Rule of law being brazenly subverted

Deccan Herald Feb 26 2018, 23:47 IST

The discharge of former Gujarat DGP PP Pande by a special CBI court in Ahmedabad in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case is the latest in a series of recent cases of highly placed persons, including politicians and senior officials, being allowed to go off the legal hook in very unconvincing ways and for dubious reasons. It also happens that those who got such reprieve are either politicians belonging to the BJP or officials associated with BJP governments who found themselves in the dock over the cases. Pande was one of the 11 persons accused of killing Ishrat Jahan, a teenaged woman from Maharashtra, and three others in a fake encounter in 2004. The case was investigated by the CBI and Pande was charge-sheeted in 2013. The Gujarat high court had twice rejected his petitions to have the FIR against him quashed. But the CBI court has now discharged him, saying that "mere prima facie evidence is not sufficient" to frame a charge.

The CBI had painstakingly investigated the case and filed the charge-sheet in which Pande was the second accused. The discharge of the accused in sensitive cases has to be on stronger and more convincing grounds. In fake encounter cases, the right to life and liberty of citizens, the most basic of fundamental rights, is involved and courts need to be especially vigilant in such cases. Pande's discharge follows the discharge of 15 of the 28 accused, including BJP president Amit Shah and senior Gujarat police officers, in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case. The discharge of accused persons in that case has also become controversial.

Many BJP politicians, supporters and those close to the party have been let off in many cases of fake encounters, corruption or rioting in the recent past. Former Karnataka minister Janardhan Reddy has been freed of serious charges related to illegal mining in Karnataka. The UP government refused sanction to prosecute Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in a hate speech case, and the court endorsed the decision. The UP government is withdrawing about 20,000 criminal cases, and the beneficiaries include those charged in the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riot cases. The Rajasthan police has dropped charges against some accused gau rakshaks in the Pehlu Khan lynching case and diluted charges against others. At the same time, Opposition leaders, especially those from the Congress and the AAP, are increasingly being targeted. This is a dangerous trend. If the law is not allowed to take its natural course, people will lose their faith in it. It amounts to subversion of the rule of law and the system of justice, and the BJP governments are being brazen about it.

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