A recent urgent appeal issued by the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group (JagLAG) dated 18th February 2016, mentions how the police administration at Jagdalpur has been pressurizing the landlord of the JagLAG office to evict the lawyers. The landlord, who is a driver by profession, was taken to the local police station and his car was impounded. On being brought back by the police personnel, he informed the lawyers that he had no option but to ask them to vacate the premises and office within a week. A similar attempt of eviction is also being done on Malini Subramaniam, a regular contributor for Scroll.in from Bastar. Her husband, housemaid and landlord were summoned to the local police station, after which her landlord too had informed Malini to vacate her rental accommodation. Malini’s car was recently attacked by a state sponsored group- ‘Samajik Ekta Manch’ led by the local legislator. An attempt to punish her for her critical reportage on false encounters and other police excesses.
The Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group, known as ‘JagLAG’, came into existence in July 2013 to do legal research and provide legal help to the people of Bastar, Dantewada, Kanker, Sukma, and Bijapur (all districts of Chattisgarh) who regularly face imprisonment and false cases as a consequence of the State’s counter-insurgency operations. Since then they have been providing legal aid- a fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution of India, to hundreds of tribals in the region. Due to their persistent work as people’s lawyers they have managed to intervene in cases of blatant Human Rights violations and ensure the acquittal and release of many. However this has also resulted in the State administration vilifying them as ‘Maoist supporters’. In an earlier attempt to evict them, the Bastar Bar Association, under the influence of the police administration, passed an illegal resolution, akin to a fatwa/ khap diktat at their general body meeting prohibiting these lawyers from “outside” from practicing in the Jagdalpur courts. Hence this recent attempt at eviction has to be seen in context of their continuous harassment by the State.
Such intimidation and blackmail by the state of lawyers and those who support them amounts to obstruction of the administration of justice as it an attempt to deter lawyers from performing their roles.
The Indian Association of Peoples Lawyers calls upon all to condemn this recent act by the Police administration in Chattisgarh. This act is nothing but another attempt to crush the efforts of lawyers who are working for the fundamental rights of people in areas of movements and conflicts.
Adv. Surendra Gadling (Nagpur), Adv. Ravindra Balla (Hyderabad), Adv. Maharukh Adenwalla (Mumbai), Adv. Sudha Bharadwaj (Raipur) and Adv. Ankit Grewal (Chandigarh) for IAPL