‘Witch Hunt” of people who are inconvenient to the government must stop’: Ex civil servants

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Mohammed Zubair being being taken to court in Hathras.

By Special Correspondent

New Delhi: A group of 72 retired civil servants wrote to attorney general K.K. Venugopal urging him to advice the government to stop the “witch hunt” of persons expressing their right to free expression by an uncaring and aggressive police force.

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The Constitutional Conduct Group (CCG) highlighted that the Alt News co- founder Mohammed Zubair’s continued detention and deprivation of personal civil liberties in a letter to the country’s top law enforcement official.

The Group wrote to the Attorney General to express their grave concern over the “patently biased treatment” given to Mohammed Zubair and suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma.

“We have been watching with dismay the cynical over-zealousness of not just the law enforcement agencies but also the law officers under you to manufacture cases day after day to deliberately deprive individuals, identified as inconvenient by the government, of their basic freedoms,” the letter said.

As defenders of the fundamental principle of equality before the law, the former bureaucrats said it is profoundly upsetting to witness the “patently discriminatory treatment” given to Nupur Sharma and Mohammed Zubair.

“Such selective application of law flies in the face of justice as we understand it,” read the letter dated July 15 and made public on Saturday.

In a case involving an allegedly offensive tweet in 2018 about a Hindu god, a Delhi court on Friday granted Zubair bail, stating that “the voice of dissent is necessary for a healthy democracy.”

Text of the letter as follows:

The Attorney General of India

Dear Attorney General,

“We, a group of former civil servants of the All India and Central Services, who have come together as the Constitutional Conduct Group and are committed to the values enshrined in the Indian Constitution are deeply disturbed by recent events which strike at the very root of fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Indian Constitutions to its citizens.

We specifically refer to the continued detention and deprivation of personal civil liberties of Mohammed Zubair on charges that would not stand the barest of legal scrutiny. You would have read the comprehensive article written on this case by none other than Justice Madan B Lokur, retired judge of the Supreme Court, which clearly spells out the wrong application of law by the police as well as the judiciary. A copy of the article is attached for your perusal.

We have been watching with dismay the cynical overzealousness of not just the law enforcement agencies but also the law officers under you to manufacture cases day after day to deliberately deprive individuals, identified as inconvenient by the Government, of their basic freedoms. As votaries of the Constitutional precept of equality before the law, it is deeply disturbing to see the patently discriminatory treatment meted out as between a Nupur Sharma and a Mohammed Zubair. Such selective application of law flies in the face of justice as we understand it.

No doubt, we need not remind you of your bounden duty to uphold and protect the Constitution and the personal liberties of its citizens from arbitrary and illegal action. We note that you, personally, have an unblemished and outstanding record of over half a century and therefore we have high expectations that you will step in against such flagrant violations of the law on the part of law enforcement agencies as well as subordinate courts. We call upon you to advise the government to issue a directive to the police authorities to stop any further witch hunt against citizens exercising their right to free speech and ensure that no baseless cases are filed in the future as also to instruct government advocates not to routinely oppose applications for bail. The Supreme Court in a recent ruling has stated that indiscriminately arresting people and putting them in jail is making India a ‘police state’. We are at a loss to understand why the Solicitor General takes it upon himself to appear in all kinds of cases even to oppose bail.

As the highest law officer of this land, having earned the respect of so many across the legal and political fraternities as also the discerning public, we feel you have an obligation to rectify the situation. If this moral imperative is left unheeded, we fear that there will be disastrous consequences for the country. We do hope that you will act swiftly to provide our people the freedom that our democracy is expected to sustain.

SATYAMEVA JAYATE

Yours faithfully,”

Constitutional Conduct Group (72 signatories, as below)

1. Vappala Balachandran IPS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI

2. Gopalan Balagopal IAS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal

3. Chandrashekar Balakrishnan IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Coal, GoI

4. Rana Banerji RAS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI

5. Sharad Behar IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh

6. Aurobindo Behera IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Odisha

7. Madhu Bhaduri IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Portugal

8. Ravi Budhiraja IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, GoI

9. Sundar Burra IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra

10. Rachel Chatterjee IAS (Retd.) Former Special Chief Secretary, Agriculture, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh

11. Kalyani Chaudhuri IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal

12. Gurjit Singh Cheema IAS (Retd.) Former Financial Commissioner (Revenue), Govt. of Punjab

13. F.T.R. Colaso IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Karnataka & former Director General of Police, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir

14. P.R. Dasgupta IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI

15. Pradeep K. Deb IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Deptt. Of Sports, GoI

16. Nitin Desai Former Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, GoI

17. M.G. Devasahayam IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana

18. Sushil Dubey IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Sweden

19. K.P. Fabian IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Italy

20. Suresh K. Goel IFS (Retd.) Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, GoI

21. S.K. Guha IAS (Retd.) Former Joint Secretary, Department of Women & Child Development, GoI

22. H.S. Gujral IFoS (Retd.) Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Govt. of Punjab

23. Meena Gupta IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI

24. Wajahat Habibullah IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, GoI and former Chief Information Commissioner

25. Kamal Jaswal IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI

26. Brijesh Kumar IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI

27. Ish Kumar IPS (Retd.) Former DGP (Vigilance & Enforcement), Govt. of Telangana and former Special Rapporteur, National Human Rights Commission

28. Sudhir Kumar IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Central Administrative Tribunal

29. Subodh Lal IPoS (Resigned) Former Deputy Director General, Ministry of Communications, GoI

30. B.B. Mahajan IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Deptt. of Food, GoI

31. Harsh Mander IAS (Retd.) Govt. of Madhya Pradesh

32. Lalit Mathur IAS (Retd.) Former Director General, National Institute of Rural Development, GoI

33. Aditi Mehta IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan

34. Sunil Mitra IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI

35. Avinash Mohananey IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Sikkim

36. Satya Narayan Mohanty IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission

37. Deb Mukharji IFS (Retd.) Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal

38. Gautam Mukhopadhaya IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Myanmar

39. Nagalsamy IA&AS (Retd.) Former Principal Accountant General, Tamil Nadu & Kerala

40. Sobha Nambisan IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Secretary (Planning), Govt. of Karnataka

41. Surendra Nath IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Finance Commission, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh

42. P. Joy Oommen IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Chhattisgarh

43. Amitabha Pande IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI

44. Maxwell Pereira IPS (Retd.) Former Joint Commissioner of Police, Delhi

45. G.K. Pillai IAS (Retd.) Former Home Secretary, GoI

46. Gurnihal Singh Pirzada IAS (Resigned) Former MD, Punjab State Electronic Development & Production Corporation, Govt. of Punjab

47. V.P. Raja IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission

48. K. Sujatha Rao IAS (Retd.) Former Health Secretary, GoI

49. M.Y. Rao IAS (Retd.)

50. Satwant Reddy IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Chemicals and Petrochemicals, GoI

51. Julio Ribeiro IPS (Retd.) Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania

52. Aruna Roy IAS (Resigned)

53. A.K. Samanta IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police (Intelligence), Govt. of West Bengal

54. Deepak Sanan IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh

55. S. Satyabhama IAS (Retd.) Former Chairperson, National Seeds Corporation, GoI

56. N.C. Saxena IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI

57. A. Selvaraj IRS (Retd.) Former Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, Chennai, GoI

58. Ardhendu Sen IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal

59. Abhijit Sengupta IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI

60. Aftab Seth IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Japan

61. Ashok Kumar Sharma IFoS (Retd.) Former MD, State Forest Development Corporation, Govt. of Gujarat

62. Ashok Kumar Sharma IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia

63. Navrekha Sharma IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Indonesia

64. Mukteshwar Singh IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission

65. Tara Ajai Singh IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Karnataka

66. Tirlochan Singh IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, National Commission for Minorities, GoI

67. Parveen Talha IRS (Retd.) Former Member, Union Public Service Commission

68. Anup Thakur IAS (Retd.) Former Member, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission

69. P.S.S. Thomas IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission

70. Hindal Tyabji IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir

71. Ramani Venkatesan IAS (Retd.) Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. of Maharashtra

72. Rudi Warjri IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Colombia, Ecuador and Costa Rica

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