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Resist degradation of Indian criminal justice system. Retired Judge Jyotsana Yagnik threatened; murder convicts out on bail

13 May 2015

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released via - 13 May 2015 at 23.45 hrs

Resist degradation of Indian criminal justice system.
Retired Judge Jyotsana Yagnik threatened; murder convicts out on bail


The undersigned civil society organizations and concerned citizens have taken serious note of a news report (IE May 11, 2015) about the intimidation of a retired judge, Ms Jyotsana Yagnik, who, in her capacity as special judge had, in August 2012, convicted former Gujarat BJP minister Maya Kodnani, former Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi and 30 others in the 2002 massacre of 97 Muslims in Naroda Patiya. Ms Yagnik has received at least 22 threat letters since the verdict, as well as blank phone calls at her home. The 62 year old judge has informed the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team about the threats and phone calls, but instead of strengthening her protection, the government has scaled down her security cover.

The SIT convenor and Additional DIG of Police has denied knowledge of the letters, according to the news-report. Meanwhile convict Maya Kodnani, condemned to life imprisonment as principal conspirator in a massacre, has been out on bail since mid-2014, and convict Babu Bajrangi, sentenced to imprisonment till death is now about to enjoy three months bail for medical treatment.

The Indian criminal justice system is being politically degraded with every passing day. With regard to the violence in Gujarat in 2002, there have been instances of several encounter-accused policemen being re-instated and cases against them being quietly dropped. Meanwhile in Maharashtra, there is no sign that the murderers of Narendra Dabholkar and Gobind Pansare will ever be caught. In Bihar, the acquittals of those accused of massacring Dalits in Shankarbigha and Bathani-tola show that the justice system is incapable or unwilling to punish those who commit mass crimes. Now we have an upright judge being threatened, whilst murder convicts guilty of heinous crimes are out on bail, and suspended policemen obtain re-instatement.

An onslaught on justice is taking place in broad daylight. It is now clear that the Modi-led government finds India’s criminal justice system and independent judiciary to be an obstacle blocking its long-term plans. The incidence of prejudice in the courts is nothing new - the 1984 pogrom inaugurated a new era in the erosion of Indian justice. The NDA government has given impetus to this process. The ideological hooligans of the so-called ’Sangh parivar’ are convinced they are above the law. Corruption does not merely have monetary implications. The erosion of judicial independence taking place before our eyes is also corruption. Building trustworthy public institutions is a prolonged process that takes decades. But they can be destroyed very rapidly, especially when state power is used (covertly or openly), to intimidate judges like Ms Jyotsna Yagnik.

Criminals these days feel free to physically intimidate the judiciary, and the police appear to be treating it as a minor matter. Threatening a judge exemplifies a fascist mentality. Politicised justice breeds hatred and despair among its victims. Those who manipulate justice, on the other hand, are announcing their profound contempt for the very value of justice. They are sending all of us a sinister message – justice is whatever we say it is. Let us remind ourselves, therefore, that if justice becomes a device for strengthening one political group at the expense of others, for eliminating enemies and assisting allies, law will have cast off even the mask of neutrality. If judicial decisions become predictable, this can only mean that the judiciary has been compromised and hooliganism has entered the working of the state at the highest levels. Only an alert public can defeat this kind of politics.

By undermining the citizens’ faith in a fearless judiciary, the elimination of law will threaten the very foundations of the democratic state. All elected representatives should remember that the Constitution is the fundamental statute of the Indian Union, which protects us from violent and tyrannical behaviour by criminals and/or persons in power. If they keep silent in the face of the ongoing sabotage of justice, our MP’s and MLA’s shall be betraying their oath of office. We ask all judicial, police & IAS officials to remember their oath of loyalty to the Indian Constitution.

In light of the above, we demand that the Gujarat government take immediate steps to ensure Ms Jyotsana Yagnik’s safety, and investigate the threats she has received. If any harm comes to this judge, the Gujarat government and its patron at the Centre will be held responsible by public opinion.

We call upon all democratic civil society organizations and concerned individuals to launch a campaign to strengthen the criminal justice system and the autonomy of the judiciary. Instances of the perversion of justice by any party, official or civil, should be highlighted and resisted.


  1. Dilip Simeon (PADS)
  2. Dipak Dholakia
  3. Mukul Dube
  4. Battini Rao, Convener, People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS)
  5. Subhash Gatade, New Socialist Initiative
  6. Manisha Sethi
  7. Ovais Sultan Khan
  8. Harsh Kapoor (PADS)
  9. Varsha Mehta
  10. Ram Puniyani, All India Secular Forum
  11. Manoranjan Mohanty
  12. Ann Ninan Journalist, Noida
  13. Suhas Borker, Working Group on Alternative Strategies
  14. Javed Anand, Citizens for Justice and Peace Mumbai
  15. Neelima Sharma
  16. Shamsul Islam
  17. Harsh Mander, Aman Biradari, Delhi
  18. Jawad Mohammed, Chennai
  19. Kareem Sait, Chennai
  20. Rameza Kareem
  21. Darryl DMonte, Journalist, Mumbai
  22. Nandini Sundar
  23. Professor D N Jha, Formerly at Delhi University
  24. Sumi Krishna, Independent researcher, Bangalore
  25. Chitra Joshi, Delhi University
  26. John Dayal, New Delhi
  27. Badri Raina, Delhi
  28. Prakash N. Shah, Editor, Nireekshak, Ahmedabad
  29. Anand Patwardhan, Mumbai
  30. Sukla Sen, EKTA (Committee for Communal Amity), Mumbai
  31. Kishor V Thaker, Ahmedabad
  32. Warisha Farasat, Advocate
  33. Rabin Chakraborty, Kolkata
  34. Salil Biswas, Kolkata
  35. Rana P Behal
  36. Jyoti Punwani, journalist, mumbai
  37. Monisha Behal
  38. Suman Keshari
  39. Dr. Zaheer Ahmed Sayeed, Chennai
  40. Zaffarullah Khan
  41. Ritu Dewan, Executive Director, Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai
  42. Sagar Rabari, Ahmedabad
  43. Prof Pritam Singh, Oxford, UK
  44. Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Feminist and Human Rights Activist, Mumbai
  45. Rashmi Varma, London
  46. Shobha Aggarwal, Advocate & Jt. Secretary, PIL Watch Group, New Delhi
  47. Kasim Sait Progressive-Interactions, Chennai
  48. Xavier Dias, Ranchi, Jharkhand
  49. Dr. Mary Mathai
  50. Madhusree Mukerjee, author
  51. Jairus Banaji
  52. Nisha Biswas, Kolkata
  53. Debdatta Chakrabarti, USA
  54. Teesta Setalvad
  55. Sumanta Banerjee
  56. Sanjay Kumar, People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism, New Delhi
  57. Mohammad Imran, NRI SAHI, Lucknow, India and NJ, USA
  58. Virginia Saldanha, Secretary ICWM
  59. Tapan Bose, South Asia Forum for Human Rights New Delhi
  60. Ania Loomba, Delhi and Philadelphia
  61. Pushpa Achanta, Independent journalist, Bangalore
  62. Rohini Hensman, Writer and researcher, Bombay
  63. N.D. Pancholi
  64. Kumar Prashant Gandhian worker/Thinker Mumbai
  65. Kavita Panjabi, Jadavpur University
  66. Mahmood Farooqui, Writer, Delhi
  67. Khalid Azam, United States
  68. Fiaz A. Khan
  69. Sujay Basu, Kolkata
  70. Divya Gupta, Delhi
  71. Ashish Lahiri, Pavlov Institute, Kolkata
  72. Nilanjan Dutta, APDR, Kolkata
  73. Saba Dewan, New Delhi
  74. Suresh Bhat
  75. Adhiraj Bose, New Wave, Kolkata
  76. Ali Javed
  77. Kaveri R I, Hyderabad
  78. Kiran Shaheen
  79. Shivani
  80. Indira Chakravarthi
  81. Tarun Basu, Executive Editor, Durbar Bhabna, Kolkata
  82. Subhendu Dasgupta, Kolkata
  83. Vinerjeet Kaur
  84. Shahana Bhattacharya
  85. Gyan Pandey
  86. Syeda Hameed, Author / Poet , New Delhi
  87. Sarwat Ali
  88. SAHELI, Delhi
  89. Arun Kumar, CESP, JNU, New Delhi
  90. Kirty Roy, MASUM, West Bengal, India
  91. Partha Sen
  92. Rabin Banerjee, Bijyan o Bijyankarmi, Kolkata
  93. Sumit Chakkravartty, Editor, Mainstream, New Delhi
  94. Shraddha Pandya, Mumbai
  95. A K Bhattacharya

[The signatures still coming in will be updated here]