Indian SC abdicating its role as guardian of civil liberties: Prashant Bhushan

New Delhi, Aug 12 (KMS):  Days after prominent lawyer Kapil Sibbal made remarks expressing his disappointment with the Indian Supreme Court, veteran lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan criticised the apex court pointing out that it has been “abdicating its role as the guardian of civil liberties and human rights of people in India”.

Bhushan was addressing an online event held by United State-based civil rights group Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) on “Indian Supreme Court Rolls Back Civil Liberties”.

The senior Supreme Court lawyer said that the top court is abdicating its responsibilities in two ways. On the one hand, it is not hearing the important cases such as challenges to revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), while on the other; it is denying bail to activists, journalists and other human rights defenders arrested on false charges. In this regard, Bhushan cited the cases of Bhima Koregaon, in which prominent activists were arrested, and the case of Siddique Kappan.

“We have been seeing an assault on civil liberties and any dissent, anybody who stands up and speaks up against this government, especially journalists, activists, etc. A large number of our activists are in jail. Some of our finest human rights activists have been arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case. Many of them were also arrested in the Delhi riots. Many others are charged with sedition like Siddique Kappan etc. or charged under UAPA, have been kept in prison for years together and have been denied bail,” said Bhushan.

He criticised three Supreme Court judges – former chief justice of India, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Khanwilker – for giving judgment in support of the government. Some of them, such as Gogoi and Mishra, were given post-retirement jobs.

“Justice Arun Mishra was another infamous judge who was made the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) soon after retirement. He was allowed to retain his official bungalow for 9 months in violation of the rules and thereafter made the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission,” he said.

“Justice Khanwilkar who has delivered the other three judgments including Zakia Jafri, Himanshu Kumar and PMLA and delivered the Watali judgment has just retired. We don’t know what post he will be given. There are many posts that are vacant- the chairmanship of the Law Commission, the Lokpal’s post. But we have seen from experience that these types of judges who always side with the government especially in judgments before retirement are given post-retirement jobs. Just like Justice Ranjan Gogoi, the Chief Justice who had delivered the Ayodhya judgment, the Rafale judgment just before retirement. And soon after retirement, he was made a member of the Rajya Sabha,” he added.

Talking about the situation of the country under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Bhushan said, “In recent years, since the Narendra Modi Government has come to power, we have seen rampant trampling of the rights of people. There is of course full-blooded assault on the minorities in this country. Lynch mobs are out on the streets. There are lynch mobs on social media. Laws are being made to somehow reduce them to second-class citizens. All kinds of things are being done. Fake encounters of Muslims are being done. Houses of Muslims are being demolished just because they are protesting.”

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