The case of Greenpeace India activist Priya Pillai is a stark example of how the space for democratic dissent in India is not only shrinking alarmingly but also of the central government’s parsimony with the truth. In the entire sorry episode underlining the blatant violation of human rights, the Intelligence Bureau, which seems to be a law unto itself, has played a major role. At most times, the Government of India tends to be economical with the truth on issues concerning human rights. The latest evidence of this can be witnessed in the affidavit filed by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in response to the petition filed by Priya Parameswaran Pillai.
Pillai is employed as a policy officer with the Greenpeace India Society that is registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act.
The Supreme Court judgment in the Akshardham temple attack case has acquitted six innocent men who were tortured and then made to suffer imprisonment. The Supreme Court has come down hard on the investigating agencies of Gujarat and the way in which the lower judiciary has functioned in this case. The apex court must take this forward and revisit the existing prosecutions under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and examine the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act which incorporates many of the POTA provisions.
Narendra Damodardas Modi’s destination may have been very different if the Indian criminal justice system had met the standards of more robust democratic legal systems that make strict adherence to due process and timely delivery of justice an article of faith and everyday practice. Nothing exemplifi es this more than the handling of the case of the murder of Ehsan Jafri, former Member of Parliament (MP) who was hacked to death alongwith many others in the Gulberg society in the Chamanpura suburb of Ahmedabad.
The case is brilliantly etched out in the report by the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic of Stanford Law School, When Justice Becomes the Victim – The Quest for Justice After the 2002 Violence in Gujarat (2014).
Much has been said recently about national interest requiring turning a blind eye towards the extra-judicial killings of Indian citizens allegedly with the connivance of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and its uniformed police accomplices. To hear some commentators, all that stands between India and imminent destruction is the capacity of an unaccountable body to Parliament to execute whomever, wherever, and whenever they like. Stripped of the immunity to murder at whim, the IB would be allegedly forced to fight suspected terrorists with both hands tied behind its back. Or would it?
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The Jammu and Kashmir government has cleverly used the Supreme Court's order on revamping police legislation to bring in the J&K Police Bill 2013 that has several arbitrary and draconian provisions. While demanding revocation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, the state government is attempting to bring in a law that gives the police huge powers over citizens without protecting the latter's rights.
There is need for a statutory framework for South Asia’s intelligence agencies to build effective oversight and accountability mechanisms. Whilst national security is highly important to public interest, it is only one of many competing interests to be balanced for effective governance. This paper outlines best practice for regulation of intelligence services in South Asia, acknowledging the difficulty of balancing national security needs with civil liberties guarantees. It seeks to identify appropriate civil liberties safeguards, whilst maintaining sufficient freedom for intelligence agencies to perform their functions effectively.
It appeared in the December 2012 issue of the South Asia Journal.