People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) expresses its condolences on the demise of Justice Rajinder Sachar. A leading civil rights activist, Justice Rajinder Sachar will be remembered for his democratic commitments and deep concern for the marginalized and deprived sections of society. His career as a judge reverberated the same commitment to democratic ethos and his defiance of arbitrary authority. Justice Sachar was transferred from Sikkim High Court during Emergency for being one of the few judges who would admit writ petitions and allow political prisoners to avail bail, infuriating the Emergency regime. In 1984, when PUDR and People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) filed a writ petition in Delhi High Court after the publication of their joint fact-finding report ‘Who Are The Guilty?’ on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, naming the culprits and seeking registration of FIRs against them, the case came up before Rajinder Sachar. He issued notice to the police but before the next hearing, the case was removed from his court and brought before two other judges asking petitioners to withdraw their case which the petitioners declined. Post his retirement as Chief Justice Delhi High Court in 1985, he also served as the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing raising issues of adequate right to housing in Kenya, and a member of the UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities.
One of his biggest contributions would remain the authorship of what came to be called as the ‘Sachar Committee’ Report published in 2006 on the socio-economic and educational situation of Muslims in India. The report highlighted the backwardness of the Muslim community in India on every socio-economic index based on statistical data. The report also made an attempt to break several stereotypes associated with the Muslim community and Islam while also pointing out how the visible markers of Muslim identity contributed to a public discourse in which they were looked at with suspicion. The report recommended setting up of an institutional structure called an Equal Opportunity Commission for legal redressal of cases of discrimination again Muslims.
As a civil libertarian he has made a valuable contribution to the civil rights movement in India as the President (1986-1995) and member of PUCL after his retirement. As a member of PUCL, among many concerns of people’s rights, Justice Sachar also opposed draconian anti-terror laws for the gross violation of human rights they committed. In 2003, representing PUCL he argued in Supreme Court against The Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and demanded its repeal.
PUDR fondly remembers the memories of joint work with PUCL in which Justice Sachar was a part and salutes the deep democratic commitments his life represented. In the darkness of today with the fascist onslaught on our democracy, Justice Sachar’s is a huge loss.
Shashi and Shahana
29th April 2018