26 years on, HC orders fresh probe into tribal activist’s murder

Mumbai: Twenty-six years after an activist was murdered for fighting a battle against the land mafia of Vasai-Virar belt in neighbouring Thane district, the Bombay High Court has ordered a fresh probe.

The real culprits were not put on trial and instead a wrong accused was put behind the bars, the Court said.

Bombay High Court. Reuters

Bombay High Court. Reuters

Yadav Mhatre, actively involved in the welfare of the Adivasis (tribals), was killed on June 29, 1987 allegedly at the behest of the land mafia.

Police had arrested a wrong person named Dilip Tumbda who was finally acquitted by the Sessions Court in 2009 after spending 22 years in jail.

On the other hand, eight persons of a family who were named accused by the victim’s family were discharged by the Court after police filed an application seeking their release on the ground that evidence against them was deficient.

The High Court observed, “real culprits were being shielded although they are named by the prosecution. The criminal case, therefore, could not have been disposed of perfunctorily and hastily and without application of mind, when the allegations are as serious as of causing murder.

“These are not routine and ordinary criminal cases involving petty offences. The aspect of delay, though material, is not always fatal. The administration of justice can never become a casualty. Even after delay, if real culprits are brought before the Court, thereafter the Courts cannot become a silent spectator and dispose of criminal cases casually and light heartedly,” Justice S Dharmadhikari said.

The judgement rendered in this Court, therefore, falls short of the required standards. It has resulted in serious miscarriage of justice.

“In the Sessions Case, where the material placed before the Court show that the real accused were not apprehended, arrested and put up for trial, then, the learned Judge should have been cautious and careful in evaluating the material,” Justice Dharmadhikari remarked.

“Even if he (Judge) was not inclined to convict those who are arraigned as accused, still he was obliged to consider the seriousness of the matter.

“The learned Judge failed to take cognisance and note of the request of the applicant and the prosecution, that the real culprits are now traced and they be named as accused in the case and put up for trial,” the High court bench observed.

“Without deciding that application in accordance with law and straightway delivering a Judgement of acquittal has resulted in miscarriage of justice. This is complete mockery of criminal justice delivery system.”

“I would be failing in my duty as a higher court if I do not interfere with such an acquittal. In revisional powers and equally in exercise of this Court’s inherent power, such acquittals can be set aside,” Justice Dharmadhikari said.

“No doubt, powers have to be exercised sparingly and in exceptional circumstances. However, when there is a glaring defect of procedure, manifest error on the point of law and a flagrant miscarriage of justice, then, there is a obligation to step in,” he observed.

On June 28, 1987, the deceased, Yadav Mhatre, was on his way to Bhabha Atomic Research Centre where he worked as a fitter.

He was accompanied by his brother Ganghadhar, the lone eyewitness in this case. According to Gangadhar, eight persons fired shots at Yadav and escaped after committing the crime.

Gangadhar filed a police complaint and identified the accused as Govind Patil, Mahadev, Kisan, Baban Gharat, Kanti Dhumal, Atmaram Yadav, Kisan Patil and Baban Patil.

The police arrested them and also recovered the weapon. The case was then handed over to CID.

However, CID probe set free these accused and police instead arrested Dilip Tumbda, a young labourer. Dilip’s father and two brothers were also arrested but released later.

After 22 years, Tumbda was finally acquitted on June 29, 2009 by a Sessions court.

While ordering a fresh probe now, the High Court has made it clear that Dilip shall not be arraigned as an accused in this case since his acquittal has not been disputed.




Abdullah Ocalan: A Living Argument Against The #DeathPenalty

By N. Jayaram

26 April, 2013

It is not important that Time magazine featured Abdullah Ocalan in its latest annual list of “100 most influential people in the world”. Such lists are open to question. A list drawn up by a publication based in the United States is bound to reflect a heavy US bias. In fact, it contains names many people in other parts of the world might never have heard of.

What is important is that the 200-word profile of Ocalan in Time is by Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Fein, a party historically linked to the Provisional Irish Republican Army. Adams establishes the relevance of that fact at the outset: “The Irish peace accord known as the Good Friday Agreement is 15 years old this month. For almost all that time, Abdullah Ocalan, a founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, has been in prison in Turkey.”(1)

The Good Friday Agreement of 10 April 1998 was a historic development that ushered in peace (albeit with inevitable hiccups) after decades of “troubles” in Northern Ireland. It signalled the Provisional IRA’s move away from the use of violence for attaining its goal, that of severing Northern Ireland from Britain and incorporating it in a socialist Irish republic.

That agreement came to be held up as a model of sorts for ending other conflicts such as between Basque nationalists and Spain and, of course, between the Kurdish pro-independence groups and Turkey.

Ankara regards the left-leaning Kurdistan Workers’ Party as a terrorist outfit, a stand endorsed by Washington and some other allies. (Turkey is a key member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.) Its leader Ocalan was arrested in Nairobi in 1999 and taken to Turkey where he was sentenced to death. But the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment when Turkey applied to join the European Union, all of whose members are abolitionist.

Happily, Ocalan underwent a change of heart during his long years in prison. There have been sporadic peace talks between him and the Turkish authorities. “Persuading enemies that there are alternative ways to resolve long-standing differences takes patience and a willingness to engage in dialogue, but most important, it requires leadership,” Adams notes in his brief profile of the Kurdish leader.

“Ocalan has demonstrated that leadership. Despite incarceration, he has forged a road map to peace that commits the Kurdish people to democracy and freedom and tolerance.”

In a stirring call for this year’s Newroz or Navroz (New Year) issued on 21 March, Ocalan addressed “all the peoples of Middle East and Central Asia” and said the whole region “is currently seeking a contemporary modernity and democratic order that would address its historical context. The search for a new model where everyone could live freely and in fraternity has become one of basic human needs – like bread and water. It is inevitable that Anatolian and Mesopotamian geography and the cultural momentum in there will build this model.” (2)

Kurdistan is one of several “unrepresented nations” of the world, its people spread across Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq.

Time magazine also picked Indian human rights lawyer Vrinda Grover for inclusion in its list of 100. (3)

“Justice, she believes, must reach everyone — not just privileged Indians on the top rungs but those in insurgency-torn areas, those unjustly tortured, jailed or executed, those who slip through the many cracks in the system,” notes writer Nilanjana Roy in her introduction.

Of course, the same list has two more Indians, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and film actor Aamir Khan, testifying to essentially unimaginative nature of such lists.

But the fact that Ocalan and Grover are on it has an encouraging message for human rights activists, especially those calling for universal abolition of the death penalty: Ocalan is alive today because Turkey scrapped it. And Grover’s is a loud voice pointing to the futility and counterproductive nature of the death penalty in dealing with crimes, including gender crimes. Tough punitive provisions will only make it harder to get a conviction.

Ocalan personifies that old saw, “one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter”. He is a hero for tens of millions of Kurdish people and is no terrorist in the eyes of many others sympathetic to the Kurdish cause. But even staying with the Turkish characterisation, the fact that he is alive today, affords both sides an opportunity to engage in peaceful dialogue.

Such logic seems to have escaped Justices G.S. Singhvi and S.J. Mukhopadhaya of the Indian Supreme Court, who recently rejected a plea that delay in considering the mercy petition of Devender Pal Singh Bhullar constituted grounds for commutation. (4) They were throwing away a wealth of jurisprudence within India and worldwide that has held such delays ought automatically to lead to commutation. Thirty years ago, in the case of T.V. Vatheeswaran v. State of Tamil Nadu, Supreme Court Justices O. Chinnappa Reddy and R.B Misra had so held. One can only conclude that the judges who handled the Bhullar appeal were swayed by the pro-hanging trend that seems to have India in its grip.

Turkey is overwhelmingly Muslim (about 98% of the population) and has officially given up the death penalty, not having executed anyone since 1984. Some other Muslim countries too have abolished it – from Albania to Uzbekistan – and some are abolitionist in practice, meaning they have not carried out an execution for at least 10 years – from Algeria to Tajikistan.

Other Muslim countries as well as Hindu dominated India can follow suit. But that would require judges to get their precedents right, open their eyes to the global trends in jurisprudence and apply their minds without being swayed by the blood lust whipped up by Hindutva and other antediluvian forces.

It would also help if India’s Home Ministry and the Rashtrapati Bhavan too could shed their current penchant for pandering to mobs baying for blood – mostly Muslim blood.


1. http://time100.time.com/2013/04/18/time-100/slide/abdullah-ocalan/#ixzz2RNdqaJI5

2. http://www.euronews.com/2013/03/22/web-full-transcript-of-abdullah-ocalans-ceasefire-call-kurdish-pkk/

3. http://time100.time.com/2013/04/18/time-100/slide/vrinda-grover/

4. http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/succumbing-to-the-bogey-of-fear/article4654464.ece

N. Jayaram is a journalist now based in Bangalore after more than 23 years in East Asia (mainly Hong Kong and Beijing) and 11 years in New Delhi. He was with the Press Trust of India news agency for 15 years and Agence France-Presse for 11 years and is currently engaged in editing and translating for NGOs and academic institutions. He writes a blog: http://walkerjay.wordpress.com/



A doctor on why late abortion should remain legal #reproductiverights

Amid signs that ministers are keen to reopen the debate, Frances Marks writes about the terrible consequences of illegal terminations that she saw in the 60s – and why the law must not be changed


The 2004 film Vera Drake starring Imelda Staunton was about an illegal abortionist working in the 1950s. Photograph: Fine Line/Everett/Rex Features

My most memorable experience as a medical student occurred in the 1960s, some time before the 1967 Abortion Act made terminations legal in the UK.

It was winter, 6am, and I was still asleep. The phone rang and a voice ordered me up to join the ambulance of the obstetric flying squad. We arrived at a cheap hotel in Finsbury Park, north London; our patient was a plump young girl with auburn hair and the creamy skin of a Rubens nude. She lay unconscious on a single bed, her bewildered parents to one side. The GP was a tired gaunt man, who told us that his examination indicated that she had had an illegal abortion some time in the last 48 hours. Her blood pressure was dangerously low.

We transferred her to the local hospital and my role was to take her blood pressure every 15 minutes. At 5pm her heart was still not pumping effectively and the doctors decided to to transfer her to St Thomas’s hospital in central London.

The ambulance journey was terrifying; her blood pressure fell with each passing minute and we crossed a junction of five roads with the siren blaring. The treatment was ineffective; each time she was placed in the hyperbaric oxygen chamber to help with the antibiotics, her heart stopped. We tried three times and then gave up. She never regained consciousness. I was not there when she died. Nor did I talk to her dazed elderly parents. I had already learned that they had come to London with their daughter for a Christmas shopping expedition and knew nothing of her pregnancy nor her abortion.

We were instructed to go to the post mortem, which was being carried out by the famous pathologist Sir Keith Simpson. The mortuary was a tiled Victorian room. He was wearing a gown with puffed sleeves, which looked feminine and incongruous on a bald-headed man.

The girl’s body was blotched with bruises. He dictated his findings to the stenographer who was sitting behind a plastic screen.

He was incandescent with fury. He said that he saw at least two young girls a week who died as a result of septic abortions. He was adamant that abortion should be legalised and told me I should never forget what I had seen. I never have and therefore, decades later, I have written this.

In 1968 the law was changed and abortion became legal in the United Kingdom, with the exception of Northern Ireland. When I worked as a child psychiatrist in London’s East End, I authorised a late abortion on a 14-year old girl. She was from an ethnic minority group and had been raped when her family lived in a hostel. She eventually confided her “symptoms” to her sister when she was 23 weeks pregnant. I was very relieved that a humane solution to her problem was available. The law should not be changed.

Dr Frances Marks worked as a child psychiatrist from 1975 to 1998. As a consultant at London hospital she advised on the impact of late abortions.



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