‘Witch Hunt’ of Individuals Inconvenient to Govt Must Stop: Former Civil Servants – The Wire

‘Witch Hunt’ of Individuals Inconvenient to Govt Must Stop: Former Civil Servants – The Wire

In a letter to the attorney general, the Constitutional Conduct Group said it is deeply disturbing to see the "patently discriminatory treatment" meted out to Nupur Sharma and Mohammed Zubair.
The former civil servants referred to the detention of Mohammed Zubair Photo: PTI.
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New Delhi: A group of 72 former civil servants wrote to attorney general K.K. Venugopal, asking him to advise the government to check the “witch hunt” of people exercising their right to free speech by a cynical and overzealous police force.
In a letter to the country’s top law officer, the ex-bureaucrats under the Constitutional Conduct Group (CCG) highlighted the continued detention and deprivation of personal civil liberties of Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair.
“We have been watching with dismay the cynical over-zealousness of not just the law enforcement agencies but also the law officers under you to manufacture cases day after day to deliberately deprive individuals, identified as inconvenient by the government, of their basic freedoms,” the letter said.
The former bureaucrats said as votaries of the constitutional precept of equality before the law, it is deeply disturbing to see the “patently discriminatory treatment” meted out to Nupur Sharma and Mohammed Zubair.
“Such selective application of law flies in the face of justice as we understand it,” read the letter dated July 15 and made public on Saturday.
The former civil servants specifically referred to the continued detention of Zubair on charges that they said “would not stand the barest of legal scrutiny”.
A Delhi court had on Friday granted bail to Zubair in a case related to his alleged objectionable tweet in 2018 on a Hindu deity, observing that “the voice of dissent is necessary for a healthy democracy”.
Zubair, however, will remain in jail as he has been remanded to judicial custody in some of the FIRs registered against him by the Uttar Pradesh Police for allegedly hurting religious sentiments. The journalist is in jail since July 2.
“We call upon you to advise the government to issue a directive to the police authorities to stop any further witch hunt against citizens exercising their right to free speech and ensure that no baseless cases are filed in the future as also to instruct government advocates not to routinely oppose applications for bail,” reads the letter to the attorney general.
The 72 signatories to the letter include former home secretary G.K. Pillai, former IAS officer Harsh Mander, former chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah and former health secretary K. Sujatha Rao, among others.
“The Supreme Court in a recent ruling has stated that indiscriminately arresting people and putting them in jail is making India a police state,” the letter said. “We are at a loss to understand why the solicitor general takes it upon himself to appear in all kinds of cases even to oppose bail,” the CCG said.
They told the AG that if the moral imperative is left unheeded, “there will be disastrous consequences for the country”.
The full letter and list of signatories are reproduced below.
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We, a group of former civil servants of the All India and Central Services, who have come together as the Constitutional Conduct Group and are committed to the values enshrined in the Indian Constitution are deeply disturbed by recent events which strike at the very root of fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Indian Constitutions to its citizens.
We specifically refer to the continued detention and deprivation of personal civil liberties of Mohammed Zubair on charges that would not stand the barest of legal scrutiny. You would have read the comprehensive article written on this case by none other than Justice Madan B Lokur, retired judge of the Supreme Court, which clearly spells out the wrong application of law by the police as well as the judiciary. A copy of the article is attached for your perusal.
We have been watching with dismay the cynical overzealousness of not just the law enforcement agencies but also the law officers under you to manufacture cases day after day to deliberately deprive individuals, identified as inconvenient by the Government, of their basic freedoms. As votaries of the Constitutional precept of equality before the law, it is deeply disturbing to see the patently discriminatory treatment meted out as between a Nupur Sharma and a Mohammed Zubair. Such selective application of law flies in the face of justice as we understand it.
No doubt, we need not remind you of your bounden duty to uphold and protect the Constitution and the personal liberties of its citizens from arbitrary and illegal action. We note that you, personally, have an unblemished and outstanding record of over half a century and therefore we have high expectations that you will step in against such flagrant violations of the law on the part of law enforcement agencies as well as subordinate courts. We call upon you to advise the government to issue a directive to the police authorities to stop any further witch hunt against citizens exercising their right to free speech and ensure that no baseless cases are filed in the future as also to instruct government advocates not to routinely oppose applications for bail. The Supreme Court in a recent ruling has stated that indiscriminately arresting people and putting them in jail is making India a ‘police state’. We are at a loss to understand why the Solicitor General takes it upon himself to appear in all kinds of cases even to oppose bail.
As the highest law officer of this land, having earned the respect of so many across the legal and political fraternities as also the discerning public, we feel you have an obligation to rectify the situation. If this moral imperative is left unheeded, we fear that there will be disastrous consequences for the country. We do hope that you will act swiftly to provide our people the freedom that our democracy is expected to sustain.
We intend to release this letter to the media after a period of 24 hours.
Attachment: Article by retired Justice Madan Lokur
SATYAMEVA JAYATE
Yours faithfully,
Constitutional Conduct Group (72 signatories, as below)
1. Vappala Balachandran IPS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
2. Gopalan Balagopal IAS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
3. Chandrashekar Balakrishnan IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Coal, GoI
4. Rana Banerji RAS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
5. Sharad Behar IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
6. Aurobindo Behera IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Odisha
7. Madhu Bhaduri IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Portugal
8. Ravi Budhiraja IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, GoI
9. Sundar Burra IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
10. Rachel Chatterjee IAS (Retd.) Former Special Chief Secretary, Agriculture, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh
11. Kalyani Chaudhuri IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
12. Gurjit Singh Cheema IAS (Retd.) Former Financial Commissioner (Revenue), Govt. of Punjab
13. F.T.R. Colaso IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Karnataka & former Director General of Police, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir
14. P.R. Dasgupta IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI
15. Pradeep K. Deb IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Deptt. Of Sports, GoI
16. Nitin Desai Former Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, GoI
17. M.G. Devasahayam IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana
18. Sushil Dubey IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Sweden
19. K.P. Fabian IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Italy
20. Suresh K. Goel IFS (Retd.) Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, GoI
21. S.K. Guha IAS (Retd.) Former Joint Secretary, Department of Women & Child Development, GoI
22. H.S. Gujral IFoS (Retd.) Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Govt. of Punjab
23. Meena Gupta IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI
24. Wajahat Habibullah IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, GoI and former Chief Information Commissioner
25. Kamal Jaswal IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI
26. Brijesh Kumar IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI
27. Ish Kumar IPS (Retd.) Former DGP (Vigilance & Enforcement), Govt. of Telangana and former Special Rapporteur, National Human Rights Commission
28. Sudhir Kumar IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Central Administrative Tribunal
29. Subodh Lal IPoS (Resigned) Former Deputy Director General, Ministry of Communications, GoI
30. B.B. Mahajan IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Deptt. of Food, GoI
31. Harsh Mander IAS (Retd.) Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
32. Lalit Mathur IAS (Retd.) Former Director General, National Institute of Rural Development, GoI
33. Aditi Mehta IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan
34. Sunil Mitra IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI
35. Avinash Mohananey IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Sikkim
36. Satya Narayan Mohanty IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission
37. Deb Mukharji IFS (Retd.) Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal
38. Gautam Mukhopadhaya IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Myanmar
39. Nagalsamy IA&AS (Retd.) Former Principal Accountant General, Tamil Nadu & Kerala
40. Sobha Nambisan IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Secretary (Planning), Govt. of Karnataka
41. Surendra Nath IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Finance Commission, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
42. P. Joy Oommen IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Chhattisgarh
43. Amitabha Pande IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI
44. Maxwell Pereira IPS (Retd.) Former Joint Commissioner of Police, Delhi
45. G.K. Pillai IAS (Retd.) Former Home Secretary, GoI
46. Gurnihal Singh Pirzada IAS (Resigned) Former MD, Punjab State Electronic Development & Production Corporation, Govt. of Punjab
47. V.P. Raja IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission
48. K. Sujatha Rao IAS (Retd.) Former Health Secretary, GoI
49. M.Y. Rao IAS (Retd.)
50. Satwant Reddy IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Chemicals and Petrochemicals, GoI
51. Julio Ribeiro IPS (Retd.) Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania
52. Aruna Roy IAS (Resigned)
53. A.K. Samanta IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police (Intelligence), Govt. of West Bengal
54. Deepak Sanan IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh
55. S. Satyabhama IAS (Retd.) Former Chairperson, National Seeds Corporation, GoI
56. N.C. Saxena IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI
57. A. Selvaraj IRS (Retd.) Former Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, Chennai, GoI
58. Ardhendu Sen IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
59. Abhijit Sengupta IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI
60. Aftab Seth IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Japan
61. Ashok Kumar Sharma IFoS (Retd.) Former MD, State Forest Development Corporation, Govt. of Gujarat
62. Ashok Kumar Sharma IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia
63. Navrekha Sharma IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Indonesia
64. Mukteshwar Singh IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission
65. Tara Ajai Singh IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Karnataka
66. Tirlochan Singh IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, National Commission for Minorities, GoI
67. Parveen Talha IRS (Retd.) Former Member, Union Public Service Commission
68. Anup Thakur IAS (Retd.) Former Member, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
69. P.S.S. Thomas IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission
70. Hindal Tyabji IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir
71. Ramani Venkatesan IAS (Retd.) Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. of Maharashtra
72. Rudi Warjri IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Colombia, Ecuador and Costa Rica

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