Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Landmark Judgment

One of the major problems that face mass organisations working for rights is that the administration and the police continually implicate their members in false criminal cases which become a severe burden in terms of time and money that is wasted in fighting them. On a petition filed against this malpractice by the Shramik Adivasi Sangathan of Madhya Pradesh the Supreme Court has now ordered that a Grievance Redressal Authority should be set up to review such cases and order appropriate action if they are indeed found to be false. Even though this is an addition to the institutions already there and does not really guarantee that things will improve, nevertheless for the first time some action has been taken to curb the impunity of the police. A much more sustainable and easier solution to this problem would be for the lower judiciary to be instructed to examine such cases prima facie at the time of charge itself and dismiss them under the provisions of Section 227 of the CrPC. The news report on the judgment is given below -
The Supreme Court has directed the Madhya Pradesh government and High Court to set up special Grievance Redressal Authorities (GRAs) to provide relief to aggrieved citizens against harassment and abuse of power by government officials.The order, given on August 13, by a SC bench comprising Justice D.K. Jain and Justice Madan B. Lokur, came on a Special Leave Petition filed by tribal rights organization Shramik Adivasi Sangathan (SAS). The GRAs, which the State government has to notify by August 31, 2012, will be set up in three districts of Madhya Pradesh-Harda, Betul and Khandwa.
Aggrieved citizens would be able to approach the GRAs in cases of harassment by government officials, including registration of false complaints or police cases and abuse of power by a government official. On receiving such information, the GRA would examine it and if found substantiated, “the authority will submit a recommendatory report to the District Judge, the State Legal Services Authority and the Chief Secretary for appropriate action, including disciplinary action”. Significantly, the SC has provided that if any member of a Scheduled Tribe belonging to any of the three districts (Betul, Khandwa, Harda) is arrested, the arresting officer would be required to intimate it to the Chairperson of the Authority and the Secretary of the District Legal Services Authority within 24 hours of the arrest.
The Chief Justice of the M.P. High Court would nominate a retired District Judge to head the authority as its chairperson within fifteen days of the notification establishing the authority. Besides the chairperson, each authority would have four members, to be recommended by the Chief Justice in consultation with the Chairperson of the State Human Rights Commission, the Lokayukta and the Chairperson of the State Public Service Commission. The SC has requested the Chief Justice of the M.P. HC to make the recommendations to this end by September 30, 2012. The Secretary of the District Legal Services Authority “appointed under Section 9 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 will be the ex-officio Secretary to the Authority and will assist the Authority in its functioning”.
Further, every member of a Scheduled Tribe would be entitled to legal services free of any charge, the SC has directed. The SC will be reviewing the compliance of the order (establishing the GRAs) in November this year. The Shramik Adivasi Sangathan, an organization working with Adivasis in Betul, Harda and Khandwa districts, had filed a Public Interest Litigation before the M.P. High Court alleging that the police, forest and other district authorities had been harassing activists and other tribal members of their organization by way of false cases. The PIL also alleged that the Police either did not lodge their complaints or in case it did, it did not investigate the said cases. 
The M.P. high court had disposed off the PIL on the ground of res judicataSenior advocate Prashant Bhushan appeared on behalf of the petitioner (SAS) in the Supreme Court. “The cases mentioned in our PIL are only the tip of the iceberg but we welcome the SC order. For the first time in the country the apex court has examined the scope of GRAs to address the issue of abuse of power by the police and other authorities,” said Shamim Modi, SAS member and assistant professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.


Priya VK Singh said...

1. any idea as to when the PIL was filed? how long has it taken the petitioner to obtain a court order?
2. Whether the case is false or not is to be determined by the GRA on the basis of the evidence adduced by the police? or will they have the power to order an independent investigation ? who will carry out such an investigation, since it cannot be the police?
3. what if the police do not report an arrest? unless the GRA can impose a penalty, how's the police to be made to comply?
6. GRA can only recommend ---- surest way of ensuring that no disciplinary action gets initiated, or if it does, it doesn't ever conclude

NN said...

Very useful post, thank you. Disappointing that other districts in MP are not likely to be covered by the order. Might it be the case that the Grievance Redressal Authority will, in time look at other districts also?

Rahul Banerjee said...

The PIL was initially filed in the High Court which refused to hear it citing Res Judicata meaning that the issues had already been decided by another court earlier. The petitioners then went to the Supreme Court. So this judgement has taken some time in coming. All the points raised by you about the GRA are valid and that is why I have written that it is much easier to make the lower judiciary take action under section 227 of the CrPC. Additionally the case diary of the investigation and the daily log of the police station during the investigation should also be made available for scrutiny to the accused at the time of argument over charge under section 227. This will make the whole investigation process transparent and easily reveal whether the case has been cooked up by the police or not. However, it is too much to expect the Supreme Court to give such an order and the government to abide by it. In fact it remains to be seen how far the goverment complies with this order also.

Priya VK Singh said...

The difficulty with Sec 227 proceedings would be that the accused would have to engage a lawyer, whereas if he complains to the GRA of police harassment, he need not (I think) be represented by a lawyer.

Rahul Banerjee said...

the whole process of scrutiny of the chargesheet under section 227 can be made mandatory and institutionalised. A lawyer can be provided to those accused who are incapable of engaging a lawyer through the legal services facility and in any case most accused and certainly the members of social movements who are most implicated in false cases engage lawyers. The magistrates and judges have to be sensitised to take up this matter and if the case diary and daily log of the police station are made available for scrutiny automatically a lot of transparency will come in which will force the police to stop false prosecution. as it is very difficult to fudge case diaries and police logs and any fudging becomes immediately visible under scrutiny. this is much better than having a separate Grievance Redressal Authority with only recommending powers.

Priya VK Singh said...

if engaging lawyers is not a constraint, then recourse to sec 227 makes more sense, specially if the Court also prescribes a time limit. Can the organisation which filed the PIL not seek a clarificatory order from the SC along these lines? It may be stretching a bit (or more!) the ambit of a clrificatory order, but would be a worthwhile endeavour.

Rahul Banerjee said...

a separate petition would have to be filed for getting what I have suggested done because it is quite different from what the court has ordered. the petitioners had gone with the plea for quashing of false cases and in the tortuous course of the case the SC finally came up with the GRA option on its own.