Protect Judge who put Naroda Patiya convicts behind bars

Jyotsna-Yagnik

Even as Judge Jyotsana Yagnick who convicted Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi (both out on bail) for the Naroda Patiya massacre is being intimidated with threatening letters, government delays response on her request to protection which was scaled down from Z-plus to Y category

By Team FI

Following reports of retired Judge Jyotsana Yagnik, receiving threatening letters and blank phone calls, civil society organisations have written an open letter to the Gujarat Government and to the public to take serious note of the intimidation.

Yagnik whose judgement had convicted erstwhile BJP Minister Maya Kodnani and former Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi along with 30 others for the 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre has so far received 22 threatening letters and a number of blank phone calls. However, pointed out the letter, that though “62 year old judge informed the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigations Team (SIT) about the threats and phone calls, instead of strengthening her protection, the government has scaled down her security cover.”

As per news reports, the security cover was scaled down Y category from the Z-plus she had when she the Principal City Civil and Sessions Judge in Ahmedabad. The intimidation had begun soon after the verdict and Yagnik worried about her family’s safety had informed the SIT. Indian Express quotes SIT Additional Director General of Police Ashish Bhatia “that in the last six- eight months, he had not come across threat letters to any judge, including Yagnik. “I don’t know if she received (the letters) before that,” Bhatia said.” He however said that the Yagnik’s request to step up the protection is pending before the government. It must be noted here that both the main convicts of the case are out on bail. Kodnani was released on bail by the Gujarat High Court in July last year while Bajrangi got out on bail on April 23, 2015, on the claim that he was going blind.

Following is the full text of the letter

OPEN LETTER TO GUJARAT GOVT AND TO PUBLIC

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 Investigations 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.

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