The months of March and April, 2018 witnessed many events of human rights concerns which raise more questions about the future context of rights protection in India, than provide any substantial answer to demand for justice. A major focus of attention was on proceedings in the Supreme Court where a number of key litigations were either being concluded or in which key judgments were delivered, with overtones for the future. After several years of spirited opposition by civil society groups to the UID and the Aadhaar project and animated discussion throughout the country, final arguments concluded in the Supreme Court after marathon hearings.
But in the meantime, the Central Government through its various agencies offering public services, had pushed through the Aadhaar scheme using a mix of tactics: enticements on the ground of benefits to be gained if one enrolled in the Aadhaar scheme mixed with threats of bank accounts being barred or mobile services being withdrawn if one did not enrol. Many issues of crucial human rights importance were raised during the final arguments. The final judgment once delivered, will hopefully address the different concerns raised.
During this same period the SC delivered judgment in the PIL regarding the suspicious death of Judge Loya, who was hearing the Sohrabuddin encounter case in a Mumbai trial court and who died in mysterious circumstances on December 1st 2014. In a proceedings which witnessed strident arguments and raised tempers, the SC eventually dismissed the PIL. However, the judgment, far from laying to rest issues raised in the case, actually left open several other crucial issues which needs public discussion and debate. We hope to revert to these issues in a later issue. A 5-judge SC Bench also heard the issue of whether the rejection by the Vice-President of India of the resolution moved by more than 60 MPs to impeach the sitting Chief Justice of India, was valid or not.
Although eventually, the PIL moved by some MPs was withdrawn, the entire proceedings have raised numerous issues of Constitutional procedures and proprieties, which to needs public discussion. It is during this same period that the Central Government returned the unanimous resolution of the SC Collegium to elevate Justice KM Joseph to the Supreme Court. It is widely recognised that the decision of the Central Government was actuated more by malice due to the fact that Justice Joseph, as CJ of Uttarakhand High Court, had set aside the decision of the Central Government to dissolve the then State Government, than legal grounds as all the reasons cited by the Central Government had been considered by the Collegium. At the time of writing this piece, though the SC Collegium had unanimously resolved once again to reiterate the recommendation to elevate Justice Joseph to the SC, the same has not been conveyed to the Central Government.
Electioneering to the Karnataka Assembly which concluded with the elections on 12th May, 2018 witnessed personalised attacks descending to objectionable levels, led by none less than the Prime Minister himself. While it is normal during electioneering to stridently attack one another, the level of personal invectives and brazen call to identity based political mobilisation is perhaps a portent to other state Assembly elections due in 2018 in Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh and in the Parliamentary elections due in 2019.
The near absence of discussion on issues of crucial human rights importance including politics of hate and lynchings, politics of state terrorism and planned encounters, forced evictions of people from their homes and habitats in the name of industries and development schemes, anti-farmer policies and widespread farmer suicides, systematic dismantling, assault and delegitimisation of institutions especially by the Central Government, including of educational institutions like JNU, HCU etc, environmental conflicts and ecological disasters induced by open support to industries by Governments, both State and Central, rising prices, unemployment and numerous other issues affecting right to life, livelihood, liberty of citizens are hardly ever raised and discussed by political parties.
It is in this background that the responsibility falls upon us citizens and human rights activists to continually raise these issues for public discussion and by mobilising people to demand that political parties openly declare their position on these issues vitally affecting people. We hope to focus on these issues in future issues of the Bulletin and invite our readers and members to join the discussion and debate.