The uncertainty at the end of the legal tunnel in protecting Constitutional rights

As the Constitutional bench ‘laid down the law’ and protected Arnab Goswami’s liberty, here is a list of others whose due procedure hasn't started even after two years
The uncertainty at the end of the legal tunnel in protecting Constitutional rights

While granting bail to Alan Shuhaib and Thwaha Fazal, who was accused under UAPA and has been under NIA scanner, a Kerala court noted that protest was a Constitutional right. However, the same is rarely echoed around the nation. Others are also in jail for having protested. Varavara Rao and Stan Swamy are jailed — from where Arnab Goswami was released — under UAPA. Both the activists are old and have been having physical discomforts. Rao’s family has said that he is unable to walk on his own, and Stan is a Parkinson’s patient. The latter had requested the special NIA court to allow him to use a straw to drink water. The court has moved the hearing to November 26, where the prosecution will explain their side of the argument. This is after he had already been denied interim bail even though he is 83 years old, has Parkinson’s, is physically weak, and is under risk for coronavirus. Meanwhile, Umar Khalid, the former JNU student, is also jailed for his alleged part in promoting the North East Delhi violence¬ without trial and bail.

Varavara Rao, 79, has been in jail for over two years in the Elgar Parishad case. Lawyer and activist Sudha Bharadwaj has also been in jail for a similar duration and her alleged part in the Elgar Parishad case. They expressed their right to protest, and the police arrested them for having “played a part in the Bhima-Koregaon violence”. The Court would then decide if they are to be convicted or acquitted. However, to spend over two years in jail without any light at the end of this long legal tunnel seems to be an example of how selective the apex Court would like to protect Constitutional rights.

The uncertainty at the end of the legal tunnel in protecting Constitutional rights
Arnab Goswami and Akhil Gogoi: A tale of two Asomiya with contrasting legal endings

If we are looking at journalists and not activists, then look no further than Kerala-based journalist Siddique Kappan. Kapil Sibal, who had appeared for the Maharashtra government in the Arnab bail plea, told SC that when Kappan had tried to approach SC for bail, the latter had asked him to refer to the lower courts and then the petition was posted for further hearing after four weeks.

The UP police had arrested Kappan under UAPA when the journalist was travelling to Hathras to report on the rape of a Dalit girl by a few upper caste men. The UP police claimed that Kappan had possible relation with the Popular Front of India and that there was a bigger conspiracy behind his arrival. He has been jailed for over a month with a hearing happening four weeks later.

In the Arnab Goswami case, while granting him plea, Justice Chandrachud said, “If we as a Constitutional court do not lay down law and protect liberty, then who will?” And if the Constitutional court doesn’t lay down the law and protect the liberty of everyone else, then who will?

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