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Degradation of juducial system: Criminals feel free to intimidate judiciary

Seventy-two prominent individuals, including activists, civil society representatives and scholars, have protested against the “degradation of Indian criminal justice system” as found reflected in the threat issued to retired judge Jyotsana Yagnik. Yagnik was instrumental in the conviction of BJP minister Maya Kodnani, Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi and 30 others, finding them guilty of the 2002 massacre of 97 Muslims at Naroda Patiya in Ahmedabad.
The letter has been signed, among others, by Dilip Simeon, Dipak Dholakia, Manoranjan Mohanty, Javed Anand, Shamsul Islam, Harsh Mander, Darryl DMonte, Prof DN Jha, John Dayal, Prakash N Shah, Anand Patwardhan, Jyoti Punwani, Sagar Rabari, Xavier Dias, Teesta Setalvad, Ania Loomba, Subhash Gatade and others. It has been issued to the Gujarat government to the public. Text of the letter:

The undersigned civil society organizations and concerned citizens have taken serious note of a news report (IE May 11, 2015) about the intimidation of a retired judge, Jyotsana Yagnik, who, in her capacity as special judge had, in August 2012, convicted former Gujarat BJP minister Maya Kodnani, former Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi and 30 others in the 2002 massacre of 97 Muslims in Naroda Patiya. Yagnik has received at least 22 threat letters since the verdict, as well as blank phone calls at her home. The 62-year-old judge has informed the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team about the threats and phone calls, but instead of strengthening her protection, the government has scaled down her security cover.
The SIT convenor and Additional DIG of Police has denied knowledge of the letters, according to the news-report. Meanwhile convict Maya Kodnani, condemned to life imprisonment as principal conspirator in a massacre, has been out on bail since mid-2014, and convict Babu Bajrangi, sentenced to imprisonment till death is now about to enjoy three months bail for medical treatment.
The Indian criminal justice system is being politically degraded with every passing day. With regard to the violence in Gujarat in 2002, there have been instances of several encounter-accused policemen being re-instated and cases against them being quietly dropped. Meanwhile in Maharashtra, there is no sign that the murderers of Narendra Dabholkar and Gobind Pansare will ever be caught.
In Bihar, the acquittals of those accused of massacring Dalits in Shankarbigha and Bathani-tola show that the justice system is incapable or unwilling to punish those who commit mass crimes. Now we have an upright judge being threatened, whilst murder convicts guilty of heinous crimes are out on bail, and suspended policemen obtain re-instatement.
An onslaught on justice is taking place in broad daylight. It is now clear that the Modi-led government finds India’s criminal justice system and independent judiciary to be an obstacle blocking its long-term plans. The incidence of prejudice in the courts is nothing new - the 1984 pogrom inaugurated a new era in the erosion of Indian justice.
The NDA government has given impetus to this process. The ideological hooligans of the so-called Sangh Parivar are convinced they are above the law. Corruption does not merely have monetary implications. The erosion of judicial independence taking place before our eyes is also corruption. Building trustworthy public institutions is a prolonged process that takes decades. But they can be destroyed very rapidly, especially when state power is used (covertly or openly), to intimidate judges like Jyotsna Yagnik. Criminals these days feel free to physically intimidate the judiciary, and the police appear to be treating it as a minor matter.
Threatening a judge exemplifies a fascist mentality. Politicised justice breeds hatred and despair among its victims. Those who manipulate justice, on the other hand, are announcing their profound contempt for the very value of justice. They are sending all of us a sinister message – justice is whatever we say it is. Let us remind ourselves, therefore, that if justice becomes a device for strengthening one political group at the expense of others, for eliminating enemies and assisting allies, law will have cast off even the mask of neutrality.
If judicial decisions become predictable, this can only mean that the judiciary has been compromised and hooliganism has entered the working of the state at the highest levels. Only an alert public can defeat this kind of politics. By undermining the citizens’ faith in a fearless judiciary, the elimination of law will threaten the very foundations of the democratic state. All elected representatives should remember that the Constitution is the fundamental statute of the Indian Union, which protects us from violent and tyrannical behaviour by criminals and/or persons in power. If they keep silent in the face of the ongoing sabotage of justice, our MP’s and MLA’s shall be betraying their oath of office.
We ask all judicial, police and IAS officials to remember their oath of loyalty to the Indian Constitution. In light of the above, we demand that the Gujarat government take immediate steps to ensure Jyotsana Yagnik’s safety, and investigate the threats she has received. If any harm comes to this judge, the Gujarat government and its patron at the Centre will be held responsible by public opinion. We call upon all democratic civil society organizations and concerned individuals to launch a campaign to strengthen the criminal justice system and the autonomy of the judiciary. Instances of the perversion of justice by any party, official or civil, should be highlighted and resisted.

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