A group of former civil servants has urged Chief Justice of India NV Ramana to take cognisance of the demolition of the properties of those who protested in Uttar Pradesh against the controversial remarks about Prophet Muhammad by Bharatiya Janata Party spokespersons, PTI reported on Tuesday.
In an open letter dated June 20, the group said that the idea of “bulldozer justice” and inflicting brutal punishment on citizens who dare to protest lawfully or criticise the government was becoming a norm in the country.
“It is the fact that the very idea of the rule of law, of due process, of being treated as ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is being turned upside down,” the letter stated, according to The Wire. “There is a sense of impunity and the arrogance of majoritarian power which seems to be driving this disregard for constitutional values and principles.”
The letter was signed by 90 retired civil servants, including former Union Home Secretary GK Pillai, former Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, former Indian Police Service officers Julio Ribeiro, Avinash Mohananey, Maxwell Pereira and A K Samanta, and former Social Justice Secretary Anita Agnihotri.
BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s disparaging comments against the Prophet, made during a debate on the Times Now television channel on May 26, had sparked violent protests in several parts of India earlier this month. Naveen Jindal, who was the media head of the BJP’s Delhi unit, had also posted a tweet with derogatory content about the Prophet on June 1.
Sharma has been suspended from the party, while Kumar has been expelled.
The outrage against the BJP spokespersons gained fresh momentum after several Gulf countries summoned Indian diplomats to lodge formal protest against their remarks. In Uttar Pradesh alone, 415 persons have been arrested from 10 districts for participating in the demonstrations.
On June 11, the Kanpur and Saharanpur administrations partially demolished the properties of three persons accused of participating in the protests. On the next day, the Prayagraj administration demolished activist Javed Mohammed’s home, a day after he was arrested for allegedly conspiring to carry out violent protests in the city.
While there are no provisions under Indian law to demolish the home of anyone accused of a crime, this pattern has been regularly observed across BJP-ruled states.
In Tuesday’s letter, the former civil servants also voiced their support for a plea sent to the chief justice on June 14 by a group of retired judges and senior advocates regarding the demolitions. They had asked the chief justice to take suo motu cognisance of the “violence and repression” by the state authorities.
“We fully support this plea and urge your immediate intervention,” the former civil servants, under the aegis of Constitutional Conduct Group said in the letter. “We believe that unless the judiciary at the highest level steps in to intervene, swiftly, firmly and decisively, the entire edifice of constitutional governance that has been so carefully and meticulously constructed over the last seventy-two years, is likely to collapse.”
The group further said that the demolition drives and the “abuse of municipal and civic laws for political ends” were just a small part of a larger policy for converting the administrative and police apparatus into “an instrument of brutal majoritarian repression.”
“There are explicit directions to invoke the National Security Act 1980 and the Uttar Pradesh Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act 1986, to brutally quell any protest,” the group wrote in the letter, according to PTI. “The policy has the sanction of the highest levels of the government and while local-level officials and police personnel are certainly answerable for arbitrary use of power, the real culpability lies at the highest levels of the political executive.”