Ex-judges and lawyers are urging the Supreme Court to protect individuals’ fundamental rights in Uttar Pradesh

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Following protests over remarks on the Prophet by two now suspended BJP spokespersons, a group of lawyers and former judges wrote to Chief Justice of India N V Ramana, urging the Supreme Court “to take suo motu cognisance of recent incidents of violence and repression by state authorities on citizens in Uttar Pradesh.”

Former SC judges Justices B Sudarshan Reddy, V Gopala Gowda, and A K Ganguly, former High Court judges Justices A P Shah, K Chandru, and Mohammed Anwar, and senior advocates Shanti Bhushan, Indira Jaisingh, Chander Uday Singh, Sriram Panchu, and Anand Grover, as well as advocate Prashant Bhushan, have all signed the letter.

“Instead of providing demonstrators a chance to be heard and engage in peaceful protests, the Uttar Pradesh state administration appears to have sanctioned taking aggressive action against such individuals,” it claimed. Officials have been urged by the Chief Minister to “take such punishment against those who are guilty that it sets an example so that no one commits a crime or takes law into their own hands in the future.” He has also ordered that individuals found guilty of unauthorised protests be prosecuted under the National Security Act of 1980 and the Uttar Pradesh Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act of 1986. These comments have inspired the police to torture demonstrators in a violent and unconstitutional manner.”

“The coordinated actions of the police and development authorities led to the obvious conclusion that demolitions constitute a kind of collective extrajudicial punishment, related to an illegal state policy,” the letter stated.

“The judiciary’s mettle is tested in such critical times,” it continued. The judiciary has confronted such obstacles on numerous occasions, even recently, and has distinguished itself as the custodian of the people’s rights.”