Justice Saldanha’s presentation for UN periodic review

November 26, 2011 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Retired Justice Michael Saldanha

Retired Justice Michael Saldanha

Karnataka, 25th November 2011: The actions of several judicial officers both at the senior and junior levels of the judiciary, have thrown the justice delivery system in India open to accusations of Hinduisation or Saffronisation, which has a direct bearing on the fundamental human rights of the citizens. I speak from my 15 years as judge in the Bombay and Karnataka High Courts and observations of the dismal human rights record, specifically in Karnataka and Orissa, besides other states, where the right wing nationalist party BJP is in power.

Acts of Terrorism – State Terrorism
We have seen that in most cases where the BJP is in power, it has a greater influence on the judiciary, but in Karnataka one experienced the full power of State Terrorism, which was blatant enough to be captured by independent media. We saw the direct and explicit involvement of the Chief Minister, Home Minister and the team of administrative officials, including senior police officers in the planning, execution and implementation of the attacks, including exoneration thereafter of the criminals who denied minorities basic human rights .

Supreme & High Court judges found wanting
There have been more than many instances of the judiciary at various levels, seeming to abet injustice by words and actions, with even Supreme Court judges making offensive statements, which have had to be recanted following an uproar from the minorities. A case in point is the observations in the famed pastor Graham Staines case, where the judge almost sought to justify the behaviour of the main accused Dara Singh and convicted him leniently to life imprisonment, rather than the death penalty, which ought to be.

Often in cases of prosecution, bias has been observed even from judges of the High Court and at the lower levels, it is even more pronounced, with favour being shown to the far right fundamentalist elements. Indications of such preferential treatment to Hindutva forces can be seen in instances of refusal to grant bail, failure to quash false proceedings and harassing the victims, rather than the culprits by having cases to drag on for years.

Dismal Track Record of Fast Track Courts & Commissions
Often it has been noticed that fast track courts or official commissions, not only do not serve the purpose of delivering speedy justice, but even worse are used by the state government to exonerate the culprits. In case of Karnataka, it was the Justice Somashekara Commission that gave a clean chit to the Hindutva Chief Minister, Home Minister, Hindutva brigade and also senior police officials, who led the charge against the minorities. Over the last 3 years, there are over 200 false cases foisted on Christians, which repeated far right chief ministers have promised to withdraw, but to date have not done so.

In Orissa, the observations of the Justice Wadhwa Commission seemed to be yet another cover-up exercise. The atmosphere in the courtroom itself is so hostile as to deter the truth on human rights to surface, with open threats being issued to the victims. Many of those affected do not have the resources to even file a complaint at the local police station, let aside hire attorneys to argue their case, which the Hindutva force can well afford. Of the 120 odd complaints filed, barely a dozen were taken-up….

A number of independent enquiries by civil liberties and human rights groups, through retired High Court judges, including myself, have yielded diametrically opposite findings, when compared to that of the official reports.

Misuse of official funds and resources to fund terrorism
In Karnataka, public exchequer funds to the tune of crores of rupees – at the minimum of Rs.110 crores officially and a maximum of Rs. 3000 crores – has been doled out to temples and Hindutva related organizations. In addition to this, land worth crores of rupees has been given to these extreme right organizations, which is reportedly used to finance activities of the Hindutva forces against the minorities. There is little different between the terrorists from outside and the terrorists within. In fact, the terrorists-within pose a greater danger.

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