Amid the national uproar demanding justice for Father Stan Swamy’s custodial death, 10 opposition leaders including Congress Presidents Sonia Gandhi have written to President Ram Nath Kovind to urge ‘his government’ to act against the responsible.
The letter, also signed by Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, asked the President to release all charged with UAPA in connection to the Bhima-Koregaon case.
The letter says: “We are urging your immediate intervention as the President of India to direct ‘your government’ to act against those responsible for foisting false cases on him (Stan Swamy), his continued detention in jail, and inhuman treatment.
They must be held accountable. It is now incumbent that all those jailed in the Bhima Koregaon case and other detainees under politically motivated cases, misusing draconian laws like UAPA, sedition, etc be released forthwith.”
While the opposition leaders claim the law to be ‘draconian’, the UPA defended its stringent bail system, calling it “nothing unusual”. While introducing the Unlawful Activities Prevention Amendment bill in Rajya Sabha in 2008, after the Mumbai terror attacks of 26/11, Union Minister P. Chidambaram dismissed the concerns. “Broadly what we are doing is imposing restrictions on the path of the grant of bail,” he said then.
Concerns were raised over the extended detention period, from 90 to 180 days if the court finds “reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation against such person is prima facie true”.
“I think some people thought that refusing bail is an unusual provision, but it is not. For heinous crimes, even today bail is refused until the case is completely tried and the court reaches its conclusions. So, there is nothing unusual about it,” Chidambaram justified in the year 2008.
In his article for Bloomberg Quint, lawyer Abhinav Sekhri writes that “the cold, hard, truth is that the treatment meted out to Father Stan by the faceless system is the cruel norm when it comes to matters of pre-trial custody and bail.”
He argues that while there is a need for an anti-terrorism law in place, laws like UAPA are arbitrary and vague in nature, giving all the power in the hands of the judge hearing bail pleas.
“There are no clear timelines for expeditious disposal of bail pleas, and it is routine for applications to remain pending for weeks if not months,” he added.
The article is an abstract from Sekhri’s piece published in the GNLU LAW & SOCIETY REVIEW.