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01 Apr 2009

When a crime is committed as per the law of the land in full public view, what reason can there be for not prosecuting but instead invoking a preventive detention law such as the NSA, as has been done in the case of Varun Gandhi.

PUDR as a matter of principle opposes the use of preventive detention, be it National Security Act (NSA) or various state level laws, because when a person has committed a crime then he/she ought to be prosecuted and convicted rather than booked under NSA or equivalent state laws. Conversely, when no crime has been committed but a common persons are booked under preventive detention and incarcerated, at times for more than the stipulated period, it is because authorities want to smother and gag dissent and dissidence.

The significance of our stance is brought out by the manner in which the UP government has chosen to book Varun Gandhi under NSA when in his case there is sufficient evidence and number of witnesses are available to prosecute him for a variety of criminal offences committed by him and his cohorts. There is, according to information provided by the district administration, evidence to charge him for promoting enmity between people on grounds of religion (S 153A), attempt to murder (S 307), rioting and related offences (S 146), deterring public servant from performing duty (S152) of the Indian Penal Code. Since an FIR was filed and investigations are needed, he ought to have been placed under police remand for the purposes of investigation like any other ordinary person.

In marked contrast, in Jammu and Kashmir the union government, during Governor’s Rule, placed more than 300 activists of various separatist groups under its own preventive detention Act, Public Safety Act, which allows booking away a person for two years, when there was not a shred of evidence to prosecute them. Thus they exhibit virulent vindictiveness against those dissidents.

As a consequence the two instances, seemingly similar for use of preventive detention acts, bear witness to the fact that laws are enforced in such a way that the privileged and the powerful escape justice whereas the vulnerable suffer injustice. Therefore, in Varun Gandhi’s case, by delaying investigation, the UP government has chosen to evade its responsibility and soft peddle his criminal offences by booking him under NSA.

Moushumi Basu,
Secretary, PUDR
[email protected]