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No bail for  Godhra accused



Judiciary Watch

January 17, 2008

Once more a serious denial of basic fundamental rights has been caused today by the delay caused by either insensitive or unaccountable listing procedures of the registry of the apex court of India, the Supreme Court.

As a result, 84 of those allegedly accused of the Godhra train burning (one of whom is near hundred per cent blind) have been denied their personal liberty for six years. Bail is the fundamental prerequisite inalienable fundamental right to any and every accused under Indian criminal law and civilized form of jurisprudence. Even draconian anti-terror laws that are severely contested because they vest untested powers on the police and executive, do not ever condone custody for such a long time.

Here's the Chronology of the Godhra Bail Matters before the Supreme Court (Yesterday's Backgrounders sent outlined the trajectory of the Godhra cases and pointed out that the Gujarat High Court, has, shockingly not entertained any bail matter after October 2004. 


22.2.07. Through an order of outgoing SC Judge Justice BP Singh, the SC ruled that the Godhra accused could fie bail applications before the SC. The matter being considered was the Report of the Central POTA Review Committee that had held that the provisions of the POTA legislation could not be applied to the Godhra case.

10.4.2007    Bail applications are filed in the SC

9.4.2007.    Matter is listed by the Registry but not heard because the Court is hearing the All India Judges Association Matter. Plus the summer vacation is after two days. The SC thus directs hat the bail applications should be listed for " final disposal" on 18.7.2007 after the vacation.  What happens after these directions? After the vacation and on SC's reopening on 18.7.2007, there is no sign of the matter.
First week of August 2007. The matter is again listed on a miscellaneous day at which point, accused reps and counsel travelling at their own cost from Godhra again point out to the court that this matter must be listed on a non-miscellaneous day so final arguments can be completed.

For two and a half to three months no matters are listed as Judges are sitting on the Constitution Bench. Thereafter though matters are shown as pending on the SC list o November 18-19 they are not listed by the Registry.

21.11.2007 Matter is again mentioned by legal reps of the bail accused after which Court asks Registry to list.

First Week of December 2007.  Again Bail Matters that are clubbed with POTA Review Committee Matter are listed on a miscellaneous day which means that arguments an never be completed.

12.12.2007. Matters are shown as listed before the Chief Justice and Panchal. Hence again reps of bail accused mention the matter on 11.12.2007 pointing out that since Justice Panchal hails from Gujarat and his brother is a Public Prosecutor for the state of Gujarat, the matter could not be before him. The Court agrees. Again, what does the Registry do?

12.12.2007. Fully knowing the circumstances behind which the matter had been mentioned on 11.11.2007, the Registry still lists the matter before Justices Agrawal and Singhvi. (Justice Singhvi had heard the POTA REVIEW COMMITTEE matter earlier and hence would face similar issues as Justice Panchal). Sure enough, the next day Justice Singhvi says " not before me." One more chance to argue the matter and get bail for the victims is lost.

12.12.2007. Agitated, the reps of the bail accused mention the matter again the same afternoon before the Chief pointing out this repeated problem from the registry. The CJ directs that the matter should be mentioned in the second week of January after which he would constitute a special three judge bench and list it for the third week of January.

17.1.2008    Unmindful it appears of the CJ's order, the Registry lists it on Thursday which may be a non miscellaneous day but which also means that arguments will spill over to the following week. In the first instance the matter is shown as listed before Justices Bhan, Sinha and Mathur. Late the evening before, that is on Wednesday 16.1.2007 it is shown as appearing before the CJ, Ravindran and Panchal. What does it mean that the Registry again lists it before a Judge who cannot hear the matter. On 17.1.2008 Once again, the CJ says it would be posted next week or at the earliest. Personal liberty is denied and no questions ae asked as to what is going on within the Registry of the highest court in the land.

Can no questions be asked about the systems in operation in the Supreme Court of India?
Which matters get automatic priority and which do not?
Which matters suffer because of the delays and interim orders of the Supreme Court?
Is there no prioritization of cases where issues of personal liberty, denial of basic fundamental rights, mass crimes and impunity to the rich and powerful is concerned?

If we can ask no questions, we will receive no answers.

The time has come to question the basic accountability procedures of the highest court in the land.  

Has the Supreme Court of India lost its soul and is it turning a blind eye to cases related to fundamental rights violations?

If so, where then do we turn?


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