Chhattisgarh: Statements condemning the termination of Sukma CJM

April 25, 2016

Statement from CPDR

Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR), Mumbai condemns the sacking of an upright dalit Judge by Chattisgarh government

Prabhakar Gwal, Chief Judicial Magistrate during his posting at Sukma has been dismissed by the Chattisgarh government for being a pro-poor and pro-adivasi. A young dalit 2006 batch judge, he became known for taking on corrupt officers and for being a thorn in the flesh of the government and the police. He has now been summarily terminated “in the public interest” by the Chattisgarh government on the recommendation of the High Court. The government has stated that it is “dispensing with any inquiry since it is not possible to conduct an inquiry”.

What is Prabhakar Gwal’s crime or offence according to the High Court of the state and the government? A complaint forwarded by Sukma’s Superintendent of Police to the District Judge after getting several letters written by number of police station officers that the CJM’s method of working is to obstruct the police which was lowering the morale of the police. His dismissal is the latest in a series of attacks on journalists, lawyers, academicians by the Chattisgarh administration.

This was because this upright judicial officer would insist on asking the name, age, village, father’s name and all relevant details of those arrested, mostly poor tribals and produced before him. Rather than accepting the regular practice till then of permanent warrants produced by the police that have only the name of the arrestee and no other details, Judge Gwal chose to stick to procedure. He would also make it difficult for the police by asking questions about alleged seizures including of weapons, their activities. When it became obvious that the police could not establish any crime against those arrested, he would conclude that those arrested are ordinary villagers. Judge Gwal would go to the extent of communicating directly to those arrested through a Gondi interpreter in the language which the arrestee understood.

This judge was so fearless that he would term the arrests of thousands of people being produced before him as Maoists as fake arrests; he wrote to the District Judge and even Director General of Police Kalluri that the police is implicating innocent people. He went to the extent of issuing warnings to Thanedars that he would send them to jail if they framed innocent people.

In short, the BJP-led governments both at the Centre and in Chattisgarh are preparing for an all-out war on the tribals of Bastar and upright judges like Judge Gwal do not fit in their scheme of actions. Whereas for the people of Bastar, such a judge must have been a ray of hope in an otherwise bleak scenario of displacement and large scale repression, Judge Gwal is yet another blow.

CPDR condemns the unjust and unconstitutional sacking of Judge Prabhakar Gwal and demands his immediate re-instatement.

Dr. Anand Teltumbde
General Secretary,
CPDR, Maharashtra
Date: 24 April 2016.

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*PRESS RELEASE*

Date: 24th April 2016

*CONDEMN THE UNCONSTITUTIONAL TERMINATION OF SUKMA (CHHATTISGARH) CJM! *

*RESIST POLICE INTERFERANCE IN THE JUDCIARY!*

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.

Sd/-

Adv. Surendra Gadling (Nagpur),

Adv. Ravindra Balla (Hyderabad),

Adv. Maharukh Adenwalla (Mumbai),

Adv. Sudha Bharadwaj (Raipur)

Adv. Ankit Grewal (Chandigarh)

for IAPL