betrays the facade of a place that has respect for the fundamental rights and dignity of the people including the right to life.

At a time when most of the countries of the world—numbering 104—have abolished death penalty, in India, this inhuman practice in the name of justice has been pushed by the court with increasing brutality and that the victims, as always, are, not the high-ups in politico-social ladder, but the poorest and the most downtrodden people of the country.

Retributive justice, especially death penalty, as a means cannot be a marker of a civilized society. Death sentence was an instrument created by the British colonial rulers to subdue and crush the Indian people. That repressive system, along with many other colonial acts, was retained and pushed forward with increasing aggression by the successive Indian governments since independence.

To do away with death penalty as well as all anti-people laws is a protracted struggle that needs consistent efforts and also the coming together of broadest sections of people.

Vol. 50, No.25, Dec 24 - 30, 2017