Should any person saying “Murdabad” be behind bars, asks senior advocate Mihir Desai critiquing recent judgements denying bail

The misinterpretation of terms like ‘comrade’ even in the judiciary makes it hard for advocates of personal liberty says the advocate speaking on recent judicial orders staying acquittal of professor GN Saibaba and refusing bail to Umar Khalid and Jyoti Jagtap

Mihir Desai

The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) hosted an online event to discuss three recent judgements seriously impacting civil liberties. The judgements included Bombay High Court’s denial of bail to Jyoti Jagtap (Jyoti Jagtap v. National Investigating Agency and Anr.), Supreme Court’s stay on the acquittal of Dr G.N. Saibaba (State of Maharashtra v. Mahesh Kariman Tirki And Ors.) and Delhi High Court’s denial of bail to Umar Khalid (Umar Khalid v. State of NCT of Delhi).

The judgements were discussed by senior advocate Mihir Desai who highlighted that the influence of executive on judiciary worked in subtle ways such as favours post retirement among other things. He commenced his address by highlighting that procedural grounds were quite important. He said– “In Watali, the Supreme Court said that the admissibility of what the prosecution produces cannot be questioned. Fine. But you can go into the probative value of it”.

Desai also highlighted the issue of “frontal organisations”. While doing so, he referred to Jyoti Jagtap’s case. He stated that Jyoti’s name was included in the FIR solely because of some slogans she shouted at Elgar Parishad and being part of a play which dealt with issues such as demonetisation and Dalit rights. 

“Most important aspect is the question of frontal organization. Jyoti was a part of Kabir Kala Manch. You can’t throw names that this is a frontal organisation unless you come with a clear government notification. What is the basis of holding Kabir Kala Manch as a frontal organisation? Nothing. Just the other day the Prime Minister called ‘Narmada Bachao Andolan’ as an Urban Naxal Movement. Anything can be called this, which is okay for politicians but for courts to hold such organisations as frontal organisation is wrong,” said Desai. 

He also highlighted the fact that, in Jyoti Jagtap’s case, even the prosecution had admitted that there were around 150 frontal organisations of which even retired High Court and Supreme Court judges were a part. Additionally, Desai, while answering a question regarding the influence of the executive on the judiciary said, “The influence of executive on judiciary isn’t necessary like the Prime Minister or the Home Minister calling the judges. It works in subtle ways- such as favours post retirement etc. And some judges may actually believe in the current regime.” 

Finally, Mihir Desai concluded his address by stating that, “When I was arguing Jyoti’s case, the prosecution repeatedly said that they call each other comrades so they must be a part of a party. Yesterday I was reading a book by Woodson, where he keeps on calling everyone comrades. There are parties which have Communist in their names. Some judges don’t even understand. 20 years back at least judges were aware of this. Murdabad means ‘death to’. So any person saying Murdabad should be behind bars? Sometimes it’s like hitting your head against the wall.” 

The senior lawyer was apparently referring to the recent Delhi High Court order denying bail to Umar Khalid, in which certain adverse inferences were drawn by the Court from the use of words “inquilab zindabad”. 

The event also included an address by Advocate Mohammed Danish, who had represented Siddique Kappan. He stated that the Trial Court had required two sureties of Rs 1 Lakh each for his bail and the same had been quite difficult to secure. He mentioned that Prof Roop Rekha Verma, former Vice Chancellor of the Lucknow University had volunteered to stand as surety for Siddique Kappan and had been really helpful.

 “Even after a month, the verification of those two sureties has not been done. We’re now expecting the order and the NIA court to finish verification of sureties and bail to be granted soon”, he said.


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