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300 Lawyers Question CJI on the Intention Behind Court Observation in Zakia Jafri Case

In a joint letter, the lawyers sought clarification from NV Ramana if the judgment in the Zakia Jafri case was not intended to have any adverse consequences.

Team Clarion

NEW DELHI — A joint letter written by more than 300 lawyers has sought clarification from Chief Justice of India NV Ramana that  judgement in the Zakia Jafri case was not intended to have any adverse consequences.

The letter expresses concern over the swift arrest of activist Teesta Setalvad, former ADGP RB Sreekumar and others following the pronouncement of the order where the police has used the observations made in the judgement as a basis for the case. 

Agony

“We must express our agony that the state police justify the arrests on the basis of the Supreme Court’s judgment dated 24th June 2022, in the Zakia Jafri case,” the letter reads, while expressing concern over the imprisonment of activist Teesta Setalvad, former ADGP RB Sreekumar and others.

“This sequence of events has sent a chilling message for the practice of law in the courts and for the rule of law in the country. It appears that a petitioner or a witness, who diligently pursues a cause in the courts, runs a risk of being put in the dock if the court deems the cause as devoid of merits,” the letter reads, according to a report in India Today. 

Last week the apex court dismissed the plea filed by Zakia Ehsan Jafri, widow of ex-Congress MP Eshan Jafri who was killed during the Gujarat riots. The plea had alleged that the Narendra Modi led government was reluctant in discharging its duties to control the situation. The Supreme Court upheld the findings of the independent commission that exonerated the government of any complicity. 

Some of the prominent names who have signed the letter are  senior advocates Chander Uday Singh, Anand Grover and Indira Jaising; advocates Sanjay Hegde, Anas Tanwir, Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi, Avani Bansal; historian Ramachandra Guha and many others, said the report. 

No specific notice

“It is a settled law that any adverse action against a person can be commenced only after giving due notice. The court has neither issued notice of perjury nor contempt, to anyone in these proceedings. In fact, the court has issued no specific notice whatsoever, warning of any adverse consequences,” the letter adds.

The letter cites the specific paragraph of the judgement, “At the end of the day, it appears to us that a coalesced effort of the disgruntled officials of the State of Gujarat along with others was to create sensation by making revelations which were false to their own knowledge. The falsity of their claims had been fully exposed by the SIT after a thorough investigation. Intriguingly, the present proceedings have been pursued for last 16 years (from submission of complaint dated 8.6.2006 running into 67 pages and then by filing protest petition dated 15.4.2013 running into 514 pages) including with the audacity to question the integrity of every functionary involved in the process of exposing the devious stratagem adopted (to borrow the submission of learned counsel for the SIT), to keep the pot boiling, obviously, for ulterior design. As a matter of fact, all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law.”

Course of retribution

The letter states in response, “We refuse to believe that our Supreme Court really intended, to sanction in advance, the course of retribution that the current government has chosen to pursue. Even during the emergency, the Supreme Court did not imprison those who sought to use legal processes, by appealing to it. The court may have failed to stand up for the citizen in ADM Jabalpur, but it did not kick down those who chose to fight for citizens’ causes in court.

“We call upon the court, to suo motu clarify that the above-quoted paragraph in its judgment, was not intended to have any adverse consequences whatsoever. The absence of such clarification may lead to further consequences when bail is sought, by those whom we believe to have been unjustly imprisoned,” the letter adds.

Chief Justice of India NV Ramana. — File photo
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