fail to arrest the rich and the powerful, while thousands of poor languish
in Bihar's jails
Copy of the Letter
Sent by Bihar PUCL to the CJ, Patna High Court
To, The Chief Justice, Patna High Court, Bailey Road, Patna
Sir, We are appalled and outraged at the double standard practised by
the state in arresting the people accused of committing cognisable offences.
While on the one hand common citizens without any previous criminal record
have been routinely arrested by the police u/s 41 of the Cr. PC without
warrant of the basis of the complaints of even minor cognisable offences,
on the other history sheets and other notorious persons with criminal
records occupying position of power or enjoying political patronage are
not only allowed to move freely but are regularly seen rubbing shoulders
with the CM., Ministers, and high police officers even though competent
courts have issued non-bailable warrants of arrests against them. It outrages
the conscience of the law-abiding citizens mutely and helplessly watch
the spectacle in contrast of thousands languishing in jails. They are
too poor to arrange for their bail and continue to live in subhuman condition
in overcrowded jails, while the powerful criminals enjoy immunity from
legal action without any basis in law.
There have been cases of Ministers and senior civil servants against whom
non-bailable warrants had been issued, but not arrested because the police
claimed that they were traceless though they were accessible to the media
and all else in the capital itself. It was on the intervention of the
National Human Rights Commission that a couple of the so-called absconding
former ministers recently surrendered and were remanded to judicial custody.
This sham game of hide and seek between the police and influential notorieties
is now the rule and not an exception. It is in desperation that we turn
to you to put an end to such blatant and brazenfaced violation of the
The most recent case in the series is that of Mr. Md. Shahabuddin, an
RJD M.P. who is facing serious charges in Hussainganj P.S. Cases No. 32
/2001, 33/2001 and 34/2001. The charges include u/s 147/148/307/302/334/35/332/333/435/427/120
in case No 32/2001 one policemen and eight others were killed and several
injured. The police claim to have seized various arms including pistols
AK 47, hand grenades and a rifle etc. As reported in the media, there
are 30 other cases against him (Pub. The Hindustan Times Patna, 19.3.2001).
The following is the list of the cases against
Mr. Shahabuddin as reported in the aforesaid newspaper, and a fact-finding
team of PUCL from the concerned police stations has duly verified the
same. The purpose of arresting a person following a complaint of commission
of a cognisable offence is to prevent him from destroying evidence, intimidating
witnesses, committing further crimes or absconding. It has been alleged
and is widely believed that Mr. Shahabuddin has terrorised witnesses in
the past and as a consequence they have refrained from appearing in the
court to depose against him.
They perceived reluctance or inability of the police to arrest these privileged
persons results in erosion of faith in law as well as the system. It demoralises
honest junior level policeman on the one hand and gives a clear message
to the common man that he has no protection whatsoever from such persons.
Consequently, it is almost certain that few would dare to give witness
against them thus vitiating the judicial process altogether. The cases
against Md. Shahabuddin are a case in point. Not to speak of witness,
in a process as open as elections, his adversaries cannot even put up
banners and posters. The pliability of administration has reportedly reached
such a nadir, where the district Magistrate likens him to Gandhi and interprets
this to be the situation because of his immense popularity, if newspaper
report is to be believed.
Even with such a track record, he continues to move about with absolute
immunity in the state capital attending parties and giving press statements.
According to the Times of India, Patna edition of March 31, 2001, he attended
a reception hosted by the CM. The photograph published on the front page
shows him sitting between the Speaker of the Assembly. Mr. Sadanand Singh,
and Mr. Laloo Prasad. It is also reported in the same newspaper on Page
4 under the news item 'Laloo, Shahabuddin add colour to Rajak's Reception
party' as follows:
"He spent a few minutes with RJD chief before going to the table
served with food. DGP RR Prasad made a silent exit in front of the RJD
MP who had resisted his police force for eight hours." The media
have also reported that the police have been instructed not to arrest
him, as the case has been transferred to the CID now again referred to
Judicial enquiry by J. Vidya Nand commission.
To the best of our knowledge and understanding, the Government has no
power to suspend or interfere in any other way with a non bailable warrant
of arrest issued by a court of law nor has the power to order the police
not to execute such a warrant. Thus the conduct of the police officers
in whose jurisdiction Mr. Shahabuddin has been moving about freely is
tantamount to not only a gross dereliction of duty but also complicity
in and connivance with the illegal activities of a fugitive from the law
apart from contempt of court and utter disregard for the majesty of law.
Should the Hon'ble High Court too turn a Nelson's eye to the wilful subversion
of the rule of law?
During the British rule, there existed some laws which did not treat the
Indians and the people of European origin alike, and widespread discrimination
was practised, but any discrimination between one set of citizens and
another now is repugnant to the principle of the rule of law and the various
articles and another now is repugnant to the principle of the rule of
law and the various articles of the constitution specially Art 14. But
it is also a sad fact of life in Bihar that a handful of people in power
and their protégés are more equal than the others making
a mockery of the principle of the rule of law and Art 14 of the constitution.
The people of the state have been reduced to the status of second class
citizens and helpless spectators of their own humiliation.
We appeal to you to ensure that the course of justice is not obstructed
or subverted and the principles of the rule of law and equality before
the law as well as the dignity of the citizens is restored. It is for
the courts to decide on the guilt or innocence of Mr. Shahabuddin, but
the law-enforcing agencies must be compelled to deal with him in the same
manner in which it would deal with any other citizen similarly placed.
We have faith in the judicial system and while we understand that your
lordship can and will take appropriate action, we seek your indulgence
for submitting certain suggestions from our side.
- It is, of course,
imperative that Md. Shahabuddin is arrested immediately and remanded
to judicial custody, so that the case against him can be investigated
and properly pursued.
- Beyond that the
court can ask the Government to provide a list of MPs, MLAs, Ministers,
former and present and senior civil servants against whom warrants of
arrest have been issued but who have not been arrested. Suitable direction
may be given in this regard.
- If one case is
taken up as a test case, it needs to be probed deeper to see at what
level laws have been flouted by the members of police force and what
is their liability. Perhaps the DGP, Govt. of Bihar has to explain the
situation and lackadaisical attitude of the machinery. The Hon'ble High
Court may kindly decide what action is needed against them. Suitable
directives as deemed necessary may kindly be issued.
We hope you would
appreciate our anguish and feeling of outrage and take appropriate measures
to uphold the rule as well as majesty of law.
-- Prabhakar Sinha
(National Vice President); Ram Chandra Lal Das (State Vice President);
Kishori Das (State General Secretary); Dr. B. D. Prasad (Member State