Friday, March 27, 2009

"Hooligan" lawyers assist Medha and the cause of democracy as always



The Supreme Court today heard the appeal filed by the Government of Madhya
Pradesh (GoMP) against the Judgement of the Madhya Pradesh High Court
(Principal Bench: Jabalpur) directing the Government to pay Rs. 10, 000/- to
each Narmada Satyagrahi (more than Rs. 9 lakhs in toto), who, while peacefully
protesting against injustice through displacement without rehabilitation were
subjected to ruthless police force, lathi charge and illegal detention.

Justice Rajinder Sacher pleaded the case very strongly on behalf of Medha
Patkar and Narmada Bachao Andolan, vocally defending the Judgement of the High
Court and the people’s right to protest peacefully when no brutal force
becomes justifiable. The Interim Order delivered today by Justice P. Sathasivam
upholding the High Court Judgement partially directed the GoMP to immediately
(within four weeks) pay Rs. 5000/- to each Satyagrahi totaling Rs. 4.5 lakhs

The Sardar Sarovar Project affected adivasis and farmers: women, men and
children of District Jhabua (now Alirajpur) and Badwani had camped at the
Government lands of Krishi Vigyan Kendra as Satyagrahis, demanding the right to
land for rehabilitation and right to life in July 2007. During the peaceful
Satyagraha, they cultivated the land, without destroying anything belonging to
the Government agency, nor did they disturb peace. When 91 of the Satyagrahis
were arrested on the 25th July 2007, the women were manhandled and
unjustifiable excessive force was used by the Madhya Pradesh police. The
satyagrahis arrested under Sec 151 IPC were lodged in jail illegally without
review even after 24 hours. The 5 days jail period for all and 3-5 days jail to
senior NBA activists Ashish Mandloi and Medha Patkar maliciously invoking old
cases was questionable and so was the whole procedure followed during the
arrest with the use or brutal force and molestation of women.

The incidents and the role of the State was questioned through a letter sent by
Medha Patkar and 25 women from the Indore District Jail which was admitted as a
Public Interest Litigation and the Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh heard the
case, which was pleaded by Senior Advocate Shri N.S. Kale of Jabalpur and the
Advocate General for the GoMP. The historic Judegment by the Chief Justice of
Madhya Pradesh High Court Justice Shri A.K. Patnai, along with Justice Ajit
Singh upheld the right to protest peacefully by the adivasis and other
Satyagrahis in the situation of their right to life, i.e. right to be
rehabilitated as per policy, in the face of displacement, being violated.

The Judgement delivered after full hearing and viewing of CDs provided by both
the GoMP and Narmada Bachao Andolan found that Medha Patkar and other agitators
were forcibly dragged and bodily lifted and put inside the police van. The High
Court found that no circumstances existed to invoke Sections 151 and 107
Cr.P.C. Therefore, the High Court gave a finding that Medha Patkar and other
agitators were exercising their fundamental rights – the freedom of speech
and expression and their arrest was, therefore, gross violation of their
fundamental right, namely Article 19(1)(a), 19(1)(c) and Article 21 (right to
life). It upheld the right of the petitioners to be compensated for the
illegalities involved in the brutal police action and ordered a compensation of
Rs. 10,000 to be paid to each Satyagrahi, which money would be recovered from
GoMP and the responsible SDM of Badwani.

The GoMP went into appeal against the said judgement of the Supreme Court and
the former Justice Rajinder Sacher pleaded for Narmada Bachao Andolan, today on
March, 27th, 2009. The Supreme Court admitted the case, heard the parties, and
gave an interim Order directing the GoMP to pay 50% of the compensation amount
i.e. Rs. 5000/- to each Satyagrahi within 4 weeks from today.

Undoubtedly, the Interim Order is justice delivered not just to NBA Satyagrahis
and Project affected , but to all those in people’s movements fighting for
the right to land and livelihood and indeed the right to true, human and
ecologically just development. Amidst the overall political space for
people’s movements shrinking and the state becoming unjustifiably brutal and
repressive, using force and intimidation to quell and kill people’s rightful
resistance, this is indeed a historic path-breaking judgment that is welcome.

NBA looks forward to the further proceedings in the Court on this matter, which
is highly important to people’s movements at large and is thankful to Justice
Rajinder Sacher with Advocate Sanjay Parikh and also Advocate N.S Kale with
Advocate Abhijiit Bhowmik and Adv Raghavendra for their very valuable
contribution to public interest cause at hand.

Kailash Awasya Ashish Mandloi Clifton Rozario Shrikanth
(09424855042) (022-25212555)

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