Raghav’s Take: Bail For 3 UAPA-Accused Activists is a Win, But…

The court has correctly demolished the dangerous argument wherein the State wants to charge people who are “likely to threaten a terrorist action”, as opposed to the established principle of “intention to indulge in a terrorist act” – if the government’s position were to be accepted, just about anybody, including authors of similar columns, can be rounded up on a contrived “likelihood”.

The most laudable extract from the judgment gives an absolutely clean chit to the students: “We can discern no specific or particularised allegation, much less any material, to bear out the allegation that the appellant incited violence, what to talk of committing a terrorist act or a conspiracy or act preparatory to the commission of a terrorist act as understood in the UAPA.”

In other words, the court is unambiguously saying that the charge sheet is false. Then why was it not dismissed?

Why is an obviously fake charge allowed to continue to harass three innocent students? Why have they been asked to furnish bonds of Rs 50,000 each? Why are they being treated like fugitives who cannot leave the country? What if they wish to attend a seminar or pursue an academic course at a foreign university? Why are they being handcuffed against doing that?

This is where I diverge from the celebratory chorus. Because our respected judges are making the right decision, delivering a severe condemnation, but stopping short of action. The police and special courts are getting an angry tap on their wrists, but nothing more.

While three innocent students had to spend over a year in jail, can’t travel abroad now, and will have to spend several more months and years fighting their cases through layers of criminal courts, even when they have done no wrong. Isn’t that an intolerable form of “non-judicial punishment”?

If our respected judges are so outraged, why don’t they lay down rules, which will outlaw such “non-judicial punishment” so that nobody dares to transgress the ‘Lakshman Rekha’? Otherwise, the state and police will be laughing at our impotence, because they would have achieved what they set out to do, ie inflict punishment for a crime that was not committed.

They always knew it was a false charge. They knew they would never get a conviction. This is why all they wanted to do was inflict “non-judicial punishment”, in which they succeeded spectacularly.

The exact playbook has been used against several public intellectuals and activists – I use the names of Vinod Dua, Gautam Navlakha, Stan Swamy, Sudha Bhardwaj, and Umar Khalid only as examples because there could be hundreds, even thousands more who are facing this scourge.

Until this malady is cured, I am unable to join the celebratory chorus. WE MUST STOP NON-JUDICIAL PUNISHMENT.

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