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The Illegal Arrest of Debaranjan Sarangi

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Debaranjan Sarangi

Biswapriya Kanungo & Trijeeb Nanda

The extent of dissent permitted is the best parameter to judge the democraticness of a country. But the government enslaved by neo-liberal ideology treats dissent as the devil. Extra-judicial execution, implication in false and fabricated cases, illegal arrest and detention has become an integral part of governance for silencing any kind of dissent. The poor tribals of Odisha fighting for their land and life and the poor human rights activists supporting their fights are the perpetual victims of this technique of governance.

In the early morning of 18th March 2016, Debaranjan Sarangi, a Human Rights Activist, was picked up by plain clothes police from the Kucheipadar village of Rayagada District, Odisha. Debaranjan was in Kucheipadar to attain a funeral ceremony of one of his friends’ father.

The police claims of arresting Debaranjan while executing a non-bailable warrant issued by the court of JMFC, Kashipur, in pursuance of a criminal case registered in the Tikri police station of Raygada District in 2005. Everyone including his advocate was clueless about the whereabouts of Debaranjan, till he was produced before the court of JMFC, Kashipur, in the evening. Without considering his bail application the court extended his remand till 22nd March 2016.

Debaranjan is a friend of poor, dalit, tribal and many ongoing human rights struggles within and outside Odisha. He is well known as a writer, filmmaker, and human rights activists. He has consistently criticized and exposed policies of destructive development, rampant mining practices, displacement, police impunity, the ugly politics of Hindutva and recently issues of farmers’ suicide in Odisha. Debaranjan was also a part of Prakrutika Sampad Surakhya Parisad (PSSP), which strongly resisted against the operation of mining by Utkal Aluminium International Limited (UAIL) in Kashipur. For which probably this case was labeled against him by the state police as a gift for supporting the cause of innocent adivasi. We condemn this illegitimate attempt of state to silence the voice of an activist.

We also condemned the issue of Non-bailable Warrant (NBW) by the court and the execution of the same by the police. Right to life and liberty is a non-derogable fundamental right guaranteed under the Indian constitution, the deprivation of which must be in accordance with due process of law (Art.21). Further as per the apex court, for deprivation of liberty the due process of law requires both ‘the procedure’ as well as ‘the law’ to be just, fair and reasonable (Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India).

In the instant case, the issue of NBW by the concern judicial magistrate is not in consonance with the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court (SC). In Inder Mohan Goswami & Anr. Vs. State of Uttaranchal while dealing with the question:- how and when warrants should be issued by the Court? The top court held that:

Non-bailable warrant should be issued to bring a person to court when summons or bailable warrants would be unlikely to have the desired result. This could be when: it is reasonable to believe that the person will not voluntarily appear in court; or the police authorities are unable to find the person to serve him with a summon, or it is considered that the person could harm someone if not placed into custody immediately”

Again in Raghuvansh Dewanchand Bhasin vs State Of Maharashtra & Anr the SC issued guidelines on issuance of NBW, this inter alia says;

The Courts should not give a long time for return or execution of warrants, as experience has shown that warrants are prone to misuse if they remain in control of executing agencies for long.”

In this decade-old case the only non-bailable charge labeled against Debaranjan is under Section.506 of IPC. Furthermore, he was never informed about the submission of charge-sheet in the case, no notice for appearance by police or court was served to him on any earlier occasion. Furthermore, since Debaranjan is a socially active person and a law abiding citizens the court could have issued a bailable warrant against him.

In addition to this, even the procedure followed by the police is also unjust, unfair and unreasonable. The SC Directives issued in D.K Basu v State of West Bengal (AIR 1997 SC 610), which was later incorporated in Criminal Procedure Code, inter alia requires that: the police personnel carrying out arrest must bear accurate, visible and clear identification/ name tags with their designation. The arrest memo must be attested by the family members or a respectable person of the locality, which should be counter-signed by the accused. The arrested person is entitled to inform a person interested in his welfare about his arrest and to meet an advocate during interrogation. The SC has further directed that departmental action and contempt of court proceeding should be initiated against those who failed to follow above-mentioned directives.

In the instant case, the police came in plain clothes, neither with uniform nor any name tag with the designation. The relatives or family members were also not informed; even he was not given any opportunity to meet his advocate. Hence, we demand appropriate action against the police personnel for violating the safeguards for arrest and the rights of Debaranjan.

Biswapriya Kanungo, Advocate and Human Right Activist, Mo- 9861392021

Trijeeb Nanda, Research Fellow at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai (trijeebkumar89@gmail.com)

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