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Human rights lawyer Girish Patel remembered as the pioneer of PIL in India

Medha Patkar with Narmada dam oustees for whom Girish Patel fought
By Our Representative
A public meeting in Ahmedabad to pay homage to well-known human rights lawyer Girish Patel recalled his contribution to the legal world as the pioneer of public interest litigations (PILs) in India. Born in 1932, Girish Patel passed way on October 6, 2018, and is known as a rare Gujarat High Court lawyer who fought for the underprivileged sections of society.
Organised by the Girishbhai Smaranjali Samiti, consisting of, among others, High Court lawyer trained under Girish Patel, Anand Yagnik, environmentalist Rohit Prajapati, civil society consultant Persis Ginwala, and activist-poet-singer Vinay Mahajan, those who participated in the meeting included large sections of underprivileged sections and activists from different parts of Gujarat for whom Girish Patel had fought in the High Court.
Veteran High Court lawyer Mahesh Bhatt, a close friend and colleague of Girish Patel, recalled how, before filing PILs, Girish Patel, armed with his strong ideological moorings, would visit the spots where exploitation was taking place. For instance, he personally inspected the migrant sugarcane workers, who were living in a bonded-like situation in South Gujarat, and ensured their freedom.
Girish Patel
Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar recalled the role of Girish Patel during the fight for the Narmada dam oustees, pointing towards how he stood by the people of the six villages who were uprooted in order to start the construction of the dam in 1980s. She said, he also stood by the displaced people at Ferkuva across the border in Maharashtra in early 1990s.
Pointing towards the importance Girish Patel attached to PILs, Manishi Jani, well-known activist-litterateur, quoted the human rights lawyer as once telling the High Court that this was necessary to tell keep the judges awake from time to time that "all is not well" in the world outside the court premises.
Those who spoke on the occasion included Anand Yagnik, who insisted on the need for unity of all those fighting for the sake of justice as the true tribute to Girish Patel, Rohit Prajapati, Dalit rights leader Jignesh Mevani, and Dr Kanu Kalsaria, former MLA, known for his fight for farmers in Bhavnagar district in the face of "onslaught" by powerful corporate sector.

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