27 June 2022: The New Trade Union Initiative strongly condemns the Supreme Court of India’s judgement in the case Zakia Jafri vs. the State of Gujarat for branding those fighting for justice as acting with an ‘ulterior motive’ and allowing these unsubstantiated and unproven ‘motives’ as the basis for granting the State of Gujarat the right to proceed ‘in accordance with law’ against the litigants and witnesses in the case. It is a matter of record that the Gujarat Police and the Special Investigation Team make several written references to the ‘ulterior motive’ of the litigants and witnesses before the court. None of these references which were at any time the object of investigation and remain entirely unsubstantiated. The court has brazenly even carried the words of the government.
Democracy is a struggle between people and the state in which people challenge government and its agencies for violating and undermining their rights, very often with complete impunity. It is under these circumstances that people turn to courts which are, it is claimed, an independent arbiter in the constant cycle of people being denied their rights and agitating for them. What the Supreme Court has said in the Zakia Jafri judgement is that a campaign for justice and accountability in this ‘democracy’ is not an inalienable right.
The Supreme has handed the government the licence to act against anyone who stands up to power and questions it. It has in fact said the government is entitled to be vindictive if the most powerful in the land are questioned.
It is with this impunity, authorised by the Supreme Court, that the Gujarat Police produced an FIR that formed the basis of arrest ofhuman rights defender Teesta Setalvad and retired Gujarat police officer R. B. Sreekumar, and demanded that they be held in police custody for refusing to cooperate with a police investigation. Neither Ms. Setalvad nor Mr. Sreekumar had been asked to join a police investigation since the issuing of the Supreme Court order hence their lack of cooperation cannot have existed. ‘Lack of cooperation’ has become part of the unwritten police manual. Courts for the most part allow such arrests to go unchallenged allowing a vindictive authoritarian government to ensure that process of criminal investigation is the punishment itself. It has now become an unwritten element of our constitution that one is guilty unless proved to be otherwise.
The NTUI, joins all democratic forces across the country in demanding that the FIR against Teesta Setalvad and R B Sreekumar be immediately withdrawn allowing for their release.
The NTUI believes that the Supreme Court ruling must be rescinded and calls upon all progressive organisations in the country to join forces in seeking a comprehensive review of the case.
We are only all too aware that laws that limit workers’ rights, like all other legal rights, are circumscribed by a regressive capitalist state. Every effort that has won workers’ rights in the past is winning them now and will win them for us in the future is built on struggles that stretch the law as it exists. That is how justice is achieved; that is how rights are won; that is how regressive governments and forces are tamed and fought back.
The struggle for justice against the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 , the struggle to bring to book every perpetrator of these crimes, the struggle for ensuring accountability of those in power who allowed the pogrom to go unchecked for weeks , must go forward.