#India -Free lawyer’ service helps tribals branded Maoists in Jharkhand #goodnews


naxalites

, TNN | Apr 15, 2013,

RANCHI: A group of young lawyers in Ranchi has decided to take up, gratis, cases of thousands of tribals branded as Maoists and shoved into jails across Jharkhand every year.
The lawyers, who have named their organizationJharkhand Organization for Human Rights(JOHAR), have initiated a survey to pick out such cases and offer them free legal consultation. And just so that the tribals are aware that they need not pay for seeking judicial assistance, the lawyers have named their endeavour “muft mein wakil”.

“Despite options of free legal aid offered by the government and agencies like district legal services authority, tribals often don’t get these facilities because they are afraid to approach them. Also, they are not much aware of the law,” says Gopi Nath Ghosh, who is associated with the endeavour.

Human rights violation is a mounting problem in Jharkhand’s tribal areas which sees many innocent people being labelled as Maoists and subsequently prosecuted. NGOs working in the area say that the number of such cases increases whenever there is a security operation in the region.

For instance, 13 people were framed as Maoists in the 2001 Topchanchi massacre in which 13 Jharkhand armed police officers were killed. After they had spent many years in jail, they were finally acquitted by the Dhanbad district court in May last year.

Curiously, nobody is really sure about the exact number of such cases where tribals are unfairly branded as rebels. A Christian missionary, Father Stain Swami, who works for the rights of tribals, had filed an RTI application with the state government in 2011 to seek accurate figures. He says that the total number of such cases could be around 6000 or even more.

With most tribals not even fully literate — let alone being aware of complex legal formalities — help from the lawyers is being hailed as a welcome step for them. Although till now, the lawyers have identified only about a dozen cases, the momentum, says advocate Anup Agarwal, convener of JOHAR, would pick up once their survey is complete.

Incidentally, one of the cases in which the lawyer group has already started providing free assistance is the high-profile Jeetan Marandi case. Jeetan Marandi was accused of masterminding the Chilkhari massacre in 2007 in which former chief minister Babu Lal Marandi’s son Anup was killed. The subordinate court had pronounced capital punishment but the Jharkhand high court not only reversed the judgment but also acquitted him of the charges.

However, his wife Aparna Marandi is now in Dumka Jail on allegations of being a Maoist. No lawyer was ready to assist her until JOHAR lawyers Ahmed Raja and Anup Agarwal stepped in to take up her case.

 

Surrendering naxals to get a red carpet: Fast trials, legal aid and more money for weapons laid down by Maoists



12 Apr, 2013, 0551 hrs IST, Aman Sharma, ET Bureau


Surrendering naxals to get a red carpet

naxalarea
NEW DELHI: The home ministry has asked state governments to consider not prosecuting surrendering Naxalites and set up fast-track courts for speedy trials as part of a strategy to woo extremists to lay down their arms and join the mainstream.

The Centre has also asked states to consider providing free legal aid or the services of an advocate to surrendered Naxal cadre to help them with court trials. These measures are part of the ministry’s surrender guidelines for Naxals, which kicked in from April 1 and in which the monetary incentives for surrenders of cadres and weapons was sharply increased.

These guidelines seek to advise states on how to deal with pending court cases of surrendering Naxals. “Trial of heinous crimes committed by the surrendered Naxal may continue in the courts. The states may also consider withdrawal of prosecution on a case to case basis depending upon the antecedents and merits of the individual surrendered person. For minor offences, plea bargaining could be allowed at the discretion of the state authorities,” say the guidelines that have been sent to Naxal-affected states.

The ministry, which has been encouraged by a sharp rise in the numbers of Naxal surrenders in the last few years, also wants the states to consider providing free legal aid or an advocate to those who have surrendered “Fast track courts may be constituted by states for speedy trials against the surrendered Naxals,” the guidelines say.

This is part of the carrot and stick policy of the ministry, which has been spearheading the offensive against Naxals in various parts of the country.

Under it, it aims to provide gainful employment and entrepreneurial opportunities to the surrendered Naxals so that they are encouraged to join the mainstream and do not return to the Naxal fold.

“The objective is to wean away the hardcore cadres who have strayed into the fold of the Naxal movement and now find themselves trapped in that net,” the norms said.

Surrender cases involving Naxals hit 440 last year, up from 394 the year before and in line with a general trend that has seen a steady rise since 2009. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has in the past called the Naxalite threat one of the most serious internal security threats facing the country, with vast swathes of the hinterland in several states outside government control.

The ministry has said that along with making it easier for Naxals to lay down arms, it should also be ensured that those who surrender do not find it attractive to rejoin the movement. It has told the states that “tactical surrenders” should not be permitted at any cost. The guidelines therefore stipulate that surrendering Naxals must make a “clear confession” of all criminal acts committed by them, including the names of Naxal planners, financiers, harbourers, couriers and the details of organisations they are familiar with.

Experts also caution against adopting too lenient a strategy against the Naxals. “A naxalite must not be allowed to have the best of both worlds. I do not think we should become too liberal and the surrendering Naxal must face the music for his criminal acts. Giving legal aid is fine but prosecution should not be dropped,” said Prakash Singh, a former BSF chief and an expert on leftwing extremism. Enthused by the sharp increase in surrenders in the last few years, the home ministry has also sharply raised the monetary incentive for surrendering Naxals from April 1.

 

Immediate – Release – Malicious Campaign against Teesta Setlavad by the Newspaper’ The Pioneer “


25.10.2012

Press Release

 

CJP Rebuts Malicious Campaign by The Pioneer

 

The Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), a Mumbai based registered trust strongly rebuts the malicious campaign once again launched by the Pioneer a newspaper edited by Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Chandan Mitra. In a story laced with outright falsehoods the newspaper has alleged that the CJP has violated the law, namely the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

 

Since we work in the public domain we place the following facts for your information while emphasising that what the Pioneer  has been resorting to since 2010 constitutes unprofessional journalism: not once were we contacted before this or other stories was carried. In October 2010 we had through our lawyers issued a legal notice to the newspaper (pasted below) following a spate of articles which visibly toned down that newspaper’s coverage after the notice. This time too legal action will follow.

 

The CJP has not violated any law or rule and has collected donations for its primarily legal rights work from national and international sources through lawful means. The Pioneer deliberately picks out CJP’s Secretary Teesta Setalvad for its remarks on violations when it is not her but a Board of Trustees that have been functioning collectively and supporting this work. Teesta is deliberately being projected as recipient with malicious intent.

 

CJP provides legitimate legal aid to help victims of mass crimes to access justice, a Constitutional mandate supported by international human rights standards. Bringing perpetrators of violence to justice – is being deliberately dubbed as mala fide activity.

 

“Seeking donations in the name of helping riot victims” is a vague generalization. Different donors made contributions for specific purposes and not something as vague as “helping riot victims”.  The donations received by CJP were for two very specific objectives:

 

(1) Legal Aid to victims of the mass crimes: We emphatically state that the foreign contributions received by CJP for legal aid were accordingly earmarked and used for that very purpose.

 

(2) Aid for Two Ambulances for Mumbai City: In the wake of the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai, a need was felt for a citizens’ initiative to augment the existing ambulance service in Mumbai. This was in view of the fact that very many people who received bullet injuries at the Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus simply bled to death because they were not enough ambulances to rush the injured to hospitals. We again emphatically state that the foreign contributions received by CJP for legal aid were accordingly earmarked and used for that very purpose. Two ambulances purchased with such contributions have been in service in Mumbai since 2009. Donations from international music personalities and groups including Jethro Tull through his manager Ian Anderson, Naomi Campbell, Chatwals (through the IMG Lakme group) were received to run these two ambulances that even today run in Mumbai.

 

(3) The foreign contribution received from Ford Foundation was for “Peace building activities in Gujarat & Maharashtra”. We affirm that the money was earmarked and utilized accordingly.  It was a grant received for a period of 3 years, received in three annual instalments after submission and approval by Ford Foundation of annual narrative and financial reports.Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand are only two of the  6 trustees of Sabrang Trust.

 

Since 2010, the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture (UNVFT) has been supporting our legal work and the amount received from them has been utilized for legal aid alone as per the itemized budget approved by UNVFVT (United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture). It is a matter of great pride for CJP that its legal efforts to bring justice to the victims of the communal carnage in Gujarat is supported by UN agency and administered by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva.

 

The CJP would like to emphasise that the accounts of both CJP and Sabrang Trust are audited annually within the stipulated time every financial year and the audited accounts along with the auditor’s report are submitted regularly in the prescribed format to the Income Tax Department, the Charity Commissioner’s Office and the FCRA department of the Union ministry of Home Affairs.

 

The CJP with its committed Board of Trustees consisting of IM Kadri (President), Nandan Maluste (Vice President), Arvind Krishnaswamy (Treasurer), Teesta Setalvad (Secretary), Cyrus Guzder (Trustee), Alyque Padamsee (Trustee), Anil Dharker (Trustee), Javed Akhtar (Trustee), Taizoon Khorakiwala (Trustee), Rahul Bose (Trustee), Javed Anand (Trustee), Gulam Pesh Imam (Trustee), Cedric Prakash (Trustee) stands by the work it has undertaken to ensure implementation of the rule of law through providing legal assistance to victims and witnesses of mass crimes.

 

Both the CJP and Sabrang Trusts are two separate entities. All expenses of both trusts are incurred after sanction is received from the Trustees.

 

From September 2010 right until when our lawyer Ms Aparna Bhat served a legal notice on The Pioneer  on October 23 2010, this newspaper has first indulged in pathetic, one-sided slander-mongering against Secretary of Citizens for Justice and Peace (Copy of Legal Notice pasted below) even going to the journalistically unprofessional levels of publishing Teesta Setalvad’s colour photograph on the editorial page, simply based on one-sided and vicious statements of a former employee who had been discontinued due to unprofessional activities on 18.1.2008. After the legal notice, some semblance at objectivity was pursued by the newspaper.

 

Now again on 25.10.2012, a series of falsehoods have been published by The Pioneer, with a deliberate and malicious intent. The CJP would like to state that The Pioneer is functioning like the cheap propaganda wing of the party in power in Gujarat and not a newspaper. The fact remains that CJP’s consistent legal aid to victims and witnesses has been one of the factors –along with the Supreme Court’s monitoring and witness protection — enabling them to depose in Courts against powerful accused. It is these vested interests supported by the powerful in the state which are, in a concerted fashion, launching this current malicious and ill-intentioned attack on CJP.

 

We would also like to point out that previously vicious allegations of “tutoring” by CJP have been unequivocally turned down and rejected by the trial courts in Gujarat (Sardarpura and Naroda Patiya cases-2011,2012), Best Bakery case (2006.2012) and SC Registrar General’s Report (2005). Despite this spokespersons and lawyers of the ruling party in Gujarat continue to spout falsehoods on television in the media. The Pioneer in general and through its article published today, is part of this pattern.

The persistent falsehoods against our organization despite this vindication in courts of law is a tactic and part of the vicious rumour-mongering that the political party responsible for the violence in the state of Gujarat and its parent organizations are well-known for. The motivations behind earlier campaigns by the Pioneer, edited by a man who is member of Parliament from the party that is in power in Gujarat, and other spokespersons are not simply to malign CJP—the real motive is to intimidate witnesses and even attempt to obstruct the course of public justice.

 

I.M. Kadri                                           Nandan Maluste                                Teesta Setalvad

(President)                                         (Vice President)                                 (Secretary)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Trustees:

Arvind Krishnaswamy                         Javed Akhtar              Cyrus Guzder                               

Alyque Padamsee                              Anil Dharker                Javed Anand

Rahul Bose                                         Cedric Prakash           Ghulam Pesh Imam

Taizoon Khorakiwala

 

 

 

 

Legal Notice Sent on 23.10.2010

23.10. 2010

 

Editor,

Pioneer

Chandan Mitra

 

Dear Sir,

 

I am retained by and act under instructions from the Citizens for Justice and Peace who has advised me that your newspaper Pioneer has been carrying a series of slanderous articles against them particularly targeting their Secretary, Ms.Teesta Setalvad.

My clients advise me that since the past two months especially, but even earlier, months on    6.9.2009,  7.9.2009, 8.9.2009. 10.9.2010, 12.9.2010, 22.09.2010, 18.10.2010 and 19.10.2010, 20.10.2010 and 22.10.2010 Days you have made allegations against the Secretary stating that she has influenced witnesses, altered their versions of their statements and is trying to mislead the course of justice. My clients advise me that these allegations are an utter distortion of the truth and slanderous, made with a political motive to protect those accused of heinous crimes in 2002. They advise me that since you belong to the same political party that is currently the ruling dispensation in Gujarat and which is being criminally investigated for conspiracy into mass murder etc. you have a vested interest in these slanderous and defamatory reports.

 

My clients further advise me that you are making these baseless allegations on the basis of alleged disclosure made to you by a former employee of my client without verifying the same from my client and not verifying the facts.  In your newspaper, you are also carrying the same allegations either attributed to this former employee, or some of the accused in the ongoing trials or the State of Gujarat itself.

 

My clients further advise me that the articles are being published at a time when the trials are in progress and eye witnesses are deposing, and moreover that a criminal investigation into the political dispensation in Gujarat is underway and is aimed at, if not likely to affect the course of justice and is a clear case of interference with the administration of justice.

In the circumstances you are hereby called upon to desist from carrying out these articles, which are clearly slanderous and defamatory in nature immediately failing which my clients would be forced to take appropriate legal action both criminal and civil as they may be advised.

 

I am sure that you would comply with the requisition contained herein and thus obviate the necessity of having to initiate any action against you.

 

Sincerely,

 

Aparna Bhat

 

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